Four Tips for Setting and Achieving Your Goals
Updated: Jan 8
Happy New Year Everyone! As we enter the new decade, a lot of us have goals we’d like to accomplish in the years ahead. Here are four tips directly from Redefining Positive on setting goals for the New Year:
1. When you choose a goal, make sure it’s something you personally want, not just something that you feel like you’re “supposed” to do. This can be harder than it sounds, as we are often bombarded with messages of what we should be doing. Take a quiet moment to think about what you would like to do and where you want to be. Write down some of your goals. Then go through each goal and ask yourself, “Is this desire coming from me?” Really think about whether you personally want each goal on your list, or if you feel like you have to do certain things because of what other people or society are telling you. If you’re not sure, ask yourself how you would feel about your goal if it didn’t matter to anyone else what you did. For instance, if you imagine that there were no expectations from your family, friends, or society for you to get married and have children, would you still want to get married or have children? Ask yourself this question for each of your goals, and keep going until you find goals that you would want for yourself no matter what anyone else thought.
2. Remember that you can set goals in any area of your life that you want, and that success can mean anything that you want it to mean. Your goals do not need to be related to an organized activity, your education, or your career in order for them to matter. If you want to be a better parent, sibling, friend, or romantic partner, and you keep working on those relationships, that is a form of success. If you want to feel more comfortable doing something that scares you, and you do it, that is a form of success. If you just want 2020 to be a fun year, and you make it a fun year, that is also a form of success. Success can be anything you want it to be.
3. Think about where each goal falls on your priority list, with everything that matters to you. Don’t forget to include things like your relationships and your physical and mental health. When I’ve looked up tips on specific goals, there was often an implication that a goal has to be your number one priority, or else you won’t achieve it. But the fact is that every single thing can’t be your top priority at the same time. If your physical and mental health are priorities for you, then a plan that doesn’t allow you enough time to sleep or that leaves you feeling emotionally drained is not something that will work for you.
Keep in mind that it’s okay for your priorities to change. When I was younger, writing was my number one priority, to the point that I would turn down social invitations because I wanted to work on my writing projects. I’m at a point now where spending time with my family and friends is a higher priority to me than writing, and I will often drop what I’m doing mid-sentence when I have the opportunity to get together with someone. During the time that I was writing Redefining Positive, seeing family and friends was a higher priority to me than getting the book done, and I still got it done. Remember that you can still achieve goals that are not number one on your list.
4. Recognize that most advice for how to accomplish your goals is not one-size-fits all. Don’t get discouraged if the advice you find doesn’t work for you.
There’s a common piece of advice that if you want to exercise more, you should find a workout buddy. However, this advice assumes that being social will make the workout more enjoyable, and that you’re okay with a certain level of pressure and accountability from your friends. A lot of times, I’m not in the mood to socialize, and having to socialize would actually make me less interested in working out. I’m also not okay with people pressuring me to do things when I’m not in the mood – it’s unlikely that I would stay friends with someone who was pushing me to work out when I didn’t want to. So, while having a workout buddy is popular advice, it’s not advice that will work for everyone.
In order to find what will work best for you, take some time to experiment with different methods. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
1. Do you like to stick to a schedule, or do you prefer to have your time unstructured? If you have a goal to practice playing the guitar for one hour a day, does it work best for you to practice at the same time every day? Or would you rather decide each day what time you’ll practice, as long as you get it done? If you’re not sure, try practicing for one week with a schedule and another week without a schedule, and see which method works better for you.
2. What type of environment do you work best in? Do you like to be in the privacy of your own home, or work in a public place like a library or coffee shop? Do you like complete silence, or some background noise? Experiment with different environments to find out.
3. Do you prefer to work alone, or would you prefer to be involved in an organized group related to your goal? You can always try joining an organization, and know that you’ll leave if it isn’t right for you. If an organization doesn’t interest you, would you still like to have other people to help motivate you, such as finding a friend who wants to go walking with you?
4. What effect does time pressure have on you? Do deadlines motivate you to work harder on your goal, or do they make you feel anxious and get less done?
5. Do you like to share your goals with your family and friends, or do you prefer to keep them private? Do you have specific people who you’d like to talk to because they’ll encourage and support you? Do you have other people you’d like to avoid sharing with because they’ll be unsupportive?
These are just some of the many aspects that you can explore. Learning your process and what works best for you will help you in just about anything.
If you look up instructions on how to write a book, a lot of people will tell you that you need to have a schedule and write in the same place, at the same time, every day. I’ve even read that you will never actually complete a book unless you do that. But I’ve never done that. I’ve never liked having a schedule, and having a day job is already more structure than I’d really like in my life. I tend to work with monthly goals. I get a rough idea of what my writing pace is, figure out when I could reasonably finish my book if I continue at that pace, and then set monthly goals in order to get there. Within that time, my word count per day varies a lot. Sometimes I have a word count goal I try to reach. Other times my goal is to complete a particular section of the book, or finish a particular editing job. Sometimes I sit in the same spot at home, other times I write in bed late at night, and sometimes I’ll even write several paragraphs on my phone during my lunch break or while I’m waiting in line. I’ve never kept a strict schedule, and I’ve still managed to publish a book because I found a way to do it that worked for me.
I would encourage everyone to take some time this year to think about what you really want, and to figure out the best way for you to get there.
If 2020 is a year of making the changes you want to make in your life and achieving your goals, that’s awesome. And if 2020 is more of a learning year, a year of figuring out what your goals are, what changes you want to make, and how you can get there in a way that works for you, that’s awesome too. Because that in itself is an achievement.