We all have hopes and dreams. These usually come out in force around New Years when we decide we’re going to lose 20 pounds and travel the world (these aspirations are typically fueled by heavy amounts of alcohol because, you know, party time.) Fast forward to March 1st. Where are those dreams now? Buried in a sea of household projects, work you’re behind on, and bills that stacked up?
You’re back to living vicariously through pictures in your Instagram feed rather than experiencing things for yourself.
What’s holding you back? The justification that there’s always next year? Let me assure you, you can absolutely achieve anything you put your mind to, but you need to do more than simply talk about it. Following these effective goal setting strategies will help you turn “I’ve always wanted to…” into “Remember when…”
WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU WANT
The concept of a bucket list was around long before Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman made it trendy in 2007. However, outside of using it as a catch phrase, not many people actually write down what they want to achieve in life.
Countless studies have proven that when you write down your goals, you’re far more likely to achieve them.
And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love making a list?!? The brainstorming, putting your pen to paper, the thrill of checking things off one by one… I get excited just thinking about it!
Part of what makes writing down your goals a huge step in actually achieving them is you start to visualize what you want. I’m a huge believer in visualization. It’s helped me achieve things in life I would not dare imagine possible otherwise. Dreaming of seeing the waterfalls in Croatia? Taking a spin on the London Eye? Add it to your list!
Want a peek at my own bucket list for a little inspiration? You can see it here.
BREAK IT DOWN
So now you have a list of everything you want to see and do in life (high five!) But there are only 365 days in a year and unless you’re a billionaire with no responsibilities, it may be a bit ambitious to think you can achieve them all at once.
That’s why you should channel your inner 90’s rapper and break it down.
This will help you celebrate smaller victories and fuel you to keep going towards your larger dreams.
On January 1st I take a good look at my own bucket list and choose 2-3 things I want to accomplish that year. I do this rather than coming up with the traditional New Year’s resolution because it helps me split up my life goals into smaller, more manageable pieces (and it’s far less likely I’ll abandon them.)
DEVELOP SMART GOALS
So you’ve broken it down, now it’s time for a plan! This is probably the most important step in effective goal setting strategies. The concept of devising SMART goals was first developed in 1981 by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham, and it’s helped me immensely in my own life.
These are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time bound.
By creating a framework around your goals, you’re developing a road map to actually achieving them. You wouldn’t leave on a road trip from San Francisco to New York City without a map, would you? You may eventually get there, but there’s a greater likelihood that you’d wind up lost and out of gas on the side of the road somewhere. Not ideal.
Your goal must first be Specific. Don’t just say “I want to learn a new language,” say “I want to enroll in a class that will teach me to be fluent in Italian.” Identify the five W’s associated with your goal- Who (is involved), What (are you wanting to accomplish), Where (will you do it), Which (resources do you need or skills do you lack to accomplish it), and Why (is it important to you)?
Next, your goal must be Measurable. How will you know when you’ve achieved it? In order to track progress, you must have a finish line in mind. How will you judge when you’re fluent? Your goal could be funneled down even more to say “I will know when I’ve achieved this because I’ll be able to hold a conversation with a native speaker without the need to pull out Google Translate.”
Then your goal must be Attainable. Nothing is more disheartening than setting a goal you’ll never reach. Talk about a shot to the ol’ ego! Your goal should be challenging enough to help you grow, but realistic enough that it’s achievable through more than just divine intervention or a complete stroke of luck. To continue with our example, you’ll want to look into what resources you have available to you. Is there a language course you can take? Is it affordable? Will you have the time to complete it? These are all important considerations for setting goals you can accomplish.
How Realistic is your goal? Is this something that makes sense for your lifestyle, economic status, and values? Is this the right time to try to accomplish it? This is where you want to make sure your goal makes sense for you. Are you wanting to learn Italian so you can spend a month in Florence living like a local? Or are you just learning it so you can brag on Facebook? If the latter, maybe revise the goal into one that has more practical applications. If you live in the southwest, for example, it might make more sense to learn Spanish.
Finally, your goal should be Time bound. This is what’s going to keep your goal from becoming just another abandoned New Year’s resolution. Set incremental milestones to help you in reaching the finish line. What can you do today? (Look into what language courses are available to you.) In a week? (Enroll in the course that makes the most sense.) What can you accomplish in a month? (Successfully learn the basics.) How about in 6 months? (Finish half the course with an 85% or higher.) And finally, a year? (Successfully complete the language course and begin looking into more advanced classes to ensure your new skills aren’t lost.) And voila! You’re ready to sip wine at a cafe in Florence as the sophisticated bilingual you are!
Achieving your dreams is not a spectator sport.
So have an effective strategy to help you reach your objectives, rather than simply talking about them. Because there’s no greater regret than looking back on your life and realizing you never really lived it. So write down what you want. Decide what you’ll tackle first. Make a plan. And then get to work!
Want more inspiration? Then check out these great reads!