Face it: Goals are important. Not only for achieving our dreams but for pushing us to be better versions of ourselves. They give us a direction when life stops telling us what to do. They put us back in control.
They can be materialistic or intrinsic, but all too often, the only feature they really seem to share is that they are all too general and vague to ever become a reality.
I want to make more money!
I want to be famous!
I want to buy a new TV!
I want to make my family happy!
I want to travel abroad!
Sure, these are all well and good, but they are missing definition. How are you going to make these things happen? When do you want them to happen? What counts as success?
And are you just going to wait for them to fall into your lap? Okay, fine, sometimes the universe helps a bro out like that…but rarely, and certainly never quickly. More often, you have to be the master of your own future and go after what you want. And that means setting goals.
Understanding the How, When & What
Figuring out how to make goals work for you (and in turn, how to work toward them) is the first step in getting anything accomplished. My guess is that by now, you’ve probably heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals.
If not, it stands for:
This is the gold standard for goal setting, and for good reason. It took me ages to realize and accept that the bigger the goal, the more specific the steps have to be.
My Example: I want to move to Colorado!
I’ve mentioned before that moving to Colorado has always been a dream of mine, but until last year, I’d only talked about it. When I decided to take control of my life and actually do something—setting a deadline to move to Colorado by the end of 2016—it changed everything.
But I didn’t realize that all I was doing was setting myself up for failure and frustration. Why? Because I wasn’t specific enough.
How was I going to move to Colorado by the end of 2016?
I broke it down. To move to Colorado, I would need:
– A healthy savings account (since I plan on being unemployed for a couple of months)
– A place to live
– A realistic timeline for moving (quitting my job, moving out of my apartment, driving out, etc.)
– A support system for when I arrive
Then, I broke these down even further:
– To have a healthy savings account, I picked a number I felt comfortable achieving and then decided to save extra money each month by going out for happy hours and dinners less often.
– To find a place to live, well…full disclosure, this sort of worked itself out by falling into my lap. Sometimes the universe really does help out! But had it not, I would’ve been apartment hunting.
– To set my timeline, I took into account the end of my lease, when it would be best to leave my job, how long I wanted to take to drive out, etc. Defining all of these variables helped me set more realistic dates for the move.
– To set up a support system, I plan to contact family and friends in the area, in addition to reaching out to local interest groups so I don’t get there and immediately feel isolated and alone.
From these steps, I was able to set a more definitive when (July!) and a much more manageable how (specific, actionable steps I can work on every day.)
How to Set a Goal
Actually setting a goal can be complicated. I’ll keep it simple.
Pick a dream.
Be specific. (I want to be a famous author. I want to make the New York Times Best Sellers List.)
Set a deadline.
Be specific and realistic.
Write down the steps you would take to accomplish this dream.
List everything you can think of. BE SPECIFIC!
Set deadlines for these steps.
Specific and realistic. (Noticing a pattern yet?)
Assign specific action items.
What actions can you take right now to accomplish those steps that will help you reach your dream? (Do I even have to say it?)
Congratulations — Your dream is now a goal, and on top of that, you now have actionable steps to start achieving this goal!
Feel free to dream on 🙂