Every few months, I write in my journal about the highlights of the previous few months and my plans for the coming months. Maybe you’re in the same boat. Meetings with your boss, where you plan your professional progress for the upcoming quarter, may be one source of your goals. Maybe you’d instead make a New Year’s Resolution on the spur of the moment, in the thick of your New Year’s Eve party on December 31st.
Whatever method you use to set goals, knowing how to create and achieve them efficiently can offer you an advantage.
Unfortunately, most of us set ourselves up for failure when pursuing our goals. We set unrealistic goals in the first place, neglect to modify our environment to aid our development, or misinterpret how our everyday actions move us closer to—or further away from—those goals. With so much misunderstanding, it’s no surprise that so many New Year’s Resolutions fail.
However, once we’ve identified the most prevalent mistakes in goal-setting, we may consider more effective strategies. Setting smaller, more realistic goals can help us avoid failing in the first place. Regular self-reviews can also help us maintain track of our progress and stay on target. After all, so many of us establish goals for ourselves. Why don’t we do it in a way that maximises our chances of success?
So, let’s get started:
Tip #1 – Look back on the previous year
Take some time to reflect on the previous year. Turn off your phone. Then make this experience a memorable occasion by taking your notebook with you into the garden, grabbing your favourite chair and mug of coffee, or even popping into a coffee shop.
Allow yourself some time to ponder:
- What went well?
- How was your health?
- How was your lifestyle?
- How was your career?
- What did you learn?
- Where did you feel stuck?
- Who or what are you grateful for?
- What did you push back from your to-do list?
Allow yourself an hour (or two) – it’s important to remember that this process isn’t a race, so don’t rush it. Write down all the things that come to mind.
Tip #2 – Celebrate your small wins. It’s worth it!
If you’re anything like most people, you’re probably not giving yourself enough credit for all your hard work over the last year.
- Maybe you attempted to get more exercise?
- Maybe you reconnected with an old acquaintance?
- Or perhaps you’ve decided to learn something new?
It’s worth celebrating whatever it is because recognising small wins in 2021 motivates you to keep up the excellent work in 2022.
Tip #3 – Looking forward, ask yourself this challenging question
What is ONE thing I would do differently if I could go back in time and do last year all over again?
Be completely honest with yourself! Nobody will see or read what you write, and there’s no judgement. Often, it’s the things we know we SHOULD be doing that we regret not doing.
Once you’ve figured out where you can improve, it’ll serve as a beacon to help you go forward.
Tip #4 – Set goals that you ‘really’ want (and are willing to achieve)
Yes, this sounds ridiculous. Why would somebody create a goal that they don’t intend to achieve?
You’ll be astonished! According to studies, around 80% of New Year’s resolutions break before the second week of February. This suggests that most people establish goals just for setting goals… not because they are personally invested in achieving the goal.
If that’s the case, why bother?
For this exercise, write down all your goals on a sheet of paper and cross out most of them until you only have your TOP three goals remaining. The top three goals you’re committed to achieving this year.
Tip: If you’re not sure which goals to prioritise, the best method to figure it out is to ask yourself WHY you want to attain this goal in the first place. If “someone else thinks it’s essential,” then it’s probably not a goal worth pursuing.
Tip #5: What doesn’t get tracked, doesn’t get done
Once you’ve decided on your top three goals, it’s time to put them into action.
Here’s how to do it in three easy steps:
- Break the goal down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Think in smaller time units, e.g. days or weeks, instead of months or years. (If the chunk will take more than two weeks, break it down even more.) These smaller goals act as stepping stones towards bigger goals to keep you motivated along the way.
- Find ONE KPI that accurately represents each goal’s development. (For instance, body fat % in the context of weight loss.)
- Make it a daily habit to document your KPI before the end of the day. (However, don’t be too hard on yourself if your KPI doesn’t increase the next day.) It’s important to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.)
When brainstorming your goals, consider prioritising three areas of your life: your health, finances, and relationships. These three factors are most likely to create the most value in the long run.