Setting goals for the New Year will keep you on track and moving forward in all facets of life.
As the new year quickly approaches, many of us are asking ourselves, “what’s next?” It’s natural to take inventory of the past and see what can be done in the future. Some may argue it’s even necessary and a part of human nature to continually have something to work toward. Last week I shared some of my own goals for 2018. Today, let’s discuss why goals are important and a few ways you can pinpoint and succeed with your own.
Setting Goals for the New Year
Why set goals?
Setting goals can be helpful in so many ways. For me, there are three main points that stick out of why we should set goals.
1. Goals keep us motivated.
Goals keep us motivated. They propel us forward to better ourselves and/or to make positive changes in our lives. Without goals at work, at home, in health and fitness, we wouldn’t be intellectually or physically challenged. Goals encourage us to grow and adapt to our environments.
2. Goals give us something to look forward to and help us compartmentalize time.
Having something to look forward to is a strong motivating factor for humans. Having a goal gives us something to work toward and look forward to. By having something to look forward to, it minimizes how vast and unending time is and helps us mere mortals from becoming overwhelmed. Goals have a beginning and an end.
3. Achieving a goal provides us a sense of accomplishment.
When we achieve a goal — be it a huge goal like completing an Ironman, or a small one like cleaning the house top to bottom — we feel pride and a sense of accomplishment. It’s this feeling that keeps us coming back for more. Setting goals, no matter how big or small, provide us the opportunity to feel that all-important sense of accomplishment.
Now that we know why setting goals is important, let’s discuss a few ways to choose appropriate goals — and how to achieve them.
The SMART Method
When setting goals, a great tool to use is the SMART method. The SMART method is a mnemonic acronym devised to keep you on track to achieving your goals. SMART stands for:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Achievable
R – Realistic
T – Timely
Goals that are SMART are most often achieved because they aren’t extravagant or unreasonable. In runner’s terms, for example, if the farthest you’ve ever run is a 5K (3.1 miles) then it would be unreasonable to set a goal to run a hundred-miler in six months. Setting a 10K goal, however, in the same timeframe would be a much more realistic and timely goal. By choosing a 10K over a 100-miler, you’d be setting yourself up for success.
By setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely, you’re much more likely to achieve your goals.
Developing Small Goals
In addition to the SMART method, sometimes it’s important to set very small goals and develop them as time and achievements progress. For example, if I’ve never run a step in my life but the couch-to-5K program seems too overwhelming, perhaps it’s in my best interest to set a 15-minute running goal first. Once I attain the 15-minute milestone, I can then build and grow to lengthen my running time.
If you’re the type of person who tends to be overwhelmed quickly, perhaps developing very small goals over time is the way to go for you. It will make those big, scary goals not so big — and not so scary!
Big Picture Goals
Another way to set a goal is to look at the big picture first. Let’s take the 5K to hundred-mile race as an example. Maybe instead of a six-month goal, you give yourself a two year goal. By looking at the big picture first, one is aptly able to break apart the big goal into many smaller goals with the end-result of the big, scary goal.
A word of caution: most people don’t do well with a long-term goal. Two years is a lot of time to conceptualize, which is why the SMART method is recommended over the Big Picture method. The farther away a goal is in time, the more unattainable it can seem. If a goal seems unattainable, there’s a higher probability that success will not be achieved.
Keep Goals and Goal-Setting Realistic and Fluid
In my own personal experience, goals are fantastic tools for personal development. But it’s best to keep your goals somewhat fluid as things — and life — change. Jobs change, children grow older, schedules change. It’s important to be flexible and able to adapt if and when necessary.
If you find yourself overwhelmed in the New Year, set a small goal, work toward it, and watch it grow. With a little planning and dedication you’ll be successful in all that you set out to do!
Which method do you prefer to use when you set goals?
What’s one of your big, scary goals for 2018?