The problem with setting goals and a solution everyone can manage this season.
October is here, and if fall hasn’t reached you yet, allow the start of this month to be your seasonal notice. I love fall, and I love the change in seasons. With the change, I too establish a new routine, contemplate how I can make positive adjustments, and change my pace or direction, all by setting goals.
The problem we tend to face when setting goals is that initially we raise the bar too high. Having a big dream or a goal is a good thing, and can often be what gets us off the couch or out of bed in the morning; but by learning how to create smaller, more attainable goals we can better acknowledge our progress within a scope that is feasible for your own journey.
The solution to this problem is to recognize your unique goal and to create a map, or guide, that will steer you in the right direction. With your big goal in mind (and even at the top of your lined sheet of paper), begin jotting down steps you can take to reach your goal. Consider which sub-goals, or milestones, you can aim for in pursuit of your big goal. This season, you will be working towards your sub-goal, which will get you that much closer to your big goal.
Creating Goals That Are Actually Attainable: A Guide
Define your big goal(s): Write them all down. Even if the page is full of all that you wish to accomplish in your entire life, be sure that they are written and that each goal is clearly stated.
Choose one big goal: Of the many goals on your list, pick just one that you can begin to work towards now. Consolidate goals that align with a similar bigger picture, or a goal that is a consequence of other smaller goals. It’s time to narrow them down and get serious about your future.
Define your why: A goal is just a dream if you don’t take any action; but if you don’t establish why you wish to achieve your goal, why it holds any amount of importance to you, then you will be likely to give up. Stay connected to your why and let it serve as a reminder to you on days when you just don’t feel like showing up.
Create sub-goals: At the top of a new page, write your one big goal and your why. Then, begin ideating what you imagine you will need to do in order to reach that goal. The order of this list isn’t important until the next step.
Prioritize your new list: Review the content of your list and scout out the most simple first step. If your goal is to become fluent in a second (or third or fourth) language, then your first step might not be to go to the native country of that language and start speaking (in most cases). It might be on a much smaller scale such as either taking a beginner’s course online or in your community, downloading an app on your phone or buying a grammar book with workbook pages and an answer key.
From the first step, continue to arrange the other elements of your list in an order that is reasonable and most probable. You might find that one step may seem much easier than another when you come to it, so be prepared to move onto the action that best aligns with your progress at the time.
Schedule time to work on Step One: Remove the other elements of your list from your mind and focus solely on your very first step. Call around town to see if there’s a class in your city that offers the language you wish to learn. Search online for the best app to download and subscribe to it. Order a book online, or visit a local book store to choose among many different types of language-learning platforms. Perhaps you will be able to choose from visual to audio to interactive learning styles and discover which best suits your cognitive abilities.
Once you have the tool you need to get you closer to your goal, put it into action by giving it high importance (i.e. scheduling it on your calendar). Write it in your planner first, not after you’ve filled your day with anything and everything. Decide when each day you are going to sit down to study the foreign language.
If your goal is to meditate, download an app and choose which time of day you plan to practice. Wake up 10 minutes earlier and meditate before you start your day, or during your lunch break, or before you sleep at night. Even set a reminder on your phone or inside the app that will notify you when it’s time to take a break. If you are new to meditation, choose one time of day to start and experiment with other times as you go along, understanding which works best for you.
Always show up: We reach our goals by first of all making them attainable, but also by remaining consistent. Choose to show up every day to make your goals happen. Even 15 minutes a day can be enough time to study a new language and 5 minutes to meditate. For other goals, such as learning or developing a craft, minimizing debt, exercising, or completing an important project, more time and more effort may be required in order to move you through this season.
Use logic and self-care when approaching Step One of your goal. If your goal is to lose 15 pounds, don’t jump right into cutting out sugar, committing to a juice diet, detoxing, purchasing a gym membership and hiring a personal trainer. Probably starting with just one of these elements will make the biggest impact: reduce the sugar you consume daily. Instead of 1 tablespoon of sugar in your tea each morning, reduce to ½ tablespoon until your palate begins to change and you’re ready to downsize to 1 teaspoon of sugar or none at all.
Make it easy on yourself to show up. In some cases, it’s best to go cold turkey, and many times it depends on your personality, but strive for slight transitions or small steps that inch you closer to your goal, rather than going balls-to-the-wall in an effort to race to the finish line.
Think sustainable: Creating goals means creating or breaking habits. We often need to let go of a bad habit and replace it with a good habit. Scheduling 15 minutes a day to study a new language may be just the right amount of time to stay focused, keep you interested, and stave off overwhelm. In any case, create a habit of Step One and allow it to become the thing that you do.
In time, it will be natural for you to sit down at your desk and study every night, until eventually 15 minutes feels like nothing, and you increase the time you’ve set aside to work towards your goal. Just like with exercise, starting with 10 minutes 3 times a week, you might find that you increase the time you exercise those 3 days to 15 minutes, or increase the number of days to 4. It really all depends on your goal and your lifestyle, but keep in mind where you are and don’t get too caught up in where you’re going.
At the start of a new month, or even a new week, it’s easy to think sharp and put your mind to being productive or resourceful. It’s energizing to start fresh. Well, when a new season swings in, it’s also a great time to reflect on how the previous season turned out, and then evaluate and set new goals for the one in tow. That weird transition time between summer and fall is as good as ever to start planning.
So, in light of the new month, we can toast to goal-setting and learn to create goals that are actually attainable. We can take the reigns of our smaller goals so that upon reaching the landing that will raise us to our big goal we may have the tools in our belt that will get us there without a doubt.
What goals have you set for yourself this season? I’d love to know what you’ve been up to and what you’re looking forward to. Perhaps your goal is to successfully bake a pie, preparing the dough from scratch and all. I’m into that.