There are two types of goal setting people in this world: those who jump with excitement pen and paper already in hand… annnd those who cringe at the mere thought of the words.
If you fall into the latter group, then I’d like to be the first to welcome you to the club.
I’d also like to be the first to show you the way out of the club and into the unofficial “goal conquering, dream life living, visions fulfilled” club.
Okay, so maybe that sounds like a bit much to start with, but would you settle for simply learning to accomplish goals you’ve wanted to for a long time and start to really enjoy (maybe even love) the life you live?
It sounds unrealistic to some. Especially, if you’ve felt like you actually belong to the official “unlucky life” club.
But I promise you that there is a way out of that club if you really truly want to leave it.
You can’t get where you want to go unless you decide to leave where you are.
The Goal Setting Controversy
There tends to be a lot of controversy and debates that center around whether setting goals is a good thing or not.
Basically, the two sides of the argument are about whether setting goals gives you purpose in life or just adds stress to your life and makes you feel unaccomplished.
Before we dive into the what to do, I wanted to give you the why.
Does Setting Goals Give You Purpose?
Josh (My husband and co-founder of this blog) recently came to me with this Ted talk he wanted me to watch. The speaker in it is Mel Robbins and if you haven’t watched it before, I would encourage you to do so. It’s amazing.
But, in case you don’t have time at the moment, I’ll summarize the point I’m taking from it…
During her speech, she gave a very interesting and inspiring statistic that had come out. Scientists have crunched the numbers, taken natural disasters, wars, and everything else into consideration and calculated the chances of YOU being born.
You know what they found?… The chances of you being born are 1 in 400 trillion.
So here is what I believe: no, setting goals doesn’t give you purpose. Being born does. With odds like that, it’s hard to debate the fact that you were meant to be in this universe. You were born with a purpose.
Setting goals doesn’t give you purpose, they simply help you map out your path to accomplishing things in life.
I’ll get back to the map thing in a minute, but for now, let’s talk about the accomplishing stuff…
Do Setting Goals Make You Feel Unaccomplished?
Have you ever had a day where you woke up, had huge plans for all you would accomplish that day and when 9 pm rolled around you realized you had done nothing?
It feels kind of crappy and you mentally beat yourself up a little and then promise to do it all tomorrow… for real this time.
This has happened to me so many times and I used to think it meant that I was failing at accomplishing my goals.
But then one day, I discovered that I was setting them and trying to accomplish them all wrong.
You see, there’s a big difference between setting goals and taking actionable steps to accomplish them (aka to-do lists).
Not really knowing the difference can be the make or break factor in your productivity levels and accomplishments.
I wrote a whole post about it which you can read here: The Difference Between Setting Goals and Making To-Do Lists.
So here is my thought: setting goals doesn’t make you feel unaccomplished.
Not doing anything makes you feel unaccomplished.
Accomplishing a goal takes action. Most people feel unaccomplished because they don’t do anything to be accomplished.
Usually, this happens because we don’t know where to start.
What Does Setting Goals Do?
Ah, the true key to it all… It simply gives you direction.
When set correctly, goals should be like the map that gets you from where you are now, to where you want to be.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, this is so so so important.
The truth is, we tend to get lost without maps.
Can you imagine trying to drive from the east coast to the west coast of America without a map?
You would know the general direction to head in, but you’d probably make some unnecessary stops along the way, possibly run out of gas, and maybe even end up lost on a side road for a bit.
Life without goals is the same way. I’ve never felt as lost in life as I do at the times when I don’t have a goal and a plan to guide me.
The Reason You (Probably) Have a Hard Time Accomplishing Your Goals
I want you to attempt to think of something in life that doesn’t require any amount of skill at all. Even just a small amount of skill. If you can think of anything, I would love to hear it!
Because I haven’t been able to find anything yet that doesn’t require some form of skill. Even things we take for granted require skills.
Speaking, reading, writing, driving, walking, using the microwave, using a phone, ironing clothes, mowing the grass, cooking, doing laundry, creating anything… If you think about it, everything in life is a skill. Including, setting goals effectively.
Just like some people are more skilled at one thing than another, some people are more skilled at setting goals than others.
Goal setting is a skill, but don’t let that worry you. The AMAZING thing about skills is that ANYONE can sharpen their skills in just about anything. Which means, even if you feel like you aren’t good at setting goals that you can accomplish, there are tools or resources for you that will help you fine tune your goal setting skills.
So what does this mean for you? If you haven’t set goals up to this point that you have accomplished, it might not be because you can’t reach your goal, but because you haven’t set them correctly.
The Ultimate Setting Goals Guide to Unlock Your Dreams
Where to start
This is the hardest part for so many people but it’s actually one of the simplest steps.
If you already have a goal in mind, then you can move onto the next step!
However, if you’re looking for where to start on creating a better life, then I always suggest starting with your top priority!
This can either be the thing you’ve wanted the most for the longest in life or the thing that will make the biggest positive impact in your life.
If you feel like you don’t know what that is, there is a “Where To Start” worksheet in our free resource library.
Set goals you WANT to accomplish
Something that is super important to the success of your goal, is making sure you set a goal that you really want.
If the outcome of the goal doesn’t actually mean anything to you, you’re not going to be motivated to work for it.
Another aspect of this is to make sure the goal is something you want.
I know, it’s the same sentence but with a different enunciation. Before we were talking about making sure you really WANT this thing. Now we’re talking about making sure that it’s YOU that wants it.
Don’t set a goal based on societal norms or peer pressure. We wasted so much time and money going after things because other people have it, that we forget to focus on the simple things.
Make sure it’s worth your time
The amount of time we have is limited. Make sure that the goal you set is actually worth the time you’re going to spend on it in the grand scheme of things.
This really goes for anything in life.
Make sure it’s realistic
Making sure your goal is realistic is another key to success.
Your goal should never put anyone in danger, hurt you, or cause misery. Going after your goals can be uncomfortable at times, but the idea of accomplishing it should still make you feel happy.
An example of some unrealistic goals are wanting to lose 60 pounds in two weeks or pay off $100k in debt by the end of the year but you only make $40k a year.
These are extreme examples, but you get the picture. Don’t put your health in danger for anything, or make your kids go hungry just to pay off more debt.
This whole process should be done in a healthy manner.
Losing 60 lbs and paying off $100k in debt are amazing goals to have and totally achievable. It’s just about setting realistic expectations and steps to getting there.
Steps for setting goals with success in mind
So you have your goal now, it’s a priority, it’s realistic, and you know you really want to accomplish it… Let’s move onto the “how to achieve a goal successfully” part now.
Think of the steps I’ve laid out below as the process of creating your map. Intentionally work backward from the big picture down to the actionable tasks of the starting point.
Ultimately, the steps to successful goal setting look something like this:
1) Define your vision
When it comes to chasing after your goals, it’s really important to not just have a goal set but to also have a vision that relates to that goal.
It’s the idea of being able to envision the goal in action in your life in the future.
A vision is the bigger picture. It’s an eye on the prize kind of thing.
It’s not a specific goal itself. Just what the result of accomplishing that goal would look like.
For example, a vision I have for myself is to feel good. Like really physically good when I wake up in the morning. I don’t want to feel sore or stiff or crappy. I want to feel relaxed and flexible and invigorated.
2) Specify your goal
Just as important as being able to envision what your life would look like if you accomplished your goal, is setting a specific goal.
People often get defining their vision and setting their goals to reach that vision confused.
The easiest way to do this is to create a one-line sentence for what you want to accomplish.
So going with my example above, my one line specific goal is to have a daily gentle yoga practice.
These two steps help me keep in mind why I am working towards this and what I am specifically doing to achieve what I want.
3) Write out your vision and eliminate barriers
Life gets super busy and there are so many distractions around us these days that it’s easier than ever to not accomplish the things we want to do.
To help eliminate those distractions, you should write your vision out to really help you be focused on it. It’s the whole “out of sight, out of mind” concept.
Studies show that people who write down their goals are 42% more likely to accomplish them.
Write your vision down, maybe create a vision board for yourself, and maintain your motivation.
While you’re doing this, also take time to eliminate any barriers that may arise that would hinder your progress.
Barriers are the distractions and excuses that come up in daily life. Often times they are triggered by something.
You can read more about eliminating barriers and triggers in this post: How to Break Your Bad Habits For Good
4) Simplify your goal into mini-goals
The idea of working up to whatever your goal is can be a little overwhelming when you think about it.
To solve this, break your goal into mini goals.
Studies have shown that breaking our end goals into smaller more manageable portions increase the likelihood of us achieving them.
This is because we feel good about actually making progress and smaller goals that we reach faster help us with this. We are literally wiring our brain to want to reach the end goal by setting small goals for us to be victorious in.
I usually suggest breaking your goal into 5 manageable min-goals.
5) Take the small actionable steps
Now that you have your mini-goals, the last thing you need to do is to write down the actionable tasks that will get your progress.
Create a small list of things that need to get done that will put you closer to achieving the first mini-goal, and then the next, and then the next.
This small list is the tasks of the little things that go on your to-do lists each day.
6) Enjoy the progress
While accomplishing your goals are important, so is enjoying life. Find happiness in the simplicity of bettering your life each day as you work on things.
Don’t try to overwhelm yourself getting to the end goal. Even if you change just 1% each day, you will soon have a 100% difference.
Just a little change every day will get you where you want to go.
If life is like a moving car, then you could easily say that a sudden course direction change is far more disruptive than slight adjustments.
So don’t rush it.
7) Find support or accountability
Nothing is better than feeling like you’re being supported in your dreams and goals. Try sharing your new set plans and dreams with your significant other, family members, friends, maybe even get your kids in on it.
You would be amazed at how much having a community around you to cheer you on can encourage you.
Having said this, we also want to say be careful WHO you share it with. I know, I know, I’m contradicting myself a bit. But you have to be careful because while it’s great if your family and friends do support you, it’s also important to recognize when you know they won’t.
In those cases, it’s better not to share your dreams and goals with them because often there are well-intentioned people who have had their dreams and goals fail one too many times.
They’ll mean well when they tell you not to set your expectations too high but the lack of support won’t be worth the excitement you feel in telling them about your goals and getting shot down.
Things to keep in mind
I want to leave you with a few things to keep in mind to help you a little more.
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes
At some point, we are going to make mistakes. We’re going to not totally stick to the plan or some outside factor will take you for a loop one day and it’s just not going to happen that day.
Want to know how I know?… because this is life and life is hard.
Chances are that as soon as you try setting goals, something will come up. The important part is not letting it keep you from your end goal.
You can’t be afraid to make mistakes if you want to reach your goal.
Find resources to help you
Find resources and tools to help you accomplish your goals. Podcasts, books, courses, subscriptions and so many other things out there cover just about every topic you can possibly imagine! Find one that works for you and embrace it.
Give yourself grace
Whoo, this is a big thing. We are not perfect, we’re never going to be. Mistakes you’ve made in the past, a lack of knowledge, motivation, etc. Whatever it may be for you, just forgive yourself for the past and move on.
Tomorrow is a new day. The past is the past and you can’t change it. What you can change though, is the future.
So cliche but so so so true.
If you mess up again, forgive yourself, go to bed, and pick up where you left off again tomorrow.
Just do it
This post is a basic roadmap which will help you out. The final portion of this is up to you.
You won’t always feel like it. It’s just how things go. Which is why eliminating your barriers and keeping your focus on your vision is so important.
With that said, only you can accomplish what you set your mind to, so go out there and do it!
Don’t make yourself do, something you know you won’t do
Lastly, I started this post with talking about only setting goals you want to do so I’ll finish with saying this:
Don’t set goals that make you do something you know you won’t do. There are certain factors of who we are that are just natural and we know deep down that we won’t do them.
For instance, I used to think a goal of mine was to go skydiving. Even felt stupid for not going when I had the chance to but I’ve never been an adventure seeking kind of person for the thrill of it.
When I was ten, I had to be lowered from a zip line pole cause I made it to the top and then freaked out. I don’t know what I was thinking of deciding I wanted to skydive someday when I got to be around 16 or so.
When I finally had a chance to actually go skydiving, I chickened out. Yeah, I know there’s the whole facing your fears thing, but here I am a decade later and I nearly passed out on a rollercoaster last year.
I finally realized that I hate the idea of skydiving. I’m pretty happy right here on the ground. So why was I letting who I naturally am, make me feel like I wasn’t accomplishing my goals??
The question of the century, right?
We are all created with a natural inner “us”. It’s the core of who we are and it doesn’t really change.
Which is why life is so much better when we understand who we are and how we function!
When we know what makes us tick and can look at a crappy moment subjectively and say “this is what I need at this moment” then we are able to push through to success.
Sun Tzu in the legendary book “The Art of War” stated that if you don’t know yourself and don’t know the enemy, there is 0% chance you would win. Regardless of how you feel about the book, he’s right in that one thing.
“I’m Not Sure I Know Myself Dilemma”
Realizing at this moment that you’re not sure who the core of you is? Don’t worry, I’ve been there too.
These two resources below are what I started with and they really helped me start on my journey of self-improvement and loving life. They aren’t crazy magical books that explain everything in my life, BUT they did really help me understand why I do some of the things I do. And that was pretty life-changing in itself.
He is widely respected in his community and has been on Dr. Oz’s show over 40 times.
His book explains how every person has a natural biological clock (chronotype) that their body wants to function on. Learning what yours is can help you understand why you function the way you do at times. Applying your daily habits and schedules to your optimal time frame can also increase your success in many things.
He even has a quiz you can take to identify which chronotype you are.
The book covers everything from when the best time for you to eat, sleep, exercise, pitch a deal, be creative, and have sex is for your body’s natural functioning cycle.
When reading the book, approach it with an open mind. There were a lot of things he states that I didn’t want to agree with at first, but as I came to accept some of what he said and tried to do everything he recommended, it was actually pretty life-changing.
If your results are anything like mine, you will find that life becomes easier, you have more energy, and honestly, you are happier.
The book comes with a code that allows you to take the online assessment. It’s made up of 177 quick-fire questions, (be sure to purchase a new copy for a fresh code) that identify the order of 34 strengths.
It organizes strengths based on strategic thinking, the ability to influence people and execute tasks, as well as relationship building abilities.
Now, one downside to this assessment is that the book code only unlocks your top 5. Which is still EXTREMELY helpful and insightful.
You can, of course, choose to pay to unlock the remainder of the strengths if you want to discover your lesser strengths.
This one is a bit pricey, but I promise you that it is worth it.
Honestly, I went into this test skeptical, but after seeing the results, I realized that it was that dead on.
Now, I did choose to unlock all of my strengths. However, in doing so, I have come to understand so much about myself and why I do certain things.
That’s the amazing thing about this assessment. Not only does it tell you how to use every strength to the best of your ability, but it also tells you how to grow or compensate for a lesser strength.
These two resources together have been so helpful to me in understanding myself. They have helped me to understand how to set goals for myself more skillfully and allowed me to be more at peace with my past.
Which all ties into setting goals and moving forward. I highly encourage them both!
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