The ‘Why’ Of Goals
It’s important to have a direction to be working towards. If you were to set out on a road trip with no destination in mind, it would be difficult to know when you had arrived. It would also be more difficult to plan for your trip. How do you find a map or set your GPS without a destination?
Setting goals is like choosing your destination. Once you set your goals you are able to plan for road blocks and decide what tools are necessary to get there.
Goals are important in almost every area of your life. Whether you are planning for financial freedom, purchasing material items, achieving career milestones, or setting treatment goals in therapy, setting a goal is your first step in planning for the end result and knowing when you’ve arrived.
Setting clear goals is also incredibly helpful in any partnership. It allows people to have a discussion and get on the same page. This helps everyone involved have clear expectations and clearly defined roles. Working toward a shared goal is also very important in building a sense of partnership or community. You can even include your children in the goal making process. Having a sense of accomplishment at the end is a great self-esteem builder.
The ‘How’ Of Goals
Decide on a direction. Do you want to pay down debt, go on a trip, improve communication with your partner? Choose an area of your life you want to work on and a direction you would like to improve it.
Choose your team. Once you choose a direction you can decide who needs to be involved in the goal. Some goals may be something you want to work on yourself, while others you may want to include others in. You may choose to lose weight on your own, while you may decide that saving money is a family goal. If other’s need to be involved in the goal, you will want to include them in the rest of the process.
Be positive. Whenever possible you want to set a positive goal rather than setting a goal that is the absence of something or in negative terms. For example, saying you want to save money or have financial freedom is more powerful than stating you want to be debt-free or pay down bills.
Be specific. Goals work best when we are specific about the amount and duration. You will want to set an end date for the goal and any other specific information necessary. New Year’s resolutions are a good example of goals that frequently don’t work because they aren’t specific. Rather than saying you want to lose weight this year, say I will lose 10 lbs by June 1st. Instead of saying I want to save money, set an exact amount and a realistic date by when you can complete it.
Develop a plan. Do this by working backwards. If you’ve set a goal to save $1000 in 6 months, the next step would be to figure out what you will need to have saved in 3 month, then 1 month, finally decide what you will need to save weekly. This allows you to set smaller, achievable goals that you can be working toward. This will be your action plan.
Write it down. This is important; in order to make your goal concrete you need to write it down. Put it somewhere that you will see it regularly. Commit to it.
Overcoming road blocks. We all struggle with changing behaviors. Your brain cannot unlearn a habit once you’ve learned it so it’s very easy to go back to our old ways until we’ve strongly developed new habits. If you find yourself struggling with old behaviors or you aren’t seeing progress toward your goals, ask yourself if the choices you are making are helping you achieve your goal or if they are actually hurting your progress. If your goal is to communicate better with your spouse, is yelling at them about the laundry helping you achieve your goal? If your goal is weight loss, is staying in bed during your workout time helping you toward your goal? If your choices are working against your goal, change them.
Check in. If you were working on an important project at work, you would have regular meetings about it. If you were learning something new, you would have homework and need to practice it. Don’t set it and forget it. If this change is important to you, make time to check in with your progress. This will allow you the space to ask for help or change your plan if you need to.
Celebrate your successes. Changing habits and behaviors can be hard work. Don’t forget to enjoy the process. You set this goal for a reason: to make a better you. That’s exciting! Celebrate and embrace the process. When we are always working toward tomorrow, we forget to enjoy today. Build some fun into the process and celebrate along the way.