Friday, January 4, 2013

How to set goals

Wren writing goals

 Do you write New Year's resolutions? Here are a few tips for making successful resolutions or setting goals at any time of the year:

Goals should be:

1. Measurable
The very best goals are measurable and specific. The reason for this is simple: how will you know when you've achieved your goal if there is no clear finish line? It seems obvious and yet this is one of the biggest problems most people have when they set goals. Here are some examples: "Lose five pounds" is better than "Lose weight." "Be able to run three miles and do five pull ups" is better than "Get in shape." "Spend fifteen minutes a day studying" is better than "Learn French."

Furthermore, if you just write a goal like "Enjoy life more" or "Be healthier," not only is it hard to know just when you've achieved this, it's hard to even know where to start. It takes more work to write a measurable and specific goal but just by defining your goal, you're closer to making it reality. For example, what does "Enjoy life more" mean TO YOU? What activities truly bring you joy? Maybe you love being outdoors. So, "Go hiking twice a month" would be a good, measurable goal. By December, you'll know if you did that and right now, you start looking for good trails and buying a new pair of hiking boots.

2. Realistic
Being ambitious is good but if your list of goals is just too big, you may end up focusing on all the things you didn't do instead of all you achieved. I actually do this a lot so I've learned to scale back a little, or give myself more time.

Also recognize if you're considering a major life change. "Stop drinking" or "Get out of credit card debt," are certainly measurable and achievable goals, but they involve drastic change in many areas of life. With goals like these, it's important to break them down into short-term goals: "Attend AA meetings once a week" or "Don't spend any money on clothes this month."

3. Important
Are your goals really important TO YOU? Personal goals aren't about pleasing others. They're about discovering your life's path and defining who you want to be: not an easy task! It takes a lot of self-reflection to truly know what you want out of life. It also takes experimentation and the wisdom just gained by living.

So take the process seriously and once you've set your goals, really commit yourself to them. Writing your goals down helps you be accountable. Some people even make a "signed contract" with themselves. Others find that telling friends and family about their goals helps them stay committed. Whatever it takes for you, find a way to hold yourself responsible for your own progress.

4. Flexible
Keep in mind two things: we all change, and sometimes life throws us curve balls. The goals you write in January may be no longer applicable or possible by the middle of June. And that's OK. Review your goals often and keep them up to date. As long as they are measurable, realistic, and important,  it doesn't matter when you came up with them!

So good luck, and have fun!


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