Many people reach for their goals in a way that resembles making New Year’s resolutions. And likewise, within a few months (or sooner), they are forgotten or discarded.
There is a proven way, a track that you can follow to reach your goals. In the list that follows, I will outline the 7 steps to do so. It is simple, although not often easy. If you are willing to put them into practice, the goal-setting process will set you on a new path.
This process of change, whether it be in a career, finances, or relationship, will help you to be more focused on the direction you want to go. The more specific you are as you go through the steps, the more successful you will be. Press on toward your goals, and never give up!
7 Steps to Setting Goals
Step 1: Get a clear picture of the desired outcome or results you hope to achieve. Do not hurry through this step. Let your mind dream big, so that you can fulfill that old saying, “if you believe it, you can achieve it.” You can always modify or completely change this initial step as you get new ideas. The most important factor is that you keep moving forward in your plans to set the goal(s).
Step 2: Write down all of the above ideas and thoughts. When you look back on this, you can revise it if necessary.
Step 3: Start with the desired results (from #1) and then, operating backward, brainstorm about some feasible interim time goals. For example, if you have set a goal to achieve in twelve months, then break it down and create short-term goals for three and six months.
Step 4: Categorize each of your short-term and long-range goals as SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant) – Your goals need to be clear and precise, otherwise you may not be capable or motivated to achieve them. When writing out your goals, answer these questions:
• What do I want to accomplish?
• Why is this goal important?
• Who is involved?
• What resources or limits are involved?
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating) – It’s imperative to have measurable goals so that you can keep track of your progress and stay on target. Evaluating your progress will help you to remain engaged, meet your due dates, and feel the excitement of getting nearer to your goals. A measurable goal should address the following:
• How much?
• How many?
• How will I know when it is attained?
- Attainable (achievable, agreed) – Your goal(s) should be reasonable and achievable in order to be fruitful. It should expand your abilities, yet at the same time be highly possible. When you set an attainable goal, look for any other assets or resources that can take you nearer to it. An attainable goal will more often than not answer these questions:
• How might I complete this goal?
• How practical is the goal, based upon a variety of variables, such as budgetary restraints?
- Realistic (reasonable, relevant, results-based) – This step is tied in with how important your goal is to you, and that it lines up with other applicable goals. You will need support and help with accomplishing your goals and objectives, but it’s your responsibility to hold control over them. Likewise, your plans should always drive you in a forward direction. A realistic goal can answer “yes” to these questions:
• Does this seem worthwhile?
• Is this the right time?
• Does this match my other efforts/needs?
• Am I the right person to reach this goal?
• Is it applicable in the current socio-economic environment?
- Timely (time-limited, time-sensitive) – Each goal needs a deadline or due date to concentrate on, and a target to shoot at. This piece of the SMART goal format will help to keep your priorities in order. A timely goal will answer these questions:
• What would I be able to do six months from now?
• What would I be able to do six weeks from now?
• What would I be able to do today?
Step 5: Organize and prioritize your goals, from the first and most practical, to the final expected result.
Step 6: Keep a clear record of every goal that has been achieved, especially the ones that are the highest priorty.
Step 7: Make sure this entire list is written down; find a place (or more than one) where this entire process can be seen on a daily basis.
A Strategy for Setting Goals
There are a multitude of strategies a person can take when setting goals. the following statement from M. Porter of the Harvard Business School defines the process well:
If you want to make a difference…you’ve got to make time for strategy.
Setting your goals is a process, and developing an action plan needs to be a top priority. It will also require a full commitment in order to accomplish your goals. This means that you never quit, give up, or turn away from your destination.
If you need more encouragement to stay focused and remain on the path to fulfilling your goals, a professional life coach can provide you with additional tools and resources.