Goal Setting 101

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Having a set of actionable goals to guide you throughout the year builds confidence and creates a sense of personal pride and accomplishment. But goal setting can be tricky. Let’s walk through it together.

Do you set goals for yourself? 

Do they stick? Or do you find yourself forgetting about them?   

2021 marks my fourth year setting multiple, year-long goals for myself. I focus on the parts of my life where change feels the most needed and aim to make a significant, permanent change. 

Since goals are not resolutions or wishes, each goal is specific and gets broken down into the steps I’m going to take to accomplish it. Breaking it down into the “how” is what gives me the ability to make a goal happen. 

How I Set Goals

If I’m having trouble choosing goals to set, I’ll look at broad areas of my life – professional, personal/hobby, health, etc – and brainstorm a goal for each area. This has helped discover and define where my priorities are at that moment. 

Here are some of the goals I’ve set over the past 3 years along with their “how” steps: 

Goal: Improve my mental health.

How: 

  • Schedule med checks with my doctor to discuss/improve my Rx regimen.
  • Schedule appointments with a therapist and begin counseling sessions.

Goal: Build a regular exercise routine and stick to it. 

How: 

  • Morning workouts: 30 mins; 5 days/week. 
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night (bedtime: 10pm; wake up: 5:30am) 
  • Accountability – Track the number of consecutive weeks of exercise. 

Goal: Cultivate and grow more professional connections. 

How: 

  • Schedule at least 1 lunch or coffee date per week with a past colleague or contact. 
  • Find and join a committee for a non-profit I like and volunteer my time. 
  • Research local conferences in my field and attend 2 by the end of the year. 

Goal: Reduce stress and anxiety. 

How: 

  • Build a guided meditation routine = Start with 10 mins/day, 3 days/week.
  • Read 1 fiction book per month just for fun.

Goal: Reduce my alcohol consumption. 

How: 

  • Limit alcohol to 8 total drinks per week. 
  • Have 2 alcohol-free days per week. 

I don’t set a large volume of goals. No more than 3-4 per year, total. The point is to succeed by the end of the year, even if (when!) I have to reset/restart my work a few times to get there. That’s also why I print off my goals and put them in a frame next to my bed. Literally!

My goal sheet sitting next to my bedside.

At night when I go to sleep, I look at my goals list, think about the ways I’m accomplishing them, and remind myself that this is for long term gain. It’s about taking small steps, consistently and continuously, which will lead to accomplishing the overall goal. 

Continuing Previous Goals 

Because many of my goals don’t have an end date to them, I’ve run into the issue of not wanting those I’d already started to get lost among a set of new goals. So I’ve added a continuation section to the bottom of my goals list. 

That list includes continuing to: 

  • see my therapist
  • read 1 fiction book a month. 
  • exercise for 30 minutes, 5 days a week.
  • have 2 alcohol-free days per week. 

Flexibility in Goal Setting is Important

What you think will work at the beginning of the year – or whenever you’re setting a goal – may not hold true as the year progresses. Curveballs are inevitable. (Pandemic!)

To keep myself on track, I added a few “rules” to some of my goals. 

For example, any kind of exercise counts – yoga, walking, weights – as long as I’m moving my body for 30 minutes. And while a weekly lunch with a current or former colleague is great, lunches to connect with family and friends count too. 

I also adjust the “how” part of my goals throughout the year, so long as the new steps continue to help me achieve the goal. 

Early on, I changed “build a guided meditation routine” to “build a regular yoga practice” when I realized that I liked yoga WAY better than meditating and both achieve the same goal of reducing stress. 

You Can Do This

Giving yourself a year to achieve a few, actionable goals gives you lots of chances to start again. And if you find yourself starting over repeatedly, then it’s time to take a hard look at that goal and determine if now is the right time for it, and/or if your how steps need to change. And if they do, CHANGE THEM! 

Goal setting can seem daunting, but it’s about mastering the tiny steps. Because a lot of tiny steps make a big step, and a lot of big steps achieve a goal. 

You’ve got this! Now it’s time to take that first step. 

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How to set and achieve your goals

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