You know what is almost as difficult if not more difficult than setting goals? Figuring out how to achieve them. Goals are important, but it's also important to have a plan to actually reach your goal. "A goal without a plan is just a wish" - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
These are two sides of the same sword and we need to figure out both in order to create the happy, fulfilled life that we dream of.
The first part of the problem is trying to figure out what our goals are. It's important to be clear that goals are merely something that we are going to work toward achieving. They don't have to be some grandiose outcome, although they can be.
Your goals should be whatever you want in your life to make you happier, make life easier, make your relationships better. Whatever brings you closer to your dream life.
Here are some examples of goals:
I would like to improve my relationship with my spouse
I would like to earn a side income to reduce the financial stress on my family
I want to become a best-selling author
I want to lose 10 lbs.
I want to get in control of my time
You might have more than one goal that you want to achieve. You might want to get healthier and work on your relationship with your spouse. Depending on the goal, working on more than one at a time can be difficult. Other times, they can go hand in hand.
If improving health and your relationship are both your goals, maybe you can start working out with your spouse. You'll be working on fitness and spending quality time together at the same time.
How to Set Your Goals
In order to select the goal or goals that you want to work on, the following is a great process to follow. First think about the following 10 areas of your life and rank your happiness with each area on a scale of 1 to 10.
If you have all 10's then your life is perfect and you can stop reading here. Otherwise, give an honest assessment of where you rank in each of these areas. Here are the 10 areas:
Family and Friends
Now, look at the areas that require the most improvement and select one to be the area that you are going to work on for the next 90 days. This will give you enough time to actually see improvement in that area.
Now that you have an area of your life to work on, we need to get a little more specific. Take 5 minutes to brainstorm ideas for your 90 day goal. For example, if your area is self care, some ideas might be making and going to doctor appointments you've been putting off, getting regular manicures, or making sure you get some time away from the kids.
Challenge yourself to really think of all the things you would like to have in that area of life and then write them all down. Once your list is complete, look it over and select on of those items to be your 90 day goal.
Now that you have a general goal, it's time to make sure that it's also a SMART goal. SMART is an acronym for the 5 characteristic which every goal should have. They take a vague goal and make it more concrete. This helps you have a fully fleshed out goal that is both motivating and achievable.
The following are the characteristics of SMART goals.
Specific - Your goals should be well-defined. Instead of “I want to lose weight” you should say “I want to lose 12 lbs.”
Measurable - Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. In our example it is clear that either you have or haven’t lost 12 lbs. You can also break down this goal into increments for example losing 4 lbs a month.
Attainable - When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. Is your goal possible? If you are 5’7” and 100 lbs soaking wet, losing 12 lbs is not attainable or recommended. If you are 4’11” being a Rockette is just not in the cards. You want to pick goals which are in the realm of possibility.
Realistic - To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both difficult and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how distant your goal should be. But be sure that every goal represents substantial progress.
Is your goal possible for you at this time? If you are pregnant, it's not realistic to set a weight loss goal. On the other hand, it is totally possible to get a water consumption or healthy eating goal.
Time Bound - A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no time frame tied to it there’s no sense of urgency. Say, “I want to lose 12 lbs in 90 days” instead of “I want to lose 12 lbs.”
SMART Goals Examples
So, now that we know what SMART goals are here are some examples of goals turned into SMART goals.
I want to lose weight - I want to lose 5 lbs. by the end of the month.
I want more money - I want to earn $1,000 from my side hustle in the next 30 days.
I want to spend more time with my spouse - I will have 2 date nights with my spouse each month and one weekend away each year.
I want to expose my kids to more culture. - I will take my kids to a show/play or museum once a month.
I want my family to eat healthier. - I will include vegetables in every meal for my family.
Related Post: Do Your Goals Match Your Priorities?
Now that you have a specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound goal, it's time to make a plan to achieve it. There are several tactics you can use to ensure that you successfully reach your goal.
Break it Down
The first thing you can do is break it down. If your goal is to lose 12 lbs in 3 months then you can break that down to 4 lbs a month, or 1 lb a week. If your goal is to write a 90,000 word book in the next 3 months then you need to write 30,000 words a month or about 1,000 words a day.
You can also break down your goal by steps or stages. If your goal is to enroll in graduate school, then your breakdown might be to research schools in the first 3 weeks, complete applications in the next 3 weeks, and then once you receive acceptance letters, select a school and apply for financial aid.
Make a Plan
Once you have broken down your goal into manageable increments, you need to decide what you are going to do each day to achieve your goal. For weight loss you might choose to cut soda during the first month and increase your water intake. Then in the second month you might cut refined sugar and increase healthy fats. In the third month you might try intermittent fasting by gradually decreasing your eating window.
At the same time you might commit to exercise 3 days a week for the duration of the 90 days. You put the workouts on your calendar and set reminders on your phone so you don't forget to do it. The more work you do up front to create your plan, the more likely you are to succeed.
If you are increasing your water, use an app on your phone to track your water intake or make a note of your water intake in your planner. Put things in place to help ensure you actually perform the actions you plan to take.
Get an Accountability Partner or Coach
It can be hard to set goals and create action plans to achieve them. It can be even harder to stay accountable to yourself in order to actually take action on your plan.
It is totally worthwhile to find an accountability partner or invest in a coach that will help you figure out your goals, create your plan, figure out action steps, cheer you on, and keep you accountable for your progress.
This person should regularly discuss the following with you: your goal, your progress towards that goal, and next steps to take you further toward achieving that goal. Sometimes a friend or family member can serve this role. Other times hiring a coach is necessary.
The job of the coach is to ask the right questions that will help you figure out the plan of attack that will work best for you. They help you navigate setbacks, and provide support when you need it.
Investing in a coach also puts a little skin in the game for you. You are more likely to follow through when you have paid someone to help you do so.
It is totally possible to achieve your goals on your own, but it is a heck of a lot easier with help. In addition, sometimes we are uncomfortable discussing our goals with our friends and family, especially when they feel out of reach or scary. Coaches are the perfect outside party to help you through actually achieving these goals.
With that said, I am giving away 3 free goal setting sessions to 3 lucky readers. These sessions will consist of a 30 minute call to discuss your goals for the next 90 days. If you already have a goal you want to work on, we can create an action plan to help you achieve it. If you don't have a goal in mind, we can work together to determine the right goal for you.
If you are interested in a session, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a call. I can't wait to work with you!
Not quite ready to work with someone? Check out my SMART Goals Template. This worksheet which will help you start goal setting and goal achieving on your own!