Trust the Process: Goal Setting

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This month our blog post will address the idea of goal setting. You can use the information provided here to create your own short or long-term goals and to draft the steps you will need to take to achieve them. The goal setting process allows us to develop the roots of our own personal successes because we can decide how we would like to grow in different areas of our lives: Personally, professionally, spiritually or otherwise.

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Setting SMART Goals

One of the keys to beginning any journey or creating change in our lives is to set goals. The goals that we set for ourselves can be deeply personal, but generally we will find the most success if our goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. As we discern our goals we might ask ourselves things like: “What exactly do I want to achieve?” “How am I going to do this?” “How long might this take me to do?”, and “Why do I want to achieve this goal?” Answering these questions may be the first step toward achieving our goals and may help us to be more driven and successful on our journey.

Setting Specific Goals

Our goals are most helpful to us when they are clear and precise. To make sure we have specific goals we might answer the “Who, What, Where, When, And Why” of our goals. We might also give ourselves time to consider multiple ways to the same goal. For example, we might start with a goal of “I want to be less stressed”. Though this is a good goal, it needs some more specifics to be most helpful. “I want to set aside 15 minutes a day to relax” is a bit more specific. “I want to spend 15 minutes each day journaling” is even more specific. Further, “I want to learn to meditate to ease stress” “I want to exercise each day for at least 30 minutes” “I want to start playing guitar again” are all other, more specific, ways to the same goal.

Drafting Measurable Goals

Our goal setting is helped a great deal by making our goals measurable. Our goal of “I want to be less stressed” is valid, but it is more attainable when we set up a way to see ourselves grow. We can ask ourselves what we will experience when our goal is achieved. Will we see, hear, or feel something different? When do we want to experience this change? What we often find when we work to make our goal measurable is that out big goal (In the example we’ve been using, “Be less stressed”) is achieved only through achieving smaller goals along the way. For example, if we were to say we want to spend 15 minutes each day journaling and increase that to thirty minutes the next month. We may realize that we need to schedule that time into our day and creating that space in our day might be a smaller goal that happens before the larger goal. If we would like to learn a meditation technique within the next two months, for example, we would need to find space in our day to look for places or resources where we can learn such techniques. We may also need to schedule time for ourselves to learn and practice meditation. Each of our larger goals then, through measurement, becomes more specific. (And we won’t forget celebrate the steps we make along the way!)

Creating Attainable Goals

Goals we set for ourselves should be attainable. This means that we should be able to spend the time, make the effort, and spend the resources to make our goals a reality. We can weigh the time, effort, and cost against the benefits of reaching the goal. Setting attainable goals also means that the goal fits with our other priorities, values, and abilities. As goals are often quite personal, only we ourselves can determine if a goal is attainable for us. If you have a back injury, perhaps “ I want to complete a back-bend in yoga” is not an attainable goal for you. However, “I want to exercise twice a week for thirty minutes” might suit you better. (Once you consult with your doctor, of course.) Setting attainable goals does not mean we do not take the chance to challenge ourselves, nor that we limit ourselves more than necessary, but it does mean that we understand what we can reasonably accomplish given our unique circumstances, abilities, and resources.

Designing Relevant Goals

Setting a relevant goal for ourselves requires some personal reflection. One way to find out if a goal is relevant is to ask, “Will the goal really get us closer to our larger objective?” For example, if we want to be less stressed but don’t enjoy writing, the goal “I want to journal for at least 15 minutes each day”, though a good goal for others wishing to relax, may not be the best way for us to achieve that goal. Sometimes we find that we are doing things out of habit, obligation, fear, or for others. Setting relevant goals requires that we set goals that are important to us and that have meaning for us. While it would be wonderful to have our friend hit the gym with us every Tuesday, our desire to be healthy will bring us to the gym even if he’s not tagging along. While it’s wonderful that our sister introduces us to meditation, our interest and desire for the experience is what will enable us to learn and practice with more commitment. Setting relevant goals ensures our success because we are selecting goals that matter to us.

The Importance of Timely Goals

Making sure we set deadlines for ourselves or deciding how long it will take for us to reach a goal is important. Setting timely goals means creating a reasonable timeline for getting to your goal. While the timeline should be flexible (things don’t always go according to plan) the creation of a deadline or timeline will allow you to stay on track toward your larger goal as you hit the smaller goals along the way.

Goal Setting Works

Goal Setting is a great way to increase your motivation about a particular change you’d like to make or experience you’d like to have. Research has shown that the simple act of creating a goal creates incentive and also increases the likelihood that you’ll reach your goal. (Turkay, S. (2014). Setting Goals: Who, Why, How?. Manuscript.) This is especially true of goals that are challenging, relevant, and specific. As we work on developing ourselves further we can set goals to measure our progress toward how we’d like to feel, think, and be.

Keep The Focus On Your Goals

As we set and work toward achieving our goals we can often become side tracked. Life events, the needs of others, and our own feelings about ourselves often offer us challenges along the way. When we acknowledge these challenges and reflect on how to best deal with them, we can renew our focus on our goals increase our motivation to achieve them.

When we set goals for ourselves we might find that our goals take multiple focuses. For example “I want to work out each day for 30 minutes” may begin as a goal that focuses on improving our health but we may find that the time spent exercising builds our self-confidence and allows us to manage our stress better as well. We can welcome the different benefits that come from a goal that began with a different focus.

Evaluate Your Progress

As we work toward achieving our goals it is essential that we take a few moments, whether it be each day or each week, to evaluate our progress. We can celebrate our victories in achieving smaller goals, reassess timelines for achieving larger ones, or even adjust our goals if we find that something isn’t working to our benefit. Re-evaluating our goals regularly allows us to see how far we’ve come and to reflect on whether our methods are truly effective. As we find that our goals are close at hand we are often further motivated to press on!

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