As we enter a new year—and a new decade—many people feel inspired to think about what they want to achieve for better health and habits, memorable experiences and relationships, or work and creative pursuits. Setting goals is just the first step—to bring them to life successfully takes a plan.
Use this tried-and-true SMART methodology to create your goals powerfully:
Be precise. What exactly do you want? How much? Where? With whom?
X I want to be happier.
✔ I will do one thing every day that pleases me.
What would need to happen to know you’ve been successful? What does it look like, feel like, sound like? What are the milestones along the way?
X I’ll save more money.
✔ I will save $2,500 this year: $100 every month plus unexpected windfalls and savings.
By all means, shoot for the stars—and be clear that you have the means, the ability, and the time to make it happen.
B I’ll buy a $5 million house (and make $50,000 a year).
✔ In five years, I will save $40,000 for a down payment on a $400,000 condo.
Does your goal fit into your life?
X I’m going to live alone in a shack on a tropical island.
✔ I’m going to take my children for a holiday on a tropical island.
By when do you want to achieve your goal, how much time can you dedicate to achieving it, and when will you spend the time? Build in some flexibility to accommodate the unexpected.
X I’ll lose 10 pounds next year.
✔ By July 2020, I will be 10 lb lighter by eating healthy every day and exercising three times a week for an hour.
Write down your goals, benchmarks, and deadline with a way to track progress, like a chart or checklist, and post them where you’ll see them many times a day: your bathroom mirror, your fridge door, at your desk. Better yet, carry them with you all the time.
Break big goals down into smaller ones to set yourself up for success and higher confidence.
Know why you want to achieve your goal. Be specific. Write it down beside each goal to keep you motivated.
Set Up Shop
Get ready, physically and mentally.
- Create a mood board and look at it every day to stay inspired.
- Harness the power of your mind. Visualize how life looks and feels when you are successful.
- Put in place what you need to be successful: A quiet place to create? Expert advice? A pantry full of healthy food?
- Find a buddy with the same goal for support, a spirit of healthy competition, and fun.
- Create a calendar:
- Create short-term benchmarks within each goal.
- Break your goal down into daily or weekly activities and honour the commitment to do them—just as you would a date or business activity.
- Fine-tune and adjust your plan as needed.
- Expect to be foiled, distracted, or discouraged at some point. Anticipate how you, someone, or something could highjack your efforts, and build in a strategy to deal with it:
- Too wet to run? Go to the gym instead.
- Too tired to write tonight? Get up an hour earlier tomorrow to get it done.
Adjust Your Attitude
Get your head in the game.
- Treat your commitment to achieving your goals like a job. Expect to be challenged, to be reviewed on your performance. Your job is to show up, focus, and do your best work.
- Understand what you have to give up: money for takeout coffee that now goes into a bank account or to hire a trainer, or social time so that you can study or go to the gym.
- Be patient and positive. Expect the achievement of your goals to take time, effort, and focus—and that you may not see results right away.
- Understand that people who are successful keep going, even when it’s inconvenient or they don’t feel like it.
- Pay attention to your inner voice and keep the script positive.
- The commitment you make to yourself may be the most important one of all.
Make a Habit
When you work toward new goals you are really forming new habits—and sometimes leaving ones behind that no longer serve you. Here are some tips about how to welcome them into your life:
One at a time. Focus on creating or changing one new habit at a time.
30 days Commit to at least 30 days. The amount of time for a new habit to settle in depends on the degree of change and the person—some longer, some shorter—but a month-long commitment is a great starting point.
pair it Anchor your new habit to an old one to help you take baby steps.
• If your goal is to exercise more, when you drive to work, park 15 minutes away and walk the rest of the way.
• After you brush your teeth, write one paragraph of your new book.
• Walk for 15 minutes immediately after dinner instead of watching TV.
Remove & replace If you’re trying to break a bad habit, remove the temptations and replace them with something that supports a good habit:
• Junk food out. Healthy snacks in.
• Cancel cable. Buy walking shoes.
• Throw out cigarettes, sign up for a meditation class.
Tell Your Tribe
- Accountability is a good thing. Tell friends and family what you want to achieve, and your milestones and deadlines. Choose people who will engage, challenge, and support you.
- Ask them to support and motivate you and report your progress. Negotiate time and resources with family to make sure expectations are expressed and met as you work on your goals.
- Understand that not everyone will support you. Change can be intimidating and evoke fear or jealousy in others because of changes you may make in your life.
- Acknowledge and celebrate every milestone reached and include supportive friends and family.
- Choose an experience, like a fun outing with friends, rather than indulging in ice cream, if you’re trying to lose weight; or shopping if you want to save!
Article was published in The Good Life magazine.