Embarking on a journey without a basic roadmap is a sure way to get yourself lost. So why do we insist on navigating life without a plan. Setting goals is an important part of plotting your course, staying motivated and acknowledging achievement. Let’s look at how to start setting goals, while being smart about it.


Ready, get set, goal


Have you ever felt like you know what you would wish to achieve, but you have no idea of how to get there?

Chances are that your lack of goals and goal setting is getting in the way.

Goals are “the object or aim of an action, for example, to attain a specific standard of proficiency, usually within a specified time limit”. In the words of Lawrence J. Peter: “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” Although sauntering through life may take you down many unexpected and exciting paths, you cannot build a successful career, company or life without a clear vision of where you are going.

Whether you are embarking on a new career path, steering an organisation, or planning for your retirement, setting goals is an important part of plotting your course and staying motivated. Having goals to tackle each day takes the mundane out of existence and can constitute tangible targets as you manoeuvre yourself into a position of advantage. As noted by Lou Holtz, “if you’re bored with life – you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things – you don’t have enough goals.”

In short, goals are the first step towards planning for the future.

  • They help to focus your energy and intentions.
  • They constitute milestones to more clearly map a way forward and define achievements.
  • They play an intricate role in time management.
  • They help you consistently and progressively move towards an intended end.

Understanding the value of goals is a good starting point, but embarking on the process of goal setting can be difficult. So how do you go about getting started?


Getting started with setting goals


Getting started with any new project can be daunting. Just remember, goal setting is a practice intended to make your life more manageable:

  • Listen to yourself
  • Take time to brainstorm
  • Think deeply about what you want
  • Be realistic
  • Be positive
  • Be precise.

Start your goal-setting process by plotting out the big picture. In other words, start with setting lifetime goals. Make sure your large-scale goals are close to your heart. Include a very broad time frame, for example 10 years. Setting out these large-scale goals will give you perspective and a clear target of where you would like to go with your life, finances, education, career or company.

With your large-scale goals in place, you can start breaking them down into smaller achievable targets. These targets can be organised within smaller time frames such as five years, one year, six months and one month. The process will eventually form a roadmap for you to follow, where you can set your intentions and apply your energy in a focused manner.

Once you have your plan in place, get down to achieving the goals you have set out!


Get SMART with your goal setting


Goal setting, like any process, becomes easier when you are guided by a useful framework. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Meaningful, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based.

Specific: Your goals need to be achievable and trackable. In other words, you have to get specific about the goal. By getting specific you set yourself up for success because you have a clear understanding of what needs to be achieved in a particular time-frame and know when the goal is achieved or not.

Meaningful: Your goal needs to be meaningful. Superficial goals don’t work. If your goal is meaningful to you, then you will be sure to overcome any obstacle to achieve it.

Achievable: Along with being specific, you need to set goals that are realistic and achievable. There is nothing wrong with dreaming big. However, setting out achievable goals within a realistic time-frame will help you gain momentum and feel the win. This will only make you more hungry to stay on your path.

Relevant: Similar to goals being meaningful, they have to be commensurate with your life. If goals are outside the purview of your morals, values or life structure, they will either be unachievable or you will give up as quickly as you set out.

Time-based: Your goals are SMART if they are set in time. This means that they have to be achieved by an exact date. Being precise about time will ensure that there is no wiggle room. You set out the goal and you need to achieve it by a specific date. If you were SMART, then that goal should be ticked off in time and you can move on.


It’s all about getting started


Achieving big goals is hard. That is why we often give up or don’t even get started in the first place. But, with the right motivation, process and framework, you can make the task more manageable. In the end, you just have to get started and be SMART about it. Before you know it, your calendar will be filled with milestones that give you the confidence and motivation to build the life you choose.

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