Developing personal life goals, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, can be an effective technique to inspire motivation to achieve the things you want in life. These goals might focus on personal growth, emotional intimacy, and mental wellbeing, or involve outward desires such as social standing, wealth, and career. Not only is goal setting an effective way to get what you want out of life, it can also promote happiness, clarify behaviors, and provide a sense of purpose or long-term direction.
Regardless of your goals, it’s important to establish a plan and consider factors that can help you achieve them—or impair your progress. Doing so will help you keep yourself accountable and direct your actions and behaviors to ensure they are aligned with your goals. Below are six tips and strategies to help you achieve any goal you set:
Make SMART Goals
SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timed) is a mnemonic that can be used to develop clear and achievable goals with precise timelines. For instance, rather than simply aspiring to work in the banking industry, you might instead set a goal of becoming a financial analyst for a major firm within five years.
As this example suggests, it’s important to define your goals as specifically as possible. The more details you consider when setting goals, the better chance you have to achieve them. Goals should also be measurable, so you have a way to gauge progress and see how far you’ve come. While it’s OK to dream big, goals should also be realistic and attainable. More ambitious goals should, at the very least, have attainable sub-goals to keep you motivated. These sub-goals should be relevant to your overall life aspirations and carry deadlines to help you avoid procrastination and stay focused on the task at hand.
Think about Pathways to Success
After clearly and concisely setting a goal, think about all the avenues you can take to achieve it. Take some time to brainstorm all the different pathways you can imagine, and even ask others for suggestions. Carefully consider these pathways, even those that might seem outlandish or inaccessible. This might involve thinking about different schools to attend or certifications you can obtain in pursuit of a specific career goal. Maybe your goal will require moving to a new city or quitting your current job. In pondering these pathways, try to identify any resources that might make progress easier and the goal more attainable.
When charting pathways for ultimate goal attainment, it’s common to think about sub-goals chronologically. For example, in order to become a doctor you might first need to complete your undergraduate degree, following which you’ll need to apply to medical schools, earn your MD, complete a medical internship and residency, and so on. While this is an effective approach for many people, others might benefit from backward planning, also known as backward design.
This process involves writing down your specific goal and the date by which you want to achieve it. Then, think about the necessary milestone you have to accomplish before attaining your ultimate goal and work backwards from there, setting dates for each sub-goal. This technique prompts you to adopt an entirely different approach to tackling your goal, and it might even help you think of things you ignored during the pathway generation process.
Tell Others Your Goals
Telling others about your goals can be difficult, but it’s an important consideration for accountability. Whether it’s friends or family, those who know your goals can hold you accountable and motivate you during times when you find yourself faltering. Moreover, your friends and family can also lend advice and provide resources that might help you on your journey.
It can be particularly helpful to tell your goals to someone who is successful and whose opinion you value. This notion was validated through a 2019 study at The Ohio State University.
“If you don’t care about the opinion of whom you tell, it doesn’t affect your desire to persist — which is really what goal commitment is all about,” notes Howard Klein, lead author of the study. “You want to be dedicated and unwilling to give up on your goal, which is more likely when you share that goal with someone you look up to.”
Evaluate and Reflect
Take time to evaluate progress and reflect upon your accomplishments on the path toward your ultimate goal. This can help set a firm foundation for success and keep you steadfast in pursuit of that goal. It will also help validate the work you’ve put in throughout your journey.
Goal evaluation and reflection should be performed at regular intervals, whether it’s once per week, month, or quarter, in a quiet place free from distraction. Doing so in nature can have added benefits. During these sessions, look back and ahead as you contemplate your successes and the obstacles you need to overcome. Write all relevant thoughts and information down so you can evaluate how far you’ve come during the next session.