Goal Setting - A Formula for How to Set Goals
What does your future look like? No one really knows the answer to that question, but you can get pretty close to your answer with the proper goal-setting approach. I love goal-setting because it so perfectly combines a little bit of business-type strategic thinking and a little bit of woo-woo New Agey affirmations (or you could call it the placebo effect if you’re trying to rain on my parade).
In this post, I will go over the steps to getting clear on your goals.
Step 1: Imagine the Future
Think about your life 5 years from now. What do you want it to look like? What do your relationships look like? Your house? Your work? Your health? Your free time? Your finances?
Spend a few minutes and journal all of this out.
Step 2: Notice the Difference
What’s the difference between where you are right now and where you want to be? Do you hate your job and want to be an one that makes you smile when you think about all the amazing work you get to put into the world? Do you spend your nights Netflix and chilling...alone and instead you want to be getting ready for a weekly date night with your partner?
Figure out the difference between now and then in all of the categories you wrote about.
Step 3: Pick One
Now, one of the ways to be successful in goal-setting is to not overburden yourself. We can ultimately get to all of these categories, but we’re starting with baby steps. Once you become a more experienced goal-setter you can add on goals from the other areas. But let’s get you some small wins first.
Step 4: Make a SMART Goal
Now that you have this one area in mind, you need to set a SMART goal. SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
To make things easier, here’s an example:
Goal That’s Not Really a Goal - To get better at photography this year.
SMART Goal - To complete a beginner’s photography course at the local community college by the end of the year.
Specific - Make sure your goals are extremely clear and can be defined.
Photography Example: Taking a photography class at the local CC is easy to visualize.
Measurable - Have a clear definition of success. Outline show you know you’ve achieved your goal.
Photography Example: You can measure this goal’s completion by whether or not you took and completed the course.
Achievable: Be realistic with yourself. Set a goal that has at least a 50% chance of success. If you’re a newbie, make it 80%. Don’t go setting your goal to have your work published in National Geographic by the end of the year if you don’t even own a camera right now.
Photography Example: Taking a class is something most people can add to their schedule. You may have to sacrifice some social time or move your schedule around a bit, but it’s something you can do.
Relevant - This is where some self-awareness comes in and you have to ask yourself if this goal is aligned with yourself, your interests, and your future. If you’re setting a goal for someone else, you won’t have the emotional connection and desire to complete it.
Photography Example: Taking this course will help you learn how to use your camera and take better pictures so you can take photos for your business’ social media pages.
Time-Bound - Set a deadline. This target date should motivate you to achieve your goal while still being realistic. Find the right balance of pressure.
Photography Example: You will finish this course by the end of the year.
Step 5: List Steps, Hurdles, & Costs
Write out everything you will need to do to complete this goal. The point of this exercise is twofold. One, it helps you recognize any skills you might need to learn or money you may need to save (or spend) to make your goal happen (the costs). Two, the process of writing everything down helps you see your goal clearly and better prepares you for being flexible when things come up eventually come up and change what you had planned. It will help you see bottlenecks that may come up in the process and you can tackle them head-on and early. Prepare now so that later you can be more flexible.
Costs are the time, energy and resources needed to achieve each step. In our photography example, this may be:
-Money spent buying a camera
-Time spent researching schools and courses
-Time spent in class
-Time not spent socializing because you have an evening class
Step 6: Rank Priority & Sequence
Take all of your steps and rank them by priority, then rank them by sequence (one thing may not be able to be started until another is finished).
Step 7: Work Daily
Start working on the steps in order of importance and sequence daily. It’s really important to do something every single day to make it a habit. And yes, even on weekends. Even 5 minutes counts!
Step 8: Affirm
Use the power of your mind. Visualize yourself every day achieving your goal. Feel what it would feel like to have accomplished your goal. Tell yourself you have already achieved it. Create a mood board with words and images that affirm your goal and put it somewhere you can see it daily.
This approach to goal setting comes from the book Goals! How to Get Everything You Want - Faster Than You Ever Though Possible by Brian Tracy. I highly recommend this book for an in-depth version of this outline, plus some good stories that will motivate you!