The year is coming to an end as I write this, which means it's the best time to start planning for the next year. If you had a bad year or there are aspects of your life you want to improve on then this is the time to start setting goals. Goal setting for adults, teenagers or the weird inbetweeners finding their way in life, can all benefit from effective goal setting.
Goal setting isn't simply writing down what you want to achieve. (If only it was that simple)
For goal setting to work, you need a game plan that you can realistically follow and commit to. That's almost impossible to do if you don't know how to set effective goals. No one sets goals with the intention to fail. No one, but the hard truth is many of us come short of our goals because we don't know how to set goals properly.
This is why I'm sharing both my, personal tips as well as extensive research I've done across the web with you on proper goal setting for adults and everyone else.
Step 1: Get the ball rolling
First thing to do is to get a piece of paper and write what you want to achieve down with zero hesitation. Don't put any thought into it and get it down on paper.
It doesn't have to be detailed or vivid. You're aiming to be as honest as you can with yourself by doing this fast, so you have no time to hesitate, feel embarrassed about it, or anything that might make you aim lower than you actually want.
I want you to be brave when you do this, and feel uninhibited to write whatever you want down on this piece of paper.
Step 2: Where are you right now?
Now comes the hard part. In order to reach your ultimate goal, you need to first understand where you are right now in regards to it.
If you're hoping to lose weight, what is your current weight and what are your eating, exercise habits?
If you want to earn more money, how much do you make now and what type of activities do you do to make money?
If you want a better partner and relationship, what is your current relationship status or partner like?
This step will take some honest, uncomfortable conversations with yourself. Take your time, as much as you need and get it down on paper. You can write in points, write an essay or a mixture of both. As long as you get a very detailed account of where you are right now in regards to your ultimate goal from step 1.
Step 3: What is your motivation?
Goals require work. No matter how small or how big, you are going to have to put in effort, time and mental ingenuity to achieve your goals.
Some goals are fast to achieve and some goals are long stretching. To give yourself the best chance at not giving up along the process of achieving your goals, you need to understand why your goals exist in the first place.
This part is going to continue with the previous step's theme of uncomfortable honesty with oneself.
You don't want to lose weight because of simply looking better.
You don't want more money because of the number in the bank or the things you can buy.
You don't want a relationship because you need someone to occupy weekends with or have sex with.
Our goals represent more than the immediate benefit and until you fully understand why you want what you want, you will easily give up and fail. So get the pen and paper out and start figuring it out.
Ask yourself questions on why you want that car, that body, that person, that house, that weight, that character trait. Keep asking yourself why until you can't ask why anymore and you'll find your ultimate source of motivation.
Once you have it, you need to write it down somewhere safe in a short and concise manner. You'll be revisiting this whenever you feel doubtful, whenever you experience a set back, whenever you think of giving up.
Step 4: What are you willing to do?
At this point what you want is extremely clear in your head and you understand why you want it. Now it's time to understand how much you can give or how much you are willing to give in order to achieve it.
The idea is to understand why you haven't achieved your goals already, by first identifying what you think you should be doing to achieve your goal and then identifying what you are currently not doing to achieve your goal.
Would your desired weight be reached by simply not eating out anymore? How many times are you eating out currently?
Would you make more money if you took up more opportunities that came your way at work? Have you been letting it known in the office that you would like to do more projects, field work etc?
Would you be in a relationship if you did something new every now and again? When was the last time you did something new and met new people?
When you have a clearer picture on what it will take, you can begin the conversation of whether you are willing to take those actions or not.
If you are, skip to step 6. If not, go to step 5.
Step 5: Adjusting for the difference
There's nothing wrong with coming to the conclusion that you are unwilling or unable to do what is required of you to meet your goal set out on step 1.
It doesn't mean you're unambitious, lazy or unmotivated. It just means you're honest and aware of your situation and environment.
So this step is all about adjusting step 1 to meet step 4. It's about setting yourself up for a realistic success by making your goal more manageable with your current situation. It doesn't mean you have to forget and ignore your goal from step 1. It just means the goal from step 1 isn't for now. It'll be the next goal you set out to achieve after this one, or the next next one.
What you want to do is look at step 4 and ask yourself if you can increase the amount you're willing and able to do, even if it's just by a little bit. Then you want to honestly decide how much that amount of work will get you after a year.
This will be your new goal.
You wanted to lose 20lbs but your work schedule will make it hard to exercise everyday. How about make it 10lbs instead, by reducing the times you exercise to something you can fit in.
You wanted to make 100% more money than you currently do, but you don't know how to make more money or have many resources to carry out the endeavour. How about aim for a promotion, salary increase of a side hustle to increase your income by 20%.
You wanted a healthy, stable and committed relationship, but you haven't had one for awhile and you don't even know what a healthy, stable and committed relationship looks like. How about just start dating and meeting different types of people to understand it you want and need from a partner.
Make adjustments to your goal so you're not setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.
Step 6: Setting milestones
You have everything in place now, but to make it even easier and more reasonable for you to achieve let's break your goal down into milestones.
I personally do it by the quarter, so every 3 months. But you can have monthly milestones or bi-monthly ones. I wouldn't recommend you having milestones any more frequently than monthly ones because change doesn't come so fast. You don't want to disappoint yourself thinking things aren't changing when they are, they simply need more time for you to see them.
You set milestones by breaking your goal into sections or "levels" and you space these levels out in the year. The point of milestones is to have a way to keep track of your progress and ensure you're going in the right direction. It can be rather hard to know how you're doing without these milestones.
You want to lose weight? Set a milestone to change eating habits, another one for your exercise habits etc.
You want to make more money? Set a milestone to reach a certain level of financial literacy, another to create opportunities for yourself to make money etc.
You want a relationship? Set a milestone on how many new people you've allowed into your life and another on how well you've nurtured these new relationships into something more.
Break the big goal into smaller ones and it'll instantly be more manageable.
Step 7: Your daily task
The last and final step to goal setting for the next year is creating a task goal or a few. Task goals are actionable steps towards the right direction. I talked a lot about this in a previous post on how task goals are the secret weapon to achieving what you set out to do.
The idea is to find a task that is simple enough to do daily or regularly and it will help you improve yourself with regards to whatever you are trying to achieve.
So if you're trying to lose weight, then a simple easy task goal you can do is to take the stairs everywhere you have a chance and not take the escalator or elevator.
If you want to make more money, then a simple task goal would be to make a point to have a conversation with some that's making more than you.
You want a relationship, then a simple task goal would be to talk to one stranger everyday and make it a point to get their name.
The task goals themselves are directly correlated to your ultimate goal for the year, but it's a small enough goal you can do everyday or on a regular basis and it'll help you move in the right direction.