We have been talking about goal setting this month on the podcast. Many times we feel unfulfilled with our lives. We are just going through the motions and have nothing that we are striving for. It’s so easy to slip into that, especially if you work at a rote job where you do the same thing every day and you have no goals or objectives to meet. It has been proven time and again that the people who write down their goals have a much greater chance of succeeding. Goal setting is such a great skill, but how do you do it?
You just need to do it.
This is one of those things where you need to be self-motivated to do it. There is no deadline where you have to have your goals turned in. It is another one of those important but not urgent tasks. If you talk to most people they will tell you that it is important to have written goals, but when asked most people don’t have them.
Even I, who thinks that goals are extremely important, found myself at the beginning of the year procrastinating my goal-planning session. However, when I finally sat down and focused on working on them I felt so much better. Having clear goals help me better weigh my tasks to make sure they are moving me closer to my goals. Sometimes we waste time working on things that may not be bad, but there might be another task that would bring me closer to my goal faster if I focused on it instead. So I just thought I would use this blog post to further break down the steps for those of you that have never set goals on your own or need a refresher.
Make a big list.
To start with I like to pull back and look at the big picture. What do you want to accomplish in your lifetime? Sit down and write all the things that you would like to do. See if you can come up with one hundred things. Don’t judge yourself while you are writing it. Just write and don’t think about how you are going to accomplish it yet. And don’t think that one of your goals is to too small or not grandiose enough-one of mine is to drink the milk out of a coconut. Here are some ideas:
- Learn to play the acoustic guitar
- Attend my dream university debt-free
- Save $10,000
- Buy a red VW bug
- Take a small engine class
- Go on a missions trip to Africa
- Own my own interior design business
- Watch the Tour de France in person
- Learn to snowboard
- Walk on the Great Wall of China
- Publish an article for the local paper
- Visit all fifty states
- Spend one week volunteering to build a Habitat house
- Save ten percent of my income for retirement
Pick three to five goals to work on now.
Okay. So now you have your list, what next? Now you go small. Look at your list and say what are three to five things that I could work on this year? Is there anything on my list that if I did that it would help me achieve other goals? For example, maybe getting a summer job is on my list and if I did that it would lead to being able to get a car and go to college-two of my other goals. Or maybe you have a big goal that needs to be broken down into smaller goals. Your big goal could be to go to college debt free. Maybe this year’s goal would be to earn money for the first semester or apply for twenty scholarships.
Make sure they are S.M.A.R.T.
So pick a goal and grab the worksheet. Write your goal at the top and set a date for when you want to have it accomplished by. Having a deadline helps you get it done in a timely manner. A lot of people fail to reach their goals because they just have vague goals that don’t have enough detail. If you use the acronym SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely), it will help you define your goal. Here is how it works:
Goal: I want to attend the University of Alabama in the fall of 2023 and not have to use college loans. I want to improve my math GPA by .5 this semester so I can qualify for academic scholarships. I will study math every weekday this month for thirty minutes and attend a study session on Thursdays.
Specific: You need to say exactly what you want and what you are going to do.
This goal is specific about what the target is and what I need to do to accomplish it.
Measurable: How do you know if you are doing what needs to be done?
I know what I need to do to accomplish the goal. If my goal had just been to study more, how do I know when I have accomplished the goal?
Achievable: Is it possible to do in the time you have?
Yes, it is. I am not looking for a huge jump in my GPA. If I were looking to raise my GPA by 2 points that would probably not be achievable.
Relevant: Is this even something you want to do?
For years I have wanted to attend the University of Alabama. I sleep on an elephant pillow, I like to paint my face red, and most importantly, they have a great program for the major I want. I am highly motivated because I want to go there. If it’s not somewhere you want to go, you probably won’t be motivated to get there.
Timely: It needs to have a deadline.
This goal has a deadline at the end of this semester. I can see an ending point and that can help me break down the steps to get there.
What is my Why?
Okay. That was the hard part. Now let’s do a couple of more things to help your goal be more successful. List some reasons why you want to achieve this goal. If you have no real motivation behind your goals then you will quit when things become just a little hard. When all your friends are at a party and you were planning on studying, you need something that will remind you why you are doing this. Do you want to earn a merit scholarship so you can go to college and not have to work while in school. Do you want to be able to drive yourself to school and work and not have to depend on your mom to take you everywhere? Think of as many reasons as you can as to why your goal is important to you.
What are the obstacles?
Next, think about what obstacles you are going to come up against. Almost every worthwhile endeavor comes with challenges. If you identify what those challenges might be beforehand, you won’t be surprised when they show up. Then think about who or what you might have in your life that might help you achieve your goal. Do you have a friend or a family member who has done the same thing? Access to a workshop, class, tutor? You don’t have to go it alone.
Take some action.
The final step is the most important. Start thinking about what action steps you need to take to make this goal a reality. In our example, some action steps for the student may be to block out time on his calendar to study, make flashcards for formulas or join a study group. List the first three to five steps and then just start! As long as you take consistent action, you will reach your goal.
If you and your teen are interested in learning more about goal setting, we have come up with free worksheets and a goal setting guide. These resources will help you think through all the steps we just talked about and help you reach your goal. Can’t wait to see all that you accomplish!