Do you wish you could finish that project, spend more time with the family, bake through that cookbook you bought five years ago, or quit that job you hate? If you’re not happy with the trajectory of your life and keep wishing and hoping for change, why not keep reading and gain a few tips about why goal-setting is the vehicle that will take you where you’ve always dreamed of going and open more doors than you ever imagined.
Goal-setting in a nutshell
Writing down things you want to achieve and what you want to be different or better within the life you live is the first step to achieving your goals. Every goal begins as a thought, but a thought is not enough to keep the energy of the goal alive.
According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, a goal is the end toward which effort is directed. In essence, the goal is the end result, the aim, the target; it’s what you want to eventually achieve.
Just because you have goals inside your head and keep telling yourself you want to do this or that one day, doesn’t mean it will ever happen. For example, after I watched the movie Julia Julia, I was so inspired that I bought a unique cookbook with the intention of cooking one of the recipes in the book every day and learning and tasting something new and exciting. I love picture cookbooks and this book was thick and full of stunning photos of many foods and desserts I had never tried before. You’re probably wondering if I ever met my goal. Shamefully, not initially. I never made it out of the gate. Why? Because good intentions, along with the goals inside my head, did nothing to bring my dream to fruition. I failed myself and felt frustrated.
The point, that you can’t allow your brain to wander aimlessly around forever with these airborne goals. They must be cornered, caught, and put down on paper.
I call these wishful thoughts, shooting stars. To make them real and doable, they must be examined thoroughly to see if they are SMART goals. In counseling, these types of goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound and become the goals that make it to the finish line, that is, if you’re willing to track along with them to the destination.
SMART goals must be seriously thought about then written down and focused on in order to effect real change. Think of these hand-written goals as signs along the side of the road. Some are the signs just ahead that are easy to read. Then there are the ones you see a little further down the road, and finally, the ones you can’t see but will be able to see once you round the bend in the road.
Short-term, mid-range, and long-term goals
Grab a notebook and a pen and start thinking about where you would like to see yourself in ten years; write all those long-term goals down. Maybe you’d like to get a degree one day, move out of state, have children, start a business—the list goes on and on. Be unique and personal and put your thinking cap on. Then years will be here before you know it.
Now zoom into the present moment and think about what you’d like to accomplish tomorrow. What kind of goals would you like to achieve on a daily basis to make your life more manageable and enjoyable? Would you like to spend thirty quality minutes with the kids every day? Get fifteen minutes of fiction reading done? A weekly date night with your special someone? What about getting up thirty minutes earlier to plug in some quiet time or devotional time? Put all those short-term goals down.
Move on to your mid-term goals. These are the goals you’d like to accomplish in the next couple of years or so. Some mid-term goals might include: losing a couple of pounds, changing your hairstyle, meeting more people by putting yourself out there and joining a like-minded social or church group, finding a church to attend or resuming attendance, getting the garage or closets cleaned out, organizing your kitchen, starting a flower garden or having a yard sale. You get the idea.
In a 1981 article by George Duran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham, the SMART goals were born.
So Be SMART with your goal setting
Be specific about what you want to achieve. If you want to move, where would you like to move to? What city and state, what part of town? What kind of weather could you endure? If you want to spend time with the kids, then decide what you would enjoy doing with them: playing games, working on homework, talking, taking walks. Be specific.
How much weight do you want to lose? How many recipes would you like to try in a week’s time. How many minutes daily would you like to spend with the kids? What time and for how many minutes do you want to exercise every day? How many jobs do you want to apply for? How many books would you like to read in a month? Goals must be measurable.
Are the goals really attainable? Don’t set a goal for an hour daily to walk the dog if that is not realistic and there is no time for that. Setting a goal to move to Alaska if you have always hated winter, snow, or anything below 80 degrees is definitely an unattainable goal, even if you’d love the experience. Ask yourself if your lifestyle and wallet allow for this goal.
Make sure your goals are relevant to your lifestyle and financial means, as well as fit your personality.
Put a time frame on the goal. For instance, I want to bake two new recipes a week from this baking cookbook and I would like to start this in two weeks. I want to bake the first one on Tuesday between five and seven pm, and the second one on Saturday afternoon between eleven in the morning and three in the afternoon. Include your time frame and the deadline for your goal. Another example might be: I will start applying for jobs on Monday morning, and I will apply to three jobs per week for six weeks.
I truly hate this part, but it has to be said. You’ve written your goals down, they’re SMART, and you’ve taped them inside your underwear drawer so you’ll see them every day … but no one else will.
Accountability means sharing your goals with friends, family, or anyone who will hold you accountable and support you in these goals. Think about how many times you’ve set a new year’s resolution or thought about a goal, but never told anyone. You kept it to yourself and then it floated into the wind. Make yourself accountable to someone.
Rev your engines
You’re stoked and ready to set short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. You’re chomping at the bit to get them out of your head and onto the paper, but still wondering why the need for goal setting is important and vital to get you where you want to go.
Goals keep you moving in the right direction. Goals can be like a street map or a highway road sign. They keep you from getting off at the wrong exit or zipping through the town you wanted to stop and visit.
Goals help motivate you; they keep you and everyone else you’ve included in your goals on track. If you share your goal of spending twenty uninterrupted minutes daily with your child, believe me, they won’t let you forget that goal and they will be hurt if you don’t follow through on your promise.
Goals keep you moving forward with purpose. Setting and keeping goals will strengthen your self-image and remind you of your abilities and strengths as well as your weaknesses. Keeping a diary of your goals will remind you of all you’ve accomplished along the way and where you need more work. Goals should be reevaluated as time goes by; new goals set, old ones reviewed to keep things fresh and pertaining to your current needs, lifestyle, and values.
Goals give you control of your life and make you more responsible and accountable. Having and completely goals decrease low self-worth and regrets.
And finally, goals help you learn to make better decisions.
I encourage you to start setting SMART goals today. For any of you who have grown children, you understand how quickly time passes.
Yesterday is gone forever, today is nearly done, and tomorrow is almost here.
Think about your goals, write them down, and execute. You’ll be glad you did.
God bless and keep you until next time,
Lori C. Helms