3 Steps to Setting Effective Goals
You’re totally pumped and ready to make a change but everywhere you turn, something or someone is demanding your attention. It feels like everyone is fighting for a precious piece of your time. While you suspect there’s no way you can do it all at once, you don’t want to give up on your dream. You decide to power through and push yourself harder.
Here’s the thing: If you spend too much time going down this path there’s a chance that you’ll end up stressed out, burnt out, and totally over it.
If you’ve ever felt the stress of taking on too much – sleepless nights, rushed daily routines, and a sinking feeling you’ll never get caught up - I have good news. There’s a way to take the insanity off your plate. Setting effective goals is a good way restore order from chaos.
Understanding what you want, what you need, and what steps will get you there lets you tune out the things that don’t serve your purpose. It will also help you know when to say no. Goals help you prioritize and determine which tasks to take on now and which to defer. If you’re feeling like your life is running you instead of the other way around, give yourself the gift of getting clear on your goals and get some of those stressors off your plate.
What Makes a Goal Effective?
Step One: Know What’s Important to You: One of the first steps to creating effective goals is to understand what you value. What things have the most meaning in your life? Is it spirituality, happiness, career, finances, inner peace, family, or something else? The answers may pop into your mind right away or you might need some time to think it over.
To help clarify the things you value find a quiet place; Close your eyes and reflect on the last few years. As you look back, what experiences and events gave you the most joy? What accomplishments meant the most to you? What feelings do you get from the people and relationships around you? Write these down – they are hints to the things that matter to you the most.
Now take the things you have written and rank them in order of importance. Over time, the things you most value may change. You may want to repeat this exercise every so often to check in and make sure you’re still on a path that aligns with what you value.
Step Two: Check the effectiveness of your goal. Ask yourself four questions to determine if the goals are the right ones for you.
- Are you willing to devote time and energy to achieving the goal? We all want a lot of things, but when it comes down to separating the dreaming from the doing, this is the question to ask: Is your goal something that would be “nice to have,” but when you really think about it, the work is far more than you are willing to put into it? If so, look for goals that spark passion and drive engagement – the kind of goals that make you excited to get out of bed each day to work on them.
- Does the goal match what you value? This is where that list from step one comes in. If your goals are at odds with the things you value, it’s going to be an uphill climb to reach them – and once you get there you may find they really don’t bring the kind of satisfaction you thought they would. This is also a good time to ask yourself whether the goal is yours or someone else’s goal for you. Choose goals that are aligned with what you value, and the journey will be easier.
- Can I reach this goal – is it achievable? Make sure that your goals challenge you and make you work to reach them, but that they are also attainable. Setting goals that are unrealistic or unreachable will undermine your efforts right out of the gate. If you have a big audacious goal, try breaking it down into achievable, mini goals that move you toward the bigger goal.
- Are my goals in balance? Create goals from a holistic perspective. If you end up neglecting your family for that big business win, you’ll have a new set of challenges to deal with. Your health is super important, so support your well-being. Don’t abandon your finances and basic needs in pursuit of a big dream. Seek balance as you set your goals and the journey will be less stressful.
Step 3: Set Your Goals: Start by choosing two or three big goals. Maybe you want to buy a house, get a new car, graduate college or travel to an exotic destination. Put those goals in writing.
Next, for each big goal, make a list of 3 – 5 short-term goals or checkpoints that can serve as stepping-stones to move you toward your long-term goals.
Your short-term goal may be a change in employment, registering for a class, taking up yoga or meditation, or choosing to leave work an hour earlier each day to spend more time with your family. The possibilities are endless, and they are all yours. Think about how your checkpoint goals will move you forward. What can your goals do to help you enjoy more of what matters to you? What do you need to do right now to focus on your goals and where can you say “no” to busy work and distractions that kill time and pull you away from reaching your goals?
Use your list of checkpoint goals to pick one thing for each bigger goal that you can do now – one easy step or one small change that you can make to increase focus on your goals.
Creating effective goals and taking small steps will help you identify the meaningful tasks versus things that are just busywork. If you feel like your to-do list is taking over your life, step back my friend. Take a few minutes to investigate your goals and refine your focus. You have full permission to say “No” to the things that don’t move the needle for you.
There’s a bonus to this: As you gain focus, the frenzy will begin to die down and you’ll find yourself with more time and less stress in the process.
Live Bravely, Live Boldly, Live Blissfully,
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