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How to Set Realistic Goals

How to Set Realistic Goals

The new year is a convenient time to rethink how you want to live your life. So how do you go about setting goals that are realistic and motivating? Goal setting is a skill that becomes easier the more you practice. Think about why you set goals, how you can create attainable goals, and ways to improve your goal success rate. 

Why do we set goals?

Goals provide targets in your life. They have the potential to increase your sense of fulfillment and overall well being. Your motivation is key to any goal-setting endeavor. Benefits of goal-setting might include:

  • Improved focus, energy, and motivation
  • Creating and maintaining healthier habits
  • Improved organization and performance
  • Reduced depression, anxiety, or other mental health concern
  • A sense of accountability
  • Provides a way to measure progress

How do we create attainable goals?

Consider a few principles as you create new goals. Studies show that accomplishing goals is more likely when a goal is specific, challenging, and valuable (you can commit to it). The goal-setting process should include room for feedback and risk management. You can adapt the basic (business) premises of risk management and risk tolerance for personal use. 

What are the potential losses when you’re working towards a specific goal? Take improving your drawing skills, for example. Practicing a new skill takes time away from something else, like hanging out with friends. Is that loss okay if you fully accomplish the goal? Creating attainable goals requires a certain level of self-awareness. Only you can decide how to rank your values.

Goal setting tips

Split large tasks into manageable pieces

If a goal is too far-reaching and hard to accomplish, it’s easy to get frustrated and abandon the idea entirely. Create milestones with shorter deadlines to keep the momentum going on the overall project.

Take control of your deadlines

Hard deadlines can cause you unnecessary stress. If a deadline is far away, it might be harder to focus. Creating tighter deadlines may keep you on track and prevent the urge to work on a task until the later deadline just because it exists.

Track your goals

Creating a daily visual representation of your progress, such as a map, can help you stay motivated. You can track on a weekly or monthly basis as well. 

Create short-term and long-term objectives

If all of your goals take a lot of time, it can get frustrating. You might feel like you’re not accomplishing anything when everything’s constantly a work in progress. Achieving short-term goals may help you stay motivated as you work toward longer-term goals.

Use procrastination to your advantage

The urge to procrastinate might be an attempt to protect you from burnout. Take the breaks you need so you can keep your progress fresh. A walk in the middle of the day might provide a helpful way to refocus.

Publicize your goals

It’s easier to feel accountable when other people know that you’re working toward something. Professional goals often have built-in accountability because others rely on the results. You have to be a bit creative to stay accountable with personal goals. Ask friends to work on goals with you. That way, you can support each other on personal goals. You can also ask for help within different parts of your community, in-person and online. 

Prioritize your goals

Consider what you need to accomplish first and why. It can be overwhelming if you have a long list of goals without some way to organize them. Categorize each task to help the prioritization process. Then you can decide which category is most important and focus there.  

Evaluate your goals

Make sure to analyze the process. What worked and what didn’t? How can you improve next time? Does the accomplishment live up to your expectations?

Treat yourself

Rewards may help you keep yourself motivated. Celebrate as you reach new milestones by doing something purely because it makes you happy. 

Visualize your goals

Keep a physical reminder of your goals visible. It can be a vision board, wish list, or any other visualization. Keep it on a desk, refrigerator door, or somewhere else you look frequently. 

How to set goals 

Set SMART goals

The criteria for setting SMART goals include: specificity, measurability, achievability, relevancy, and timing. A SMART goal conveys what you need to do, a method of tracking progress, whether you can accomplish it, why the goal is valuable and a deadline.

Set reach goals

Objectives and key results (OKRs) help you focus on long-term and very distant goals. You might progress further by focusing on something that’s out of reach rather than on more attainable goals. When it comes to setting reach goals, the time frame is less important than the journey. 

Set value-based goals

Intrinsic motivation helps accomplish goals. Consider what makes specific goals important, and create a value scoring system. Higher value goals should be your focus.

You can combine goal-setting methods to create a process that works best for you.

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