How to Effectively Set Goals

Skylar Wooden and Katie Butler

April 30, 2017

When you’re finishing up your third episode on Netflix and it asks if you want to continue watching—that’s the moment when you realize there is no turning back. If only you had known what you wanted to achieve for the day, maybe you wouldn’t have gotten sucked into your newest binge show.

Setting daily goals can go a long way in keeping you accountable. On a small scale, goals for the day could be doing the dishes, folding the laundry, and making a trip to the grocery. On a bigger scale, goals for the week (or month) could be finishing your new website, writing a proposal for work, or applying to speak at conferences. The ritual of always knowing where you want to be and how you want to get there can directly contribute to your happiness.

One does not simply set goals… Actually, you do, but as with anything, there’s a strategy. We’ve outlined our best action steps for you to get you on the path you want to be on.

Lean Into Your Complaints

What is the last thing you complained about? Your current job? Something in your community? Your current living situation? Take those complaints and act on them. Humans are motivated by discomfort. We’re always looking for the next best thing. That goal that will improve your life, big or small.

Also see: Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable.

What Lights Your Fire?

Set goals that align with what you are passionate about. You’ll find that you’re more motivated to get things done if you truly care about the outcome. For example, if you’re passionate about children and your goal is to start a nonprofit organization, you’ve found your fire. Your organization’s contribution to a child’s quality of life will be all you need to keep the fire burning.

We all sometimes find ourselves thinking that we want something to change but, for some unknown reason, we’re waiting for someone else to do it. John Mayer’s song Waiting on the World to Change could take a few notes on goal setting. Go out and do. Don’t wait. You may be just the perfect person to implement the change you want to see.

Be Realistic

Your goals should be challenging, but achievable. Too lofty of a goal may set you up for failure before you even start. For example, if you want to run a marathon, but sign up for the marathon that’s three days away without having time to train, you may not like the outcome.

A more realistic goal would be to run three miles in under a certain amount of minutes before next month.

More commonly, people tend to overschedule themselves because they don’t stop to think about how much time they actually have. “Why yes, I can go to the grocery, cook dinner, eat, write a blog article, and do three loads of laundry in an hour.” Can you, though…? Know your limits, but don’t limit yourself. There’s a fine line between fulfilling your potential and not understanding the concept of time.

Write Them Down

This is the most important action step. Put into words what you hope to achieve. Your ability to articulate what you want will help you focus on how to reach your goals. When we write down ideas, we tend to think of them as more final. Instead of a vague thought, you have a tangible idea that you can see. This is a good opportunity to start a bullet journal or use a dry erase board.

You have all the power. You can use these action steps to guide the direction of your life to the things you want most. Do you have any tips for setting goals? What works for you?

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