How to Set, Monitor and Achieve Your Personal Goals
It is common to feel we are working hard but not really getting anywhere. Only a small fraction of people achieve their dreams. Certainly, luck can play a part in our life's path but the main reason is that most people never plan properly to progress their lives. That is, they never formally set goals. If you want to get the most out of your life and be a high achiever, this is the place to start.
Personal Goal Setting
"A goal is an idea of the future or desired result that a person or a group of people envision, plan and commit to achieve. People endeavour to reach goals within a finite time by setting deadlines." (Wikipedia)
Goals can be short, medium or long term and the amount of planning increases with the size and length of the task. Short term tasks, like go shopping, can just be recorded in a to-do list. Medium term goals like loose 10 lbs in weight or study for an exam need a simple plan recorded and the plan should be monitored to completion. Long term goals, or life goals, like maybe sailing around the world, need a good deal of planning if they are going to happen.
High achievers start with life goals. When you know what your life goals are then all your sub-goals leading to these achievements will have much more purpose and motivate you more to achieve them. It does require you spending some time thinking about what you really want to do in your life. This effort could be the start of you building your long-term happiness though, so it is a great investment.
Setting life goals begins with visualizing your distant future, 10 years ahead or at a certain point in your life. What would be the goals you want to achieve by then? Areas in which people usually consider setting goals are as follows:
- Health / Sport
- Career / Professional
- Skills/ Education
- Creative / Artistic
- Fun / Enjoyment
- Giving / Charitable
It is OK to have a few goals in each, or none in some, or in areas not listed. Think about how you want to feel, what makes you happy and what would the success mean to you. Now you have your high-level list, think which goals you should work on first. It is hard to give the necessary focus and energy to more than about three goals at a time, depending on what they are. Make sure you can do justice to your goals and still live the life you want, even if that means shifting goal focus from time to time.
Now break your goals into milestones. Where should you be on each goal in 5 years, 1 year, 3 months, 1 month, 1 week and in the case of current goals what should you do today? Keep a to-do list for daily actions. Set clear targets that land in the two weeks to three months' time range. This kind of time frame allows you to see progress clearly and you will feel the pressure to actively work on your goals almost every day to keep them moving forward.
Write your plan down so you have a clear path to follow and this can be quite motivating when it is clear how you are going to achieve your goal. A common framework used in goal setting is to use SMART. This says your written goal should be:
- Specific (not vague)
- Measurable (so you can track it)
- Achievable (don't set yourself up to fail by being overoptimistic)
- Relevant (it should be if it is aligned to your dreams and not something someone else wants for you)
- Time-bound (a deadline forcing you to take action)
Now you are ready to progress with your goal.
Goal Progress Monitoring
Having a great plan is all well and good but not very useful if you tuck it away and forget about it. You need to monitor goal progress against your plan. Your goal should be set up to go from one measurable amount, like 0 hours, 185 lbs, 0%, 50 points, etc., to another amount. The graph of this amount over time gives you a goal line. The timeframe for a goal milestone (sub-goal) should be typically between two weeks and three months. Now you can see what you must do.
You should create enough pressure with your milestone to be working towards it almost every day. Record your new progress measurements daily or as often as makes sense. See how you are doing and review this weekly to see if there is anything you need to change about your plan if you are going off target. It is OK to change a plan if there are valid reasons for doing so. We often get new information as we undertake our tasks that we never had in the beginning, so this needs to be factored in.
Tips for keeping your goal on track:
- Write a list of goal milestones and put it somewhere visible so you can cross milestones off.
- Positive affirmations where once a day you state your goal out loud.
- Review your goal periodically, ideally with someone else. This makes you more accountable.
- Make adjustments along the way so you maintain balance and happiness in your life.
On Achieving a Goal
The process is not quite over once you have achieved your goal. It is beneficial to celebrate your success. This will reinforce your success and build your self-confidence to achieve higher things, and it's fun!
Take time to reflect on what went well or could have gone better. Was the goal too hard or too easy? Use lessons learnt to feedback into new goal setting. Rewards and reflection can apply to milestones as well as larger goals.
Now you know the formula to become highly effective with the power to move toward your dreams!
Other Goal Setting Articles