For you Boy Scouts, you work on planning and goal setting in the Personal Management Merit Badge and on your Eagle Project. But, it doesn't stop there.
Some of us have big, “bucket list” goals that we will work toward throughout our entire lifetime, while others just have a daily aspiration to avoid eating a second doughnut. Goals run the gamut. But how do we turn our goals from hopeful dreams to actual accomplishments? Dreams aren’t bad. They help you to create a vision for your future. In fact, dreaming is the launching pad. It’s where you will need to start. But you can’t stop there. Turn those dreams into goals, and your goals into small, actionable steps that move the needle toward change. If you’re waiting on an outside variable to alter your life, you could be waiting for a while. You have to do something. It’s time to sit down, take control, and make smart goals.
Seven Areas of Life to Use Goal SettingIt’s important to have goals for all the impactful areas of your life. Hit them all and you’ll be well on your way to success. Neglect an area and it could hinder you from reaching your other goals altogether. We recommend you set goals for these seven areas:
- Financial – Start saving for retirement, get out of debt, or implement a monthly zero-based budget.
- Spiritual – Pick up a new devotional, or get plugged in to a group at your local church.
- Physical – Hit the gym more often, take the stairs, or remember to eat your veggies.
- Intellectual – Go back to finish your degree, get your MBA, or read a good book.
- Family – Plan one-on-one dates with your kids or your spouse, or make it a point to call Mom and Dad on Sunday night.
- Career – Work toward a promotion or a raise, invest in doing something that will benefit your career, or send out resumes if you’re looking for a new career path.
- Social – Say yes when someone invites you out to lunch or a social gathering, or, for some of you, say no more often.
How Do You Create SMART Goals?If you’re stumped trying to figure out where to start, just remember the acronym SMART.
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Achievable
R – Relevant
T – Time-sensitive
These five elements are the building blocks for achieving your goals.
Writing Down SMART GoalsThe best way to set smart goals is to write them down, including all the steps it will take for you to get there. It’s awesome to dream, and you should never stop thinking about what you can do. But to actually achieve those milestones, you have to get your goals down on paper. When they’re in writing, it helps you to stay on track and reach them. This is a great way to hold yourself accountable and to see your advancement along the way. Something amazing happens in our lives when we take the time to write down our specific goals, instead of just keeping them in our head as intangible thoughts.
Keep It Specific and MeasurableFor goals to work, you need to zero in on exactly what you want to achieve. For example, saying that you want to lose weight won’t cut it. Instead, how about “I would like to drop 20 pounds.” That goal is specific and includes an exact, measurable amount. Give yourself daily, weekly and/or monthly steps that visually help you to see progress toward your goal. For example, if you know your ultimate goal is to pay off $24,000 of debt in the next year, you have to pay $2,000 a month to reach that goal (or about $460 a week).
Set a Time LimitGiving yourself a date for your goal gives you a point to aim for. Once you have your target, create a plan and break it all the way down to daily activities. Then give yourself a deadline. For example, “I would like to lose 20 pounds by December 31.” How many times do you need to work out each week? What will your calorie intake be each day? While preparing your strategy, it will soon become clear whether or not your goals are reachable.
Own It!One of the easiest ways to fail at goal setting is trying to accomplish someone else’s goals. If your Aunt Edna wants you to be the most successful podiatrist in the tri-state area, it won’t happen unless that’s your dream too. Why? Because as we all know, striving to win is not for the weak of heart. It’s tough. And you won’t have the courage to fight through if you aren’t working toward your own goals. Likewise, just because your spouse or your dad wants you to get out of debt doesn’t mean you will. You have to want it too. The goals you set must be your goals—because when push comes to shove, you’re the one who must fight to make them a reality.
Start Setting Goals That Matter Today!Don’t get discouraged if your goals aren’t accomplished in the exact way you originally planned or if you get off track. Bumps will occur, and life will happen. That’s okay! But as long as you are focused on the end goal and are taking small steps toward achieving it, you are on your way to making a big change.
Because big change starts small.