3 Tips For Effective Goal Setting

You've probably had people ask you what your goals are in life. I know I have. It doesn't have to be a hard, philosophical exercise. Goals are simply desired results or objectives you want to accomplish in your life. You want to go to college. You want to get a good job. You want to run an iron man. If you want a more scientific definition, psychologists define goals as "motivational constructs that set the standards for self-satisfaction and performance."

Simply put, having goals helps you visualize and decide what you want to accomplish in your life and gets you excited about the path to achieving them. Goals enforce your short-term actions and guide your long-term vision. They help you organize your time based on what is important to you. 

So why do we have so much difficulty accomplishing our goals? The following paragraphs give three helpful tips that can help you set and reach a desired end state.

1) Make S.M.A.R.T. Goals

I use a slightly modified version of the well-known S.M.A.R.T. acronym to make and achieve goals in my life. 

S - Specific: Good goals are not vague. The precisely define the who, what, when, how and why. Without answering these questions first, you don't have the base of a good goal. 

M - Measurable: Good goals have criteria to measure progress. Once you have identified the specifics of your end goal, you can work backwards to identify the small measurable steps that you need to accomplish each day in order to reach your end goal. 

A - Attitude:  Good goals must be your goals, not someone else’s. You won’t be as successful in accomplishing your goals if someone else is making you do them. 

R - Realistic and Written Down: Good goals must have realistic and attainable steps that you can accomplish. No matter how many goals I set, I'm never going to play in the NBA, it's just not a realistic goal. Research shows that writing down your goals drastically increases your chances of accomplishing the goal. This might be the most important part of having a S.M.A.R.T. goal. 

T - Time Limit: Good goals have a deadline. Without a time limit, your goals could carry on indefinitely and you will have less motivation and urgency to succeed. 

Not S.M.A.R.T. Goals

1. I want to climb a mountain.

2. I want to lose weight.

3. My mom wants me to make more money.

4. I want to improve my grades.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

1. I want to climb Capitol Peak before at the end of the summer. I will train for this by climbing 2 mountains a month for the next 4 months. 

2. I want to lose 15 lbs in 6 months. I will do this by exercising 4 days a week and eating a certain number of calories per day.

3. I want to save $4800. I will do this by saving $200 a month for the next two years. 

4. I want to average an 85 on all tests and quizzes for the next 3 months.

To decide where in your life you need to set goals, identify problems or improvements you want to make in the following life areas: Intellectual/Educational, Financial, Physical, Family, and Social. 

2) Review Your Goals Frequently 

Type them up, print them out, and place them somewhere that you can see them everyday (there are also several apps that you can use to track your progress). When you review your goals frequently, you can constantly keep track of your progress and decide on the next steps if you haven't done so already. It's OK to alter and revise your goals as you move through the process, but your S.M.A.R.T. goals will be worthless if you forget what they were and the steps you need to accomplish each day to reach your end goal. 

3) Don't Confuse Goals With States Of Being

A state of being is a characteristic of your current reality. This means things like being happy, satisfied, or successful. These are ideas that you can't really "achieve." They fluctuate often and they are very hard to measure. Instead, use your perceived states of being as litmus tests to determine if you are setting the right goals in the life areas listed at the end of tip 1. If you have identified S.M.A.R.T. goals that you are making steady progress on, studies have shown that you will have a happier, more satisfied life.


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