How to Set Goals

Establishing goals provides clarity and a method to track progress. According to the academic article New Directions in Goal-Setting Theory by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, higher or more aspirational goals leads to higher task performance and a greater ability to attain set goal. The challenge lies within how to set goals that are attainable, meaningful, time-appropriate, and actionable. Here are tips on how to set meaningful goals:

1) Write the Goals Down

In our minds we all have personal goals for ourselves. With the many thoughts we experience throughout the day it is easy for goals to be set aside and forgotten. The act of writing the goal down on paper transforms the idea from a lofty dream to an actionable goal.

2) Fully Understand the Timeframe for Completion

Goals should not be ambiguous in the amount of time it takes to complete. It’s acceptable to have goals that vary from a daily, weekly, monthly, or even multiple years of goal achievement. The important factor is that you understand the time commitment and expectation of how long it will take to achieve the results desired to accomplish the goal. Writing down a specific deadline or timeframe for completion will create accountability and urgency for completion.

3) Write down Actions and Obstacles

Actions in order to achieve the goal can change over time, however having an understanding of what it takes to accomplish the goal from the beginning will help create a starting point. Writing down specific actions and potential hurdles will help you feel prepared to overcome any obstacles. The more specific the action is, the better likelihood of seeing progress towards the goal. Understanding obstacles from the beginning and crafting solutions at the onset will help you keep the momentum.

4) Track Progress and Review Completion

Establishing a method of reviewing progress towards goals helps keep motivation and confidence towards accomplishment. The method of reviewing can be to analyze what’s working or not working, or simply to be a reminder of the timeframe and whether we are on track to complete within the initial time set. After completion, goals should be celebrated and reflected upon as to what was effective and what was ineffective in your personal accomplishment.

5) Talk about your Goals

Whether it’s personal or professional goals, sharing your goals with others is a great way to create personal accountability and gain insights or tips to help you achieve set goals. Talking to friends or a mentor about your goals can bring a different perspective and possible solution to help you achieve your goals in a more efficient way. In the end, these may be the people that you find the most enjoyment celebrating accomplishments with!

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