How to Improve Your Goal Setting

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Did you know that 80% of people fail to achieve their New Year’s Resolutions? This could be because we’re unrealistic, or simply need a new approach. That’s what this guide is for – to help you improve your goal-setting strategy!

If you’re reading this, you might be tired of the way you’ve been approaching your goals. Maybe you forgot about last year’s goals and want to make a real effort this time. Whatever your situation may be, you’re in need of change when it comes to goal setting. It’s important to have a game plan that includes not only how you’re going to tackle your goals, but also why you want to achieve that goal in the first place.

Because goals are ultimately the stepping stones to your dreams, you should take the time to learn how to set yourself up for success when it comes to your goals. In this Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting, I’m going to help you set, write, and accomplish your goals. To do that, there are a few main components to this post – and you’re more than welcome to jump around.

  • We’re going to lay the foundation by Casting Vision for Your Goals. Setting and achieving your goals starts with knowing your why, your priorities, and your desired result. This is so important.
  • Next, we will focus on creating those goals, as well as exploring some of the main approaches to goal setting. You can choose whatever approach works best for you.
  • Lastly, I’ll share some tips on how you can stay motivated and achieve your goals.

Are you ready to finally achieve the goals you set for yourself? Let’s get started!

What is Goal Setting?

Goal setting is a term that has been spoken of for so long that it may have lost its significance. We’re told that it’s important, but we aren’t told why it’s important, or even how to do it. 

Goal setting is defined by experts as the act of selecting a target or objective that you’d like to achieve. 

Why is goal setting important?

Goal setting is more than just a mental image of what you want to achieve or where you want to be a few months, even years, from now. It’s creating an action plan and digging deep into your values. Focusing on what’s really important to you is vital. 

In addition, goal setting keeps you motivated and accountable, while helping you visualize your dreams. 

How (and why) does it work?

Have you ever actually been taught how to write your goals? Strategically? Me either.

Goals set the direction for the end result, and you’ll need to create a system to make progress for those goals. They work because they motivate us, and force us to focus on relevant tasks. 

Effective goal setting will gift you a long-term vision and short-term motivation. Through experiencing success in accomplishing our goals, we begin to grow confidence in our abilities. 

How to Set Goals

If you’re going to effectively set and achieve goals, you should first be aware that there are 3 components of powerful goals. Powerful goals must be inspiring, believable, and actionable.

We set goals because they provide focus and shape our dreams. Learning to set goals can and will transform the way you tackle your dreams. 

Rewiring Your Mind

Before you start writing out your goals, it’s important to reevaluate your mindset, vision, and why. You can consider this step 1.

As I thought about this Goal Setting series, I wanted to know the most common things that stop us from achieving our goals. I wasn’t surprised to see that they mostly involved our mindset. Without even realizing it, we often limit ourselves before actually getting started. Maybe you’re afraid of failing. Maybe you don’t know how to start. Or maybe you make excuses for yourself.

For me, trying to be perfect has been my main limitation. I want to plan everything to the finest detail before getting started; I get so consumed in planning how I’ll do something that I lose excitement in actually doing it. Don’t get me wrong, planning is good. Great even. But not when your planning becomes counterproductive.

For some, lack of consistency was the most common answer. It’s so easy to quit during the process before we experience the outcome. For others, the fear of failure has been their limiting factor in achieving their goals. If this is you, I’ve written about learning to encompass failure and how success is an individual thing.

This is the time to sit down and jot down the things that have stopped you from accomplishing your goals in the past. Is it a lack of consistency? Unrealistic goals? Lack of motivation? Planning too much? It’s time to rewire your mind, find the limiting mindsets you’ve had in the past, and overcome them.

Easier said than done, right?

Evaluate Your Vision 

Once you’ve tackled your limiting beliefs, it’s time to think about your vision.

Your vision is a clear image of your deepest values and priorities and how you see that image in your future. How does this relate to your goals? Your goals are the specific targets that will help you attain your vision.

What is your vision for your life? I know that’s a pretty loaded question, but it’s one that you should take the time to think about. The vision you have for your life should be personal to you. Don’t let it be about being successful, or having a big house. We’re talking about representing the people and values that matter most to you. As Misty Kearns says, “[Your vision is] about living a life filled with passion, purpose and joy.” Remember that your vision can, and probably will, change. As you grow as an individual, your vision and goals will follow.

For this part of the process, I recommend writing out what inspires you, the people that have impacted you. Write about your values. Write about what you want people to think of when they think about you. Write about your values.

If you’re more of a visual person, maybe this is the part where you create a vision board, which is a physical way to represent your goals. It’s a collection of pictures, words, etc that remind you of your vision for your goals and life.

If you’re going to be able to effectively set and achieve goals, then you’re going to have to write goals that align with your values. By thinking about the things I mentioned above, you can start to do just that. 

Related: How to Cast a Vision for Your Life

Know Your Why

When you know your why, your what has more impact because you are walking in and toward your purpose.

Michael Jr

When you know your why, your what has more impact.

When you know your why, you begin to live more purposefully, more intentionally.

You see, too many times I’ve noticed people my age complain about things we can’t change. Take college for example. My peers complain about assignments, exams, the syllabus, you name it. And I’ll be honest, I complain too. But at some point, you have to realize that your complaints aren’t doing anything for your situation. As a premed student, there are numerous things I can complain about. Let’s start with the fact that I have to take two semesters of physics. Why on earth does a doctor need to know Newton’s Laws? Not sure. I can complain about difficult courses like organic chemistry and calculus. I can complain about having to compete with thousands of other deserving med school applicants.

It’s easy to complain.

But then I think about my why. Why am I taking these classes? Why am I competing for a spot in med school? When I think about my desire to influence the lives of others through medicine, my dream of becoming a doctor, the complaints fade away. The process becomes more bearable, and I’m not as tempted to stop before I reach my end goal.

If you’re going to be serious about your goals, you need to think about why you want to achieve that goal. What does it mean to you? How will it impact your life? How does it align with your vision?

Your “why” will keep you motivated. It will continue to inspire you even when your energy is draining. When you realize your goal is harder than you imagined. When you experience setbacks.

Put Your Goals in Writing

There’s power in writing down your goals – trust me. By writing it down, you’re moving the thought from your head and stating it on paper, thereby setting it in motion. 

Approaches to Goal Setting

Okay, so now you have a list of goals in writing. But how do you start? Here’s where your approach comes into play. 

S.M.A.R.T.E.R Goal Approach

I’m sure you’ve heard of the S.M.A.R.T Approach to goal setting. Well, the S.M.A.R.T.E.R Approach, outlined in Michael Hyatt’s “Your Best Year Ever,”  takes it a step further. I’ll share the main concepts, along with some examples. 

S – Specific. This should be relatively simple; your goals have to be as detailed and specific as possible. This leaves no room for confusion. 

Instead of writing “Apply to medical schools,”  I can put “Apply to DO and MD medical schools.”

M – Measurable. It should be completely clear whether or not you’ve reached your goal, so aim to make it measurable. By measuring your results, you get insight into whether or not you’re actually making progress. 

Example: Apply to 30 medical schools.

It can be difficult when trying to set measurable goals, so here are some useful techniques for setting measurable goals:

A – Actionable. Start your goals with action verbs! Don’t write it with a to-be verb.

Example: Instead of writing “be more consistent in blogging,” I could write “write three blog posts each week.”

R – Risky. Ever heard the quote “If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not growing?” This applies! Your goals should make you uncomfortable, but still excited. If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not thinking big enough.

Example: Instead of writing “get 1 new client this month,” I could write “get 3 new clients this month.”

T – Timely. Your goals should have a date by when you’d like to accomplish it. This forces you to take action in a specific timeframe. 

Example: Apply to DO and MD schools by early May 2021.

E – Exciting. This is another simple one.  If you’re not excited about your goals, then how can you expect to be motivated when it becomes difficult?

Example: Take a 2 week vacation to France. 

R – Relevant. Your goals should be aligned with your values. This is why I told you to evaluate your vision earlier. Think about the season of life you’re in, along with your other goals. 

Example: Start a coaching business in the health & wellness field. 

12-Week Approach to Goal Setting

I fell in love with this approach from the moment I heard of it. It just makes so much sense!

With the 12-Week Approach, you describe your long term vision. You would then break down your vision into smaller, more manageable goals; these are the milestones for your goals. Break the year into four 12-week (3 months) sections, and detail your plan for each week of the section. Personally, I like to break it up starting with January.

By organizing your thoughts into manageable chunks and staying focused for 12 weeks at a time, you’re able to check your progress periodically throughout the year. 

Personally, I like to create 12-week goals while incorporating key elements of the S.M.A.R.T.E.R approach.

There are other approaches to goal setting that you can check out, but those two are my favorites. Find the approach that works best for you!

Tips on Achieving Your Goals

Learn to Prioritize

Once you have your goals in writing, you should prioritize. Think about the order in which you’d like to achieve your goals; this may be based on importance, feasibility, or simply what you enjoy to do the most. 

However you choose to prioritize your goals, you should then tackle no more than 7 goals. Realistically, you’ll spread yourself too thin if you try to achieve 12 goals in the span of a year. If you have a few big, scary goals, along with several milestones for your goals, that should keep you busy for the duration of the year or whatever time frame you’re dealing with. 

Align Your Environment with Your Goals

Realistically, you can’t expect to set a goal for not going on social media first thing in the morning, but leave your phone right next to your bed at night. Your default reaction when you wake up will be to check your phone. That’s making it much more difficult for you to stick to the goal that you set.

This is why you should align your environment with your goals. Achieving your goals in the long term is heavily dependent on the types of influences you have surrounding you in the short term.

Part of aligning your environment is having accountability. There are two forms of accountability: 

  1. Internal Accountability. It can be difficult to hold ourselves accountable, but it’s important that we do so. You can be accountable to yourself, first and foremost, with honesty.Whether you’ve made progress or slacked off, you should be able to be honest with yourself, otherwise you won’t get anywhere. Another way to have integral accountability is by evaluating your progress consistently, which I’ll discuss in more detail below.
  1. External Accountability. With many goals in life, having someone to check in with and give an account to is going to help you by giving you another boost to accomplish your goals. 

Having an accountability partner doesn’t necessarily mean telling your best friend what your goal is and leaving it at that. You want to make sure that you tell someone who will actually check in with you, and won’t agree with your excuses. 

Related: How to Stay Motivated to Achieve Your Goals

Make an Action Plan

To maximize your chances of success, you should create a massive action plan or a MAP. Because goals without a plan are simply wishes. 

If you were going to set up a crib for your baby, you’d most likely need to read the instructions first. That’s your step-by-step guide (or MAP) to set up the crib! Treat your goals like a crib. 

You’ll need detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to achieve your goals. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What steps do you need to take?
  2. What strategies will you use?
  3. What are the milestones involved?

Measure & Review Your Goals

You should try to create a process in which you’ll measure your progress and review your goals. It’s important to know where we’ve come from and to periodically check in with yourself and see how you’re doing with your goals. Ask yourself what the next steps are and how they should be adjusted based on your progress.

By measuring your progress, I don’t mean to obsess over the progress you’re making and tear yourself down because you aren’t moving as quickly as others. Heck no. What I mean is that you should see what’s working and what’s not. This will help you review to improve your strategy in your goals. 

While this is something that’s simple, it can vary depending on the individual. Whatever process you come with, you should write it down and be consistent. Keeping a record helps keep your progress objective, and consistency just means that you should set aside a regular time that you’ll review your goals. This could be once a week, every other week, once a month, every quarter…you get the idea. 

Final Thoughts

You are more than capable of setting and achieving the goals you set for yourself – you just need to put your mind to it and develop an effective strategy. 

I’m so excited for you to start effectively setting, planning, and achieving your goals in life!

If you enjoyed this post or would like to see additional information, share your thoughts in the comments below!

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  1. Ya says:

    I become so involved in perfecting the how and why that it drains me before I get started, and then give up because its not perfect. Sometimes you just have to just stop and do, get into it, yes some planning is good if necessary but the only way to begin is to start. Once you start things fall into place and you can readjusts when necessary, be prepared/plan for the obstacles you know you will have but don’t stay stuck move on in s reasonable amount of time. Thank you for sharing theses tips and strategies for setting goals.

  2. Madalynn says:

    whoah this weblog is fantastic i really like
    reading your articles. Keep up the great work!
    You recognize, many persons are looking round for
    this info, you can aid them greatly.

  3. […] Related: The Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting […]

  4. […] your imagination. Try to imagine your future with the goals you have in mind, and live that life. (Perhaps you need a refresher on creating effective goals.) Natalie Bacon says living in your future is incredibly powerful, and she has a podcast episode […]

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Hi, I'm Ariel.
Your Hype Girl +  Self Awareness Coach.

I'm a Starbucks lover, fizz dealer, master chef, creative baker, worship leader, dog mama, crisis counselor, cheese connoisseur, and passionate writer.

I've never been one to limit myself to a single title, and you shouldn't either. I bet you're more than a daughter, more than your age, and more than your job.

When I was in college, I noticed people around me lacked vision for their lives. They felt so restricted by society's expectations that they weren't living according to their own passions. And I wanted to help.

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