I love goals — setting them, tracking them, evaluating my progress, having the satisfaction of completing the goal. You name it, if there’s a goal involved, I’m going to love it. From reading a minimum of 52 books this year to getting into my dream university for post-grad, there is no goal too small or too big to plan for in my opinion.
Getting inspired and getting started are often easy enough; it’s the following through that’s the most challenging part. Working to achieve a goal is hard enough, much more so with lots of overplanning weighing you down. That’s why I believe in a simple method that can be modified to suit your goal; there is no need to overcomplicate things. In short, set your goals and keep them in sight.
We set goals and work to achieve them with a purpose. But I don’t believe purpose is necessarily enough, especially if the goal we’re working towards is incredibly important. Yes, purpose is a great motivator on our journeys, but we often form mindless, generally dull, routines to reach our end goal, and in that process we lose some of the spark that got us started in the first place.
Instead, I believe in the essential combination of purpose and mindfulness — that wonderful creation of intention — to achieve our goals. Acting with intention and living with intention propels us towards our goals. When we think about why we’re doing what we’re doing and work towards our goals with the intention of completing them, we’re always aware of the goal at hand and stay motivated with relative ease.
Too often, we doubt ourselves and suffer from disappointment and intimidation that can put us off from setting another goal, which is why it’s important to be aspirational and realistic. What’s your dream, the thing you’re dying to do or accomplish? Don’t be afraid to try new things or set a lofty goal, even if it’s difficult. We all have to start somewhere, so why not start here and now? At the same time, be realistic with what you can accomplish given your current situation. Say you want to run a marathon, but you haven’t been running in quite a while. Completing a marathon in a month or two wouldn’t really be safe or feasible, but you can adjust the goal to meet your needs. Set a reasonable target based on your time, where you are now, and where you want to be (you can adjust the end date of your goal or “lower” your goal in the short term, such as running a 5K and a 10K before you tackle that marathon), rather than setting an impossible target, to avoid feeling discouraged or disappointed in yourself in the future.
Anytime I’m working towards achieving a goal, I like to have a goal tracker. Whether online or in a physical format, track the progress you make on your goal. Depending on the goal, you may want to have check marks and Xs for days that were successful or not, or you might want to color in a portion of a page each time you reach a certain percentage of your goal. Regardless of the method you use, having a way to visualize your progress, especially when you view the progress you’ve made regularly, is motivating and inspiring.
Everyone has big goals, from buying a home to traveling the world, and I think it’s super important to always have something big and long-term to work towards to stay motivated. But big goals can seem daunting and have a tendency to be scary and off-putting and can start to feel downright impossible without proper planning, so break down your big goal into smaller goals. By breaking your goal down into smaller goals, it’s easier to track your progress, and it allows you to see your successes. With smaller goals, you’re able to see if you need to adjust the deadlines of your goal, find ways to reach your goal faster, or break your goal down into even smaller goals.
Don’t forget to set up reminders and stay inspired. Leave yourself notes, jot down goal deadlines in your planner, and/or use a goal planner. Make inspirational boards for your goals (I love Pinterest) or write yourself a letter explaining why you want to achieve your goal and what it means to you. If you catch yourself slipping up, these little reminders will show you why you started and help keep you on track.
Share your goal. We tend to be more motivated when others know our plans and can hold us accountable and help us stay on track. I’m a very private person, so I’m personally not one for sharing my goals with a big group of friends or posting about it online; however, when I have a goal that’s important to me, I always share it with my husband and my family. Even if you only share your goal with one other person, it’s a great way to stay accountable, share your excitement, and to confirm with yourself that the goal you made is important and worthwhile.
Sometimes our lives change, whether it’s a physical move or a shift in values, and our goals tend to change with these shifts, too. Even without a change in our lives, once important goals lose the meaning they once held. When I find myself trudging through work or study to meet a goal, I’m no longer acting with intention. While not always the case, this tends to signify that I’ve lost the meaning and importance of my goal. A goal may need to be modified or discarded to reflect your current situation. We all grow and change, and goals should create joy, purpose, and meaning. When a goal no longer holds significance, there is great value in letting go and allowing a new goal — one that propels you to your desired ends — to take its place.
Lastly, learn to embrace your mistakes. I hate the idea of thinking of not reaching a goal as a failure. A failure is something permanent and impossible to fix. A failure means you’ve given yourself permission to give up and walk away from what you still dream of achieving. A mistake is a misguided action or two, something that you can learn from and apply to future goals or the goal you’re still working towards. Embrace what didn’t go right; it happens to everyone, after all. Study your mistakes, find out why they happened, be proud of how far you came, and take all that you’ve learned and apply it to other goals.