For as long as you can remember, you’ve had interests, passions and thoughts about what you wanted to do when you grew up. These ambitions come in all forms: personal, academic, professional, financial; we all want to accomplish something, yet once we’re there, we often have no idea where to start. How can we make these dreams a reality? How can we even determine what our goals are? Here are five ways to set goals and actually achieve them.
1. Spend some time alone
Take out a journal and devote a few solid hours to self-reflection. This doesn’t have to be an organized activity, don’t be afraid to let your mind wander. Ask yourself what it is you value, what those values look like in your life and how they manifest into aspirations. These aspirations are what you desire to accomplish, i.e. they are your personal goals.
2. Determine the difference between your short-term and long-term goals
In order to achieve anything, it’s useful to determine what you can accomplish in the short term versus what can only be accomplished in the long term. For example, landing your dream position as a marine biologist will take more time than receiving a certain grade in a course you’re taking right now in college. This is not to say that you can’t be making small amounts of progress towards a long-term goal, however, if you’re looking to achieve something it’s important to be realistic about what can be done right here and now. All it takes is getting out a sheet of paper or making a note on your device and organizing everything you hope to make happen into these two categories.
3. Pick your top three, four or five goals
Now that you’ve made this list, focus on the short-term category and select your top three, four or five goals. Humans are busy, distracted, social creatures and we only have so much we can take on. If you decide you want to accomplish ten goals over the next week, you may be setting yourself up for being unable to complete them. This can lead to a sense of failure and low self-esteem, lowering your morale to pursue the remaining goals. By picking a small amount of highly specific short-term goals, the more likely it is that you can accomplish them. All you have to do is rank your goals in order of value. You may find it’s more important to adopt healthier eating habits versus listening to every R&B album from the past year, or vice versa! It’s up to you to be realistic and passionate about the things you’d like to get done.
4. Create a plan of action for each goal
Once you have your specified set of goals, it’s time to take matters into your own hands! When we desire a particular outcome, we can’t afford to be idle – actions have to be taken! With each of your goals, take the time to orchestrate an action plan. It can be as easy as filling in the blanks: “in order to accomplish X, I will do A,B and C for Y amount of time or until I achieve X.” Just as each goal will look different so too will the actions you take to achieve them. Some goals will entail more work than others, and how you get there will be unique to your personality and life situation. If you come to a point where the plan isn’t going the way you imagined, never be afraid to alter the course of action. Sometimes it seems as if the goal is unachievable when in actuality the proper steps aren’t being taken.
5. Keep daily reminders of your goals
Some of us like to keep post-it notes on our bathroom mirrors, while others appreciate a daily alarm on our phones – whatever form it may take, constantly reminding yourself of these goals is ideal. There are people, places and things that distract us each day, so repetition of your short-term ambitions can bring purpose, motivation and confidence. In fact, daily reminders or mantras can enhance your overall, day to day outlook.
6. Try to lose your fear of failure
Fear is the psychological poison which kills our goals. We all have that nagging voice telling us “don’t even bother trying to accomplish that, you’ll just end up failing.” It’s natural to be scared to death of not meeting other’s or your own expectations, however, failure is an indication that you haven’t stopped trying. If you don’t succeed at something, it still means you made the effort. Trying and misfiring is always better than never attempting anything because your inner critic can’t be silenced. Even when you fail, it’s an opportunity to reflect on what went wrong and what you can do to improve your goals or your action plan. To help ease the anxiety, its okay to keep your goals to yourself. The only person who is going to know about the effort, success or failure is you, the individual who truly matters.
Ultimately, the key way to achieve is to be proactive. By determining your goals, organizing them, creating a planned execution, reminding yourself of these goals and banishing your fear of failure, you are already being active towards satisfying your ambitions. Never stop believing in yourself. Get after it!