Did you know that studies have shown that people who regularly set and meet goals are happier than those who don’t? Goal setters tend to be happier because they feel a sense of accomplishment by setting and reaching goals.
However, if you set goals the wrong way, or choose the wrong goals, you’ll end up missing the mark and feeling worse about yourself than you did before. Use these seven steps to set goals that don’t suck.
1. Write down a list of potential goals.
This is arguably the most important step, because it gets the goals in front of you and makes them tangible.
2. Ask yourself – why this goal?
Make sure that it’s something you have a specific reason for doing, or actually want to do. Sometimes people set goals because they’re popular or trendy (run a marathon, write a novel) but don’t have any actual drive to complete the goal. This means that after the initial burst of energy, you’ll stop working on it.
3. Make sure that the goal is achievable.
A goal you’re slightly uncomfortable with can be a good thing, if it involves pushing your personal boundaries and stretching yourself in a healthy way. However, if you set the bar impossibly high, you won’t be able to reach your goal and will stress yourself out trying.
4. Make sure that the goal is measurable and specific.
Vague goals are the reason for many a failed New Year’s resolution. If your goal isn’t measurable and specific, you’ll have no idea how to reach it, or even worse, when you have reached it. An example of a bad goal is “Get healthier.” An example of a measurable, specific goal is “Exercise for 30 minutes, three times a week.”
5. Give yourself a deadline.
If you don’t have a deadline, you won’t have any incentive to get the goal done “on time” and start working on it. If possible, find a way to lock yourself into the deadline. Using the above example of a marathon, you could register for a marathon and tell all of your friends and family that you’ll be running in that specific marathon.
6. Break the goal down into milestones.
Once you have a larger goal that’s measurable and specific with a deadline, break it down into milestones. For example, for the goal of “writing a 50,000 word novel”, you would break it down into “creating an outline”, “creating detailed character sketches”, along with word count milestones like 12,500, 25,000, 37,500. (That’s 25%, 50%, and 75%.)
7. Create a way to keep track of the goal and break it down further.
You’ll want to create a list of daily and weekly actions that you can take to move you towards the milestones. Create a to do list every day with an action that will move you closer to your goal. You might even use a web calendar to give you a way to keep track of your progress and access it from any computer. Regularly check in on your goal and keep track of your progress, which will motivate you to make further progress.