Setting goals is very important in life as it guides you, sets you on a path, and helps to give clarity to your priorities. It ranges from big goals like five-year goals, new year goals to even the minutest ones like what you want to achieve in a month. There is no need to move if you do not have a direction. Goal setting gives you clarity and direction.
How do you set goals the right way?
There are different methodologies and techniques of setting goals but one that works for me is called the SMART criteria to setting goals. S denotes Specific, M – Measurable, A – Achievable, R – Relevant and T denotes Time-bound. You can apply these SMART criteria to both the little goals and the big ones. However, I understand it takes time to perfect and, as with most things in life, you get better the more you apply the framework.
We’ll break down the SMART criteria and work through them one by one.
S: Specific – Any goal you set needs to be very specific. Not vague or ambiguous. If possible, specific to the last detail so you know exactly when you’re on track, when you’ve achieved it, or what is left to do.
M: Measurable – A goal should be measurable. Leaving it open with no way to measure is just like running in a wild forest with no boundaries or swimming in an ocean with no land borders. Tasks that are measurable can easily be tracked to see progress. It also helps you to predict if you need to allocate more time or if you need to put in more effort to achieve the goals.
A: Achievable – Sometimes it is good to aim high and dream big, but we should set achievable goals for the most part. This helps curb disappointment and personal discouragement. If a goal is specific and measurable, it is easier for you to classify it as achievable or not achievable within a certain timeframe.
R: Relevant – It is helpful to set relevant goals. This actually motivates you to work on these goals because they are relevant to you and for your good or someone else. The relevance does not have to be immediate, it could be long-term. When setting goals, think of yourself. Not to be selfish, but your goals should align with your core values, even when your goals are for other people’s impact. Do not copy people, do not feel pressured because some other people’s goals seem really cool or ambitious. Set goals according to what is important to you and in line with your core values and priorities at the time.
T: Time-bound – Ideally, goals should have a timeline and not run infinitely. These criteria are all linked somehow because when goals are specific and measurable, it is easier to set a realistic timeline and this, in turn, helps in determining if it is achievable or not. It is good to pace yourself, do not overstress yourself by setting unrealistic deadlines. It is also okay for timelines to be flexible, do not beat yourself up too much if you don’t achieve a goal at the set time. Most times, it is not the end of the world. Life happens. Simply evaluate and readjust the timeline to suit the current situation and resources.
How else can I set better goals?
Setting goals without creating systems that support the actualization of these goals is meaningless. It will leave you disappointed and frustrated, struggling to play catch up. If you have a goal to achieve something, you need to outline and implement systems or processes that foster the actualization of that goal. It is not magic. If you intend to eat healthily but don’t have systems in place with time for grocery shopping and time to actually cook these healthy meals or signing up for a service to order these healthy meals from, you most likely would not achieve your healthy-eating goal. You might be wondering why you can’t meet your goal, but it’s simple: you have not put processes in place to aid the goal.
Another helpful tip while setting goals is to reverse engineer and break it down. I start by identifying my end goal and then identifying the processes to get there. Then, I break these down and set them as subgoals. This prevents me from getting overwhelmed. I set New Year Goals, broken down into Quarterly Goals and further into Monthly Goals. I also do a review afterwards, of the previous month, quarter or year to find out how I performed, what I did wrong, and how I need to improve.
Something that also helps is having an accountability partner. It could be horizontal (your peers/friends) or vertical (a mentor or coach). While choosing an accountability partner, you should look out for people that have the same core values as you and understand your goals and their importance to you. It should also be someone you respect and can answer to.
Nevertheless, we can plan as much as possible, but I understand that some things are completely out of our control. Anything can happen and we really don’t know what tomorrow holds. However, we will still hope and prepare for the best; doing our part by setting goals the right way. I believe in God so I always commit my goals to God and check if they are in alignment with God’s will for my life. This helps in guiding me and streamlining my goals to focus on what I need.
- When setting goals, think SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals.
- After setting goals, create routine systems and processes that help you actualize your goals.
- Break down big goals from the end into smaller sub-goals and review them after a given time period.
- It’s okay to re-evaluate your goals and be flexible with them if life situations come up that set you back.
I hope these tips are helpful to you as most people set goals and draw up vision boards for the new year and subsequently. I hope it makes the goal-setting process less overwhelming, more profitable and when you look back to evaluate, you realize you achieved a lot more of your goals this time around.
Thank you for reading.