Do you have a goal you’d like to achieve, but it feels nearly impossible? Your goal may be a large one or feel out of reach. Or, your goal is smaller, but you can’t break unhelpful habits to reach that goal. Setting goals effectively involves a structured approach that allows you to define and pursue your desired outcomes. Try the following steps to achieve your goals, big or small. If you find it difficult to accomplish goals, reach out to one of our therapists who can help set and reach goals together.
Identify your values and aspirations
The first step in setting goals is to identify your values and aspirations. Start by reflecting on what truly matters to you:
- Career, health, relationships, personal growth, and leisure.
- Determine your long-term aspirations and what you want to achieve.
- Write down your biggest goals in a journal during this initial part.
- Remember, no dream is too big.
However, you want the goals to be realistic and specific.
Make your goals specific
Clearly define your goals to give them focus and clarity. A great way to do this is to use the SMART criteria to make your goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For example, instead of setting a vague goal like “get fit,” make it specific by saying, “Exercise for 30 minutes, five days a week, for the next three months.” Using the SMART criteria makes committing to a specific and clear action plan easier. Therefore, you are more likely to achieve your goal by taking action on the smaller, specific steps because they are SMART.
Break goals down
Divide your goals into smaller, manageable tasks or milestones. This allows you to track your progress and stay motivated along the way. Create a timeline or action plan with deadlines for each milestone. Track your progress in a journal to see what you’ve accomplished, which will keep your motivation levels high. Ensure that the smaller goals you’ve broken down feel manageable.
Set realistic and challenging goals
Given your resources, skills, and circumstances, establish attainable and realistic goals. At the same time, make them challenging enough to push you outside your comfort zone and foster personal growth. This is the time to expand your mind and conquer goals outside your norm.
Write down your goals
Documenting your goals on paper or in a digital format makes them more concrete and increases your commitment to achieving them. Write down your goals using positive language and keep them in a visible place as a reminder. Conquering goals is a daily practice; when your goals are written down, it’s easier to access them to help keep you focused and remind you to take action toward achieving them. One study proved that when writing down information with a pen and paper, such as your goals, there is a significantly better free recall of words written in the handwriting condition. Therefore, you will remember your goals better and more accurately than typing or texting using a journal, pen, and paper.
Develop an action plan
Determine the specific actions you need to take to reach your goals. Break them down into actionable steps, and consider potential obstacles or setbacks you might encounter. Plan alternative strategies to overcome those challenges. With an action plan in place, the only remaining obstacle becomes yourself. Stick to your plan until your goals have been achieved.
Track your progress
Writing down your goals in a journal or notebook makes recalling previous milestones easier and determining how far you need to go in reaching your goals. Regularly monitor and evaluate your progress. Check-in with yourself every week. In your journal, note your achievements, setbacks, and lessons learned. Again, when you write these items down on paper with a pen, your recall strengthens, lessening the chance of making the same mistake. Adjust your action plan as needed.
Stay accountable and seek support
Share your goals with a trusted friend, mentor, or accountability partner who can provide support, encouragement, and feedback. Your accountability partner or trusted friend must ask about your progress toward reaching your goals. Try a weekly check-in with this person on the same day each week and share your progress, good or bad. Consider joining a community or group with similar goals for additional motivation and shared experiences.
Stay flexible and adapt
Recognize that circumstances and priorities may change over time. Be open to adjusting your goals if necessary and consider new opportunities or insights that arise along the way. It’s okay if your goals shift slightly; remember to refocus and ensure your updated plan is aligned with your overall goal.
Remember, goal setting is a dynamic process, and it’s okay to revise or refine your goals as you progress and gain new insights. If you would like more assistance in setting and reaching goals, contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our therapists. We would love to help you conquer your personal and professional goals.
Anne Mangen, Liss G. Anda, Gunn H. Oxborough, & Kolbjørn Brønnick. (2015). Handwriting versus Keyboard Writing: Effect on Word Recall. Journal of Writing Research, 7(2), 227–247. https://doi.org/10.17239/jowr-2015.07.02.1