At the beginning of every year, goal-setting is always a trending topic. We all have been there, promising ourselves we will really lose weight, pay off debt, or change jobs this time around. But why is it that most people quit on their goals and settle for a life that they don’t love? In this post, I share a simple process on how to set goals, 10 golden rules that will keep you motivated to achieve them, and uplevel your life.
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10 Golden Rules To Set Goals And Create A Life You Love
Rule #1: Start With The Big Picture Of Your Dream Life
The first mistake many of us make is to set goals that focus on current desires, not considering the bigger picture.
For many years I kept busy worrying about everyday life. Honestly, I didn’t stop to think about my future very often. I had gotten a better-paying job, a nicer home, a better car, but I was still feeling like something significant was lacking.
That’s when I realized that I was missing the bigger picture. I was chasing goals that society expected of me today. However, I hadn’t taken the time to reflect on what I REALLY wanted to do with my life and future.
Do I want to keep chasing another promotion in my “secure” job, or do I want to venture on my own and start a business? Would I be happy maxing out my vacation time at four weeks after working for the same company for 20 years, or would I be happier with more freedom and responsibility becoming my own boss?
Before You get STarted
Before you start goal setting, you must ask yourself questions about the lifestyle you want to create. We must have a clear picture of what our dream life would look like before we can pursue it. It sounds obvious, but many times we jump on the rat race for decades, unaware that at this pace, we are just getting exhausted going nowhere.
The purpose of achieving goals is to grow as human beings, discover our true potential, and improve our quality of life. However, many of us miss the step where we define what that ideal lifestyle looks like.
Creating A Vision Board
So, before you start goal setting, I recommend that you pull a piece of paper or whiteboard and draft a vision for your dream life. Feel free to split up the page in two.
Use images from magazines or pictures to create a vision board that resembles your ideal life. Then, on the other half of the paper, describe in detail the following three scenarios:
- Where do you want to be in one year?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What would your life look like in ten years for you to be absolutely excited about it?
Make sure to do this exercise on paper. Your vision and description of that ideal lifestyle don’t have to be set in stone. It should evolve with you, as new experiences influence your dreams and objectives.
With a clear vision of where you want to go, we are now ready to start setting goals to create a life you love.
Rule #2: Your Goals Must Excite You
The second most important rule on how to set goals is simple: they must excite you. If your goals do not excite you, then you are probably working on somebody else’s goals.
After 11 years of working as a reporter for the same company, I really wanted to venture out and start my own business. I loved what I was doing and had a great track record. Also, I had a good stable income, health insurance, other benefits like a 401k, etc. But the one thing that I craved the most that I didn’t have was freedom.
One day talking to my dad on the phone, I told him I really wanted to leave my job. To my dismay, what started as a casual conversation ended up in a heated discussion. He basically discouraged me from following my heart. He said, “I had already made it,” and that I should stay put.
But I just couldn’t. The idea of working another 20 years and aspire to retire one day was not fulfilling to me. Not to mention that I also couldn’t understand how my father, an entrepreneur for over 60 years, discouraged me from starting my own business.
whose goals are you working on
That’s when it hit me.
Staying in this job would continue to make my dad proud of me. However, I would not allow myself to pursue my dream life.
Eventually, I moved on to a different job that didn’t have the same benefits but allowed me more freedom to pursue my entrepreneurial endeavors.
Understanding the importance of working towards my own goals has made a massive difference for me. Committing to your own goals can be challenging, especially if you factor in social and family pressure.
What’s your ultimate purpose?
Pursuing my goal of starting my own business has been one of the hardest decisions I have made in my life. But it’s one I don’t regret for a second. I am committed, determined, and most importantly, passionate about my goals because they are in sync with my dream life.
My ultimate goal is freedom. I want to have more freedom to invest my time in developing my own ideas. Freedom to be my own boss and spend more time with my family. Freedom to lift the cap of my earning’s potential and contribute to my community with services and products that inspire people to live their best life.
Do your goals excite you? If the answer is no, then you may want to reconsider the direction you are going. Most likely, you are working towards somebody else’s goals and not your own.
Rule #3: Put Your Goals In Writing
A goal becomes official when you write it down. Before, your goal is just a wish, a thought, or at best, a good idea. So, writing your goals down is crucial.
As you can see, rule #3 of goal setting is pretty simple. However, there are some tips we can follow to make our goals more attainable.
It’s essential to set priorities, understand the difference between generic goals and specific goals, and create a plan to make things happen. So, let’s dig into prioritization.
Rule #4: Prioritize Your Goals
Not all goals are created equal. If you are anything like me, I bet you have many goals. In fact, I am sure you can write down right now a list of 20 goals you would like to achieve. However, when we talk about goal setting, quality beats quantity.
I recommend that you focus on a couple of goals that can also cause a positive impact on other areas of your life. For instance, among some of my goals, I can list:
- Losing 5 pounds in the next six months.
- Sleeping at least 7.5 hrs per night.
- Walk at least 10,000 steps per day.
- Cleaning my house once a week and keeping it tidy.
- Read one book per month.
I could try to work on all of them at the same time. But once you factor in real life, my chances to invest time, energy, and resources on all these goals are slim.
But, I could focus on one that can also yield results and impact other areas of my life or goals. For instance, if I focus on achieving my goal of sleeping more, I know over time, this can even result in weight loss.
Focus on few goals that yield a broad impact
I have learned that lack of sleep is one of the factors that influence weight gain. Sleeping more can also increase my productivity. Becoming a better-rested person can lead me to finish work faster, conserve energy, have more free time to keep my house cleaner, and even go for a walk to hit my 10,000 daily steps.
Do you see how important is it to pinpoint the one goal that can have a broad impact on your life?
To help you list and define your focus, I have created a quick goal-setting worksheet that you can download for free. Just fill out the form below, and I will email it to you.
Feel free to make a long list of goals you want to achieve, but study that list once you are done. Prioritize the tasks that can bring benefit to other areas of your life as well.
FREE GOAL SETTING WORKSHEET
Rule #5: Make A Realistic Plan
After deciding what goals you will focus on, it is time to make a realistic plan to achieve them. It is not enough to write your goals down. You need to figure out a plan and the actions you need to take daily, weekly, and monthly to achieve them.
Let’s consider the following example.
Goal: To retire at age 65 with a million-dollar net worth.
Having a million-dollar net worth before retirement sounds like a good goal, but it wouldn’t be very realistic for a 55-year-old person with no steady job or money in the bank.
In this scenario, a more realistic goal would be to have a $200,000 net worth by age 65. This goal would be achievable if this person can get a better-paying job and invests a good portion of her income.
Making A Realistic Plan
At 55, this person would have 10 years to have a $200,000 net worth. This means every year, she would have to grow her net worth by $20,000 by investing, saving money, and paying off debt.
Making A Specific Plan
To get more specific, this person would need to have $1,666 available every month to save or invest and achieve this goal. Investing this amount over ten years could help to exceed expectations.
Saving $1,666 every month becomes the specific goal to retire at 65, in this scenario, with $200,000 in the bank.
Use this example to come up with a realistic and specific plan to achieve your goals.
Rule #6: Break Down Your Goals
Having big goals will most likely make you feel overwhelmed. That’s why rule #6 of goal setting has everything to do with breaking things down.
Focus on what you can do one day at a time to achieve your goals in the long run.
For instance, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds, let’s look at the factors that will impact your chances of being slimmer.
In this case, your ability to lose weight will be influenced by factors such as:
- Quality of sleep
- Water intake
- Social support
- Mental well-being
Thinking of all these variables is definitely overwhelming. But what if we focused on losing one pound a week? That’s not so overwhelming! At this rate, we could plan on achieving our goal in 20 weeks or five months.
Now that we can focus on the one pound per week, what can we do daily to control the factors mentioned above and drop the weight?
These are some examples of the actions you want to embrace to achieve that weight loss:
- Eliminate the consumption of sugary drinks.
- Follow a nutritional plan that supports my goal.
- Fix my lunch at home to avoid eating out and overeating.
- Excercise 45 minutes every day.
- Go to bed earlier to get at least 7.5 hours of sleep.
- Find a support group online or in-person to share weight loss challenges and wins.
- Track my weekly weight on a calendar.
Sticking to this plan and focusing on the daily actions will definitely yield better results than focusing on the big goal of losing 20 pounds. Working towards losing that weekly pound is a lot more realistic than feeling burdened by our big goal.
Rule #7: Set SMART Goals
You have probably heard about SMART goals before. This is an acronym attributed to George T. Doran, which stands for:
As the acronym states, your objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.
Let’s look at some examples of generic goals and how they would compare to SMART goals.
- Generic goal: I want to lose weight.
- SMART goal: To lose 20 pounds in six months.
- Generic goal: Pay off debt.
- SMART goal: Pay off $5,000 due on my American Express credit card and cancel it within six months.
Do you see a big difference? The generic goal almost sounds like wishful thinking. The SMART goal sounds like a confident and realistic plan to get things done.
Rule #8: Embrace Daily Trackable Habits
Making realistic and specific goals is critical to make progress. However, I have also found that keeping track of my daily actions plays a massive role in helping me stick to the big plan and bigger picture.
For instance, one of my goals is to lose ten pounds. But a more important goal for me is to sleep at least 7.5 hours per night. For the last 15 years, my average nightly sleep has been between five and six hours.
Over time, not getting enough sleep has taken a toll, especially on my mood and mental health. So, I decided to start tracking my sleep quality and time asleep. Also, I decided to keep track of when I over-eat or stop eating when I feel satisfied.
Would you believe me if I say that I lost almost four pounds over the last two months without really trying? I promise I haven’t gone on a diet because I hate diets. I also have not made significant changes to my lifestyle. What I have been doing is tracking my habits daily on paper.
Tracking Your Progress
I noticed that the simple task of tracking my progress motivated me to make better choices. Also, having a visual representation of my wins and misses made me think it over when I was tempted to eat that third slice of pizza I knew I didn’t need.
Creating awareness and keeping myself accountable by tracking with a big black X the days I overeat has motivated me to stop before I feel full. On the days I don’t overeat, I reward myself by tracking my progress using colorful markers instead of a shameful X.
So, create a system to track your goals and daily habits. It does not have to be complicated. You can simply mark your actions on a calendar or consider using a habit tracker like the one I designed and use.
Ready To Start Habit Tracking?
Rule #9: Schedule Time To Work On Your Goals
Rule #9 on setting goals and creating a life you love has everything to do with your schedule. To improve your chances of achieving your goals, you must make room in your busy day to work on them.
I know that we are all busy with work, family, and everyday life responsibilities. But, if you do not make it a priority to schedule time to work on your goals, time will fly by. And, before you realize it, you are getting nowhere.
Because we all have limited free time, it is essential to get your priorities right when goal setting, as I mentioned before. To increase your chances of sticking to your plan, try to tackle your goals first thing in the morning.
For instance, one of my goals is to meditate every day for 30 minutes. I started doing it in June of 2020, and so far, I haven’t missed one day! Sometimes I have to set my alarm earlier to get it done. Other times, like on weekends, I am more flexible about the time I meditate.
I have also noticed that when I check off my goals and daily habits early, I have an increased sense of accomplishment throughout the day. My mood has improved as well as my personal satisfaction level. Working on my goals first means that I am putting myself first, and that is very rewarding.
Free Worksheet Download: How To Set Goals
Rule #10: Reward Yourself For The Progress
Talking about rewards… How to set goals is a process that should also include a reward system for your effort. Acknowledging your progress and achievements through this journey is key to keeping you motivated.
I recommend that you establish the rewards ahead of time so that you keep looking forward to them. A reward can be as simple as buying yourself a new shirt when you achieve a weight milestone or as extravagant as taking a trip to the beach when you accomplish your weight goal.
You don’t always have to spend money to reward yourself, especially if you are working on financial goals. Consider new experiences like going for a walk at a nature park, taking the day off work to relax in the backyard, or cooking a new dish.
If you are addicted to paper planning like me, a reward can be as simple as crossing things off from your to-do list. Also, placing colorful stickers on your planner or calendar works great to highlight accomplishments.
In Conclusion: How To Set Goals And Create A Life You Love
It is OK to feel like you don’t like your life. Believe me, I have been there. The best news I can share with you is that you have the power to change the course of your life.
Follow my ten golden rules for how to set goals, and you will see how your life starts to look brighter:
- Picture Your Dream Life First
- Your Goals Must Excite You
- Put Your Goals In Writing
- Prioritize Your Goals
- Make A Realistic Plan
- Break Down Your Goals
- Set SMART Goals
- Embrace Daily Trackable Habits
- Schedule Time To Work On Your Goals
- Reward Yourself For The Progress
Now that you know how to do it, it is time to get started! Keep in mind that a sound and realistic plan will make the difference between living a life you love or feeling stuck.
Now, it is your turn to put into practice what you have learned. What goals are you going to focus on? How are you going to break them down? What habits will you embrace in your everyday life that will get you to your dreams?
Please, tell me all about your plans in the comments section below. And, don’t forget to download your free worksheet!
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