How To Choose Goals And Ensure Success
So you have your top 10 list of goals you want to achieve this year:
1. Lose 10 pounds
2. Read 20 books
3. Clear out the tool shed
4. Complete a weekend nature hike
5. Learn to play the violin
6. Paint the living room
7. Write a children’s book
8. Run a marathon
9. Eat healthy
10. Start composting
These are all great goals but are they really what you should be focusing on? How do you decide? Are there too many goals here to realistically expect to achieve them all in a year? How do you pick which ones to focus on then?
Prioritizing goals was something I struggled with initially, deciding where to start was tough. If I want to be an amazing athlete then losing weight, eating healthy and running a marathon will certainly help me get there. But what if my real dream is to become a great writer? I would suspect that losing weight, eating healthy and running a marathon won’t directly help me realize that dream. This disconnect between what you really want (your dream) and what you’re actually doing (your goal) is what often leads to procrastination, giving up and unhappiness. Here’s how to decide what goals to set and how to prioritize them to ensure success.
So many goals so little time
1. Begin with the end in mind. This is an important first step, because if you don’t know where you’re going it’s tough to know what path to take. Spend some time and give thought as to where you’d like to be 1 year from now, 5 years from now and even 10 years from now. I always used to say that I don’t know what I’m doing next week let alone 5 years from now but once I sat down and wrote it out it became pretty clear. Start by brainstorming what your dreams are and don’t hold back, just write. Then take a closer look at each item you’ve written down. Do you really want to do this or is it something that would be nice but you don’t really intend to do it? If you don’t have any intention of actually doing it then this isn’t something that should preoccupy your time right now.
2. Visualize. Once you have your dreams listed in front of you visualize what it’s going be like when you actually achieve them. Do this for each dream one at a time. This helps to take the goal that is merely words on a paper and make it feel real. For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds (or more) then picture in your head what it will feel like once you achieve this. You feel healthier, lighter and you have a ton of energy, you’re able to walk up a flight of stairs without becoming winded, your clothes fit better, you just feel good! Soak up that feeling and if it feels good, do it!
3. Map it out. You now need to map out each goal that you have decided is worth working on. Take each goal one at a time and focus on them independently (even if there’s a bit of overlap, I’ll get to that in the next point). Think about where you currently are, where you want to be and how you are going to get there. With every goal consider what the next actionable step is and write it down. I find the more detailed you can make this the better. Staying with the weight loss example, your end goal may look something like this:
Goal: Lose 10 pounds
1. Search through the kitchen and purge all junk food.
2. Buy a pair of runners.
3. Research walking trails in my neighbourhood.
4. Put upbeat songs on my ipod.
5. Make a walking schedule.
6. Find reputable websites on how to read food labels.
7. Learn what all the numbers on food labels actually mean.
8. Research healthy meal and snack options.
9. Create a fresh healthy meal plan.
Each of these items are actionable i.e. you can actually DO them. They are specific and remove some of the friction that comes with abstract or vague “to do” items.
4. Overlap. Where possible overlap your actionable items between goals. If you want to lose weight but also want to eat healthily the two pretty well go hand-in-hand. You may not need to make a walking schedule to eat healthy but purging all junk food from your kitchen will certainly help in getting one step closer to achieving both goals. The closer your goals are aligned with each other the easier it will be to keep moving forward as one thing will effortlessly feed into the next. It’s easier to work towards a goal and succeed if it all makes sense.
5. Get started. Yes this is the part that most of us have the hardest time with. If you enjoy planning, dreaming and visualizing that’s great but you won’t actually get to the place you visualize if you don’t DO. Finding a place to start can be really easy if you have a detailed actionable items list, it gets rid of the question: “now what am I going to do?” ; it’s all there mapped out in front of you. It’s easier to take on multiple goals at the same time when you have the next actionable items set out in front of you. You can see where there is overlap and how you can “kill two birds with one stone”. But the key is to do something, get started!
6. Re-evaluate. After you’ve been working at a goal for a while it’s great to revisit and re-evaluate. Working on a goal can be like climbing a mountain you think if you just keep your head down and go you’ll get to the top quicker. It’s a good idea to lift your head and take a look around every now and again. Not only do you get to enjoy the view but it helps to ensure you’re still heading in the right direction and let’s you see if you even want to be on this path anymore. Taking time to re-evaluate lets you see how far you’ve come, how much you’ve accomplished and how far you still have to go. It can be really inspiring.
You should be excited about your goals and the best way to do that is to align your goals with your life and passions. If you are working towards someone else’s dream, desire or idea of what is right you likely won’t feel very enthused to get it done and will run out of steam very quickly. It’s okay to set goals and upon re-evaluating to either drop them or alter the direction. Life changes, circumstances change and with that your goals will naturally change as well. Get excited, get a plan and get going!!
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