February 2nd 2012
I am happy to have another guest post by Jesse this week, who has posted previously a great article here at LearnThis.ca, Finding Happiness in Authenticity. This time, Jesse writes a new guest post on goal setting. Goal setting has always been a favorite topic of mine so its great to have a new perspective on it and it can never be encourage enough to anyone interested in personal development. Goal setting is a critical factor to success and is something everyone should be actively doing on a regular basis. So, it’s a great article and I encourage you to please add your comments and feedback below.
The whole point of making a list of goals for yourself is to meet them—so, why is it so hard for us to follow through? Part of it has to do with how we view goals; according to an article on productivity blog Lifehack, the more potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxious and stressed we are by not achieving it. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step—and sometimes, taking that first step can be tougher than the journey itself.
Nevertheless, you still have goals for different areas of your life: spending more time with your family, working toward a promotion at your job, or maybe pursuing higher education. But the problem isn’t that you don’t want to meet these goals—the problem is that you’re not working to improve your life and the lives of your family. So, how do you get back on the resolution wagon? How can you stay motivated to fulfill your aspirations?
Don’t give up
Seems like a simple directive—but it’s much easier said than done. Still, the fact is that you won’t reach your goals if you don’t work to achieve them. Find ways to keep yourself motivated: use a productivity app like Evernote on your computer, smartphone or tablet so you can keep track of both short-term and long-term tasks. You can also recruit friends and family to help you stay on track: if your goals are health-related, encourage your family to try a healthy eating plan or a family workout schedule; you can also share your goals with friends and ask them to help keep you accountable. The more encouragement and positive pressure you have in your life, the more likely you are to stick to your guns when giving up seems like an attractive choice.
When you’re making goals, envision exactly what you want. While the journey is important, it’s the destination that matters—so be specific when you set objectives. If you want to improve your education, explore the subjects you’re interested in and decide on a degree program that works for you. From there, you’ll be able to plot a clear path to earning a degree or certification. Having clear and detailed goals can also give you clues on how to proceed: if you’re a working dad with a growing family, perhaps an online degree program or attending classes part-time would be your most beneficial course of action. With a clear set of goals, you’ll also be able to track your progress.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Staying on track can be especially difficult when you’ve got a million things to worry about: by the time you’ve finished your workday, chances are you’ll still have a long list of chores to complete. But not everything is essential—and that can be hard to accept. You can’t be everywhere and do everything, so learn to let some things go in order to concentrate on others. That might require you to ask for help—and you shouldn’t be afraid to do so. Your spouse might need to do dinner duty a few more times a week; you could ask a friend to be your workout partner in order to keep you on schedule; or your older kids might need to pick up a couple more chores around the house. When you’re trying to stay on track to meet your goals, keeping your eye on the prize is essential—it’s easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of everyday life.
Make some changes
Reaching your goals will require rearranging your priorities—whether it’s committing to spending less time at the office, rearranging your school schedule, or passing on activities with friends or coworkers. Try this exercise: keep track of every single thing you do for one week. From the moment you wake up every morning until you return to your bed for the night, jot down how you spend your time. How much TV do you watch? How much of your day is eaten up with Internet surfing? How long are you stuck in traffic on your daily commute?
After a week, look at the hours you spend not working toward your goals, and cut out the non-essential activities. If you have an hour to watch TV, then you’ve got an hour to work out on an elliptical machine. If you wile away your evening hours tweeting or Facebooking, consider using that time to study instead. The key is to trim the fat from your life and devote more energy to your resolutions. The more free time you have, the more easily you can fill it with tasks that move you closer toward your goals.
That’s right—when you reach your goals, you should reward yourself! One of the reasons why may goals tend to be difficult to meet is that many of us have been conditioned to expect instant gratification or reward. But giving yourself a reward—like a vacation, or a new electronic gadget, or maybe a party—at the end of your journey can make it easier to stay motivated and keep going. Acknowledging your own hard work—and taking a little time to review how you got what you wanted—can go a long way toward making your all your work seem worthwhile.
Of course, just because you’re committing to making your dreams come true doesn’t mean that you’ll always succeed. And that’s totally okay: the most important element of working toward your goals is that you stay persistent and focused. While you might not meet your goals within the timeframe you set for yourself, if you keep at it, you’ll get there eventually—and that’s what’s most important.
Jesse Langley specialilzes in writing about education, professional and personal development, and career building. He writes on behalf of Colorado Technical University.