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Goal setting. It’s something that a large majority of adults actually don’t do. Out of the adults who do set goals, a surprisingly low number ever reach them. If you are wondering why that is, stick around. In this post we will talk about why goal setting is important and why so many people who set goals fail to reach them. Then, I will show you how to set your goals so they are achievable, step by step.
Lets start with why
Why should you have goals? Well, to reach them of course.
Most of us want something. More money, more time, a relationship…. something. Any of these ring true for you? When you want something, you have two options. Try to get it, or decide you can’t ever have it and give up. And yes, it’s a decision that you make.
I will let you guess which one I would suggest you do. I bet it’s the same thing you want to choose. That’s where goals come in. Goals are just your dreams with a plan.
There are a number of benefits of goal setting, even more than just getting what it was your were after. The act of setting the goal gives you a feeling of purpose. This can help ease feelings of anxiety and depression. Also, achieving a goal actually signals your brain to release dopamine, the feel good hormone. (This is also why you probably love crossing things off your to-do list. Each time you do, it is the same effect as crushing a goal.) So, setting and meeting goals is a wonderful way to increase your happiness.
Now that we know why, let’s talk about…..
What constitutes a ‘goal’?
When I say goal I don’t mean a want. Stick with me for a second here. Yes, a goal is something you want, and a want can be a goal. However, not all wants are goals.
In order for a want to turn into a goal, you have to create a plan and take action. I can say “I want to lose weight” every day for a month, but until I put down the daily nachos and make a plan, it’s not really a goal.
Goals can be big or small. “My goal is to get up two hours early.” Not huge, not complicated, doesn’t need as much planning. It does need some thought though, and it certainly takes some action. You probably need to set your alarm, and may need to head to bed early if you are used to staying up super late, etc. Just going to bed at your regular hour with no alarm set, probably means you are waking up at the regular time you wake up. Or, if you’re like me, an hour after you regularly wake up because, where was that damn alarm?
Why do so many people fail to reach the goals they set?
There is no one answer to this. However, for a great number of people, it’s because they never wrote it down. When you write down your goal, you are officially declaring to yourself, the universe, and anyone who comes across that piece of paper (or white board, if you’re me) what your intention is. Writing it down is powerful because it is more real if it is written in front of you. It also means it’s harder to pretend that it wasn’t a goal to begin with.
It was a scary thought when I decided I was going to train to run a half marathon. I have never done anything like it before and it was about 5 huge steps outside of my comfort zone. The process I took was exactly this:
- I decided it
- Thought about it
- Got scared
- Then, I WROTE IT DOWN
Immediately after I started to notice negative self-talk springing from my fears, “I can’t do that” “I’ve never even run more than a mile” “This is a ridiculous thought”, I grabbed a marker and wrote it on my white board. “Run Disney half marathon.” I wrote it before I could talk myself out of it, and I looked at it and was still scared. But now it was out there in the world, and I would have to physically erase my goal to make it go away. There was no pretending now that it was never a goal.
Another big reason writing it down works? It’s really hard to slack off on something that you have to look at every day.
I have a goal of 7 new blog posts this month, and their due dates are written down. If it is the day before, (or day of..) a due date, I know that I have to write a post today. If my goal were to save $200 a week for a family vacation starting on November 3rd, it would be much harder to hop on Amazon and have some retail therapy if I was staring at a reminder of what that $200 is supposed to be saved for.
Writing down goals has also been proven to have neurological and psychological benefits to increase the likelihood of achieving those goals.
How to set your goals
Setting real, true, accomplishable goals is not always the most exciting part of a journey. In fact, it’s usually the part I have to force myself to do. Thinking of what I want to achieve is fun, achieving it is fun, but the stuff in between- starting with setting the goal- is not always fun.
Setting a goal so that you can achieve it means putting in some time thinking about how you are going to do it. The steps to get there need to be specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-bound. Which, as luck would have it, spells out SMART, and SMART goals are a thing. Something that a lot of businesses use daily and train their employees in.
I am not going to get too deep into SMART goals, you can google it and find loads of info and graphics. SMART goals work, there is no doubt. I use SMART goals to plan out my year’s business and financial goals and I check in mid-year to assess and adjust as needed.
However, when we are talking about non-business goals, or shorter term goals, or more specific goals (maybe even smaller pieces of a more long-term SMART goal) an abridged version of SMART goals will usually be just fine.
Every time you make a goal for yourself, you should be at least outlining simply. (And writing it down!) Include what you want to do, when it should be done and how you are going to get there.
Staying on track is key
It is just as important to include, in your quick outline, when you will evaluate your progress and how you will know you are on track. From personal experience I can tell you that this is where a lot of the people who write down their goals drop off track from hitting them.
How many of you do this? You put something on your fridge to remind you to do something and within a month, whatever you put on your fridge has blended in to its surroundings. Now you won’t remember until you either, a) clean off your fridge or b) someone else reminds you. Your brain has an amazing way of getting used to seeing the same thing over and over to the point of just not seeing it anymore.
This is the best way to explain what happens with your goals too. Especially goals that are more long term, even only as long as a few months. It’s easy to lose the fire you had when you wrote down the goal. To start fading on the enthusiasm and maybe even stop working towards your goal all together as you get distracted by other things. Your goal is still there but your brain has gotten used to it and doesn’t see it anymore.
Having a set check-in will help you get back on track if you start to fall behind. Or even re-evaluate if your goals have changed or updated.
Mindset is #1
Your mindset is an even bigger determining factor of if you will meet your goal. The depths of mindset is a whole other post (or 20), but I will say this; Making the decision to meet your goal is more important than any of the rest of it. Feel it in your heart, know it in your brain, and repeat “I will do it” regularly to yourself if needed.
For some great motivation, and help getting your mindset ready to crush all of your goals, check out Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis and You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. If you are like me and short on time to read, try using Audible. I have loved being able to get through several of the books on my list since I signed up in December. (And Amazon usually has a great trial deal!)
Grab access to the Mindset & Wellness resource collection -including the ultimate goal setting worksheet here!
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This is an abbreviated excerpt from the eBook: 10 Steps to Change Your Mindset & Improve Your Life click here to grab your copy!