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The Importance of Setting Goals

By Abby Rasmussen

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Jul 1, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Do you remember a time in your childhood when a parent, teacher, or coach made you set goals and track your progress? Maybe you had to fill out a chore chart at home or earned gold stars in the classroom for good behavior. As adults, we realize that these are effective ways to motivate children, but perhaps this method can be used beyond childhood. Setting goals can have huge benefits for a successful and happy life when set effectively. People who set goals reap the benefits in all aspects of their lives, from work to relationships to personal health and beyond. Here I will discuss reasons to start setting goals and how you can get started.

goal-setting

Focus- Setting goals provides focus in your life. When you write down your aspirations, you are forced to consider what’s valuable in your life. You wouldn’t set a goal for something that’s not important to you, right? Once you set goals, you can evaluate every action based on whether or not it helps you achieve one of your objectives.

Purpose- Another benefit of establishing goals is that it gives you a sense of purpose. It can be difficult to see the big picture on a day-to-day basis. Goals help you to picture where you want to be in 5, 10, or 50 years and break down smaller steps to get there. It will be easier to go about daily tasks knowing what it will help you to achieve.

Motivation- Goals also help to motivate you, just like the gold stars did as a child. You don’t even need to have a tangible reward for achieving your ambitions (although sometimes that helps!). The feeling of accomplishment can be enough to motivate you to complete your goals.

Self-Confidence- Once you have begun to accomplish your goals (or even small steps toward your goals), your self-confidence will begin to soar. You can see the results of your hard work and realize what you are capable of. In turn, it provides further motivation to complete more of your goals or to reach even higher.

Time Management- When you don’t have clear goals, it can be easy to get lost in all the things you have to do. Goals help to prioritize your to-do list. You can focus more time on the goals that are important to you and waste less time doing other things.

So how can you take advantage of all these benefits? The first step in goal-setting is to look at the big picture. Where do you want to be in your career, in your health, in your relationships, and so on? To begin with, your goals can be as big and lofty as you want. For example, I want to be CEO of my company or I want to lose 15 pounds. Next, you want to prioritize these goals. Is it more important to you to be in good health or to be ahead in your career? If you try to achieve everything at once, it can make accomplishing just one thing more difficult. After you’ve prioritized, break big goals into smaller steps. Take the example of losing 15 pounds. You can break that down into exercising, eating healthy, and reducing stress. 

From here, you want to make the smaller goals into positive-attitudeactionable tasks. This is where SMART goals come in. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. A specific goal should be able to answer the questions who, what, where, when, which, and why. You should also be able to measure your goal, so you can see what you have achieved. The goal should be attainable, not out of reach. If it is, consider breaking it down even further. Having a realistic goal means that you are willing and able to achieve it.  Finally, you should have a time frame for your goal. So taking the previous example of exercising, here’s how it can become a SMART goal: I want to run two miles, three days per week. This goal is easy to track and will help to achieve the overall goal of losing 50 pounds.

The final step in goal setting is to constantly review, update, and revise your goals. Perhaps as you run more, two miles seems too easy. You can revise your goal to run three miles or increase your workouts to four days per week. This also means that if you are finding a goal too difficult, you should make it more attainable. Maybe you thought you could clean your kitchen twice per week, but are struggling to find the time for it. Scale down to once per week and reevaluate in a couple of weeks. This doesn’t mean you are giving up, but it does mean you are taking the time to get to your goal without feeling like you are failing. This is why it is important to revise your goals regularly.

Once you take these steps to establish and follow through on your goals, you’ll start seeing the benefits. It worked for your 8-year-old self, so why wouldn’t it work for you now?

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Topics: Wellness

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