How to Set Your Goals

Effective goal setting is a skill and requires a fair bit of practice to get the hang of it.  When setting goals, it is useful to make sure that they are SMART goals. 

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Resourced, and Time-limited. 

Here’s a breakdown of each of the points to help you on your way to setting some SMART goals. 

Be Specific

Be very clear in what you want to achieve. Consider breaking the goal down into smaller steps. Specify the actions you have to take, when, and where you will do so, and who or what is involved. 

An example of a vague goal: I will spend more time with my kids. 

An example of a specific goal: I will take the kids to the park on Sunday and play cricket. 

Can you think of a specific goal you would like to work on? If so, write it down and we will keep working on the steps to make your goal a SMART one. 

Ensure that your goal is Measurable

This is where you set concrete criteria for measuring progress of your goal. Measuring progress helps you to stay on target and take any correcting actions that you need. How will you know when you have achieved your goal? What will you be doing at that time? What will others notice you doing? What will be different?

For the specific goal above, the person can measure whether they have completed the goal by stating whether they went to play cricket with their kids on Sunday or not. Whereas for the vague goal listed above, it is more difficult to measure progress or whether the goal was achieved or not. 

Ensure that your goal is Achievable 

That is, not setting yourself up to fail by setting goals that are currently out of reach. Motivation plays a huge role in working towards goals and if the goal seems too big or too difficult, we may stop before we even start or give up halfway. Therefore, we must ensure that we can achieve them and that we are realistic for our current circumstances. If we do have a large long term goal, we can consider setting smaller goals to reach it. Along the way, we celebrate our successes, build motivation and confidence and become more experienced at setting goals for ourselves. If you don’t achieve what you set out to do, ask yourself what you could have done differently next time for a better outcome. 

Ensure that your goal is well Resourced 

Is the goal achievable with the resources you have? Are there any other resources that you may need? For example some goals are heavily dependent on money, skills, and experience. Ensure that you have the adequate resources for the goal that you are setting. 

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Remember that SMART goals are Time-limited 

It is vital to set a reasonable time limit to achieve your goal. Consider setting smaller time limits for smaller steps as this helps to keep you motivated, but flexible at the same time. If you notice that things are taking longer than expected, you can always adjust these time frames, but it helps to have a time frame in mind at all times. 

Be mindful of barriers to achieving your goals

Fear can often get in the way of us doing things differently or achieving the goals that we set for ourselves. Here are the most common barriers to achieving your goals. 

  1. Fusion: Getting stuck on unhelpful thoughts that prevent you from taking action towards your goal “e.g. I can’t do this”, “It’s too hard”, “I’m not good enough”. 
  2. Expectations: The expectations that you set yourself may be unrealistic. You may have too many goals, or your time frames may be too short or you may be expecting perfection from yourself. 
  3. Avoidance: People generally try to avoid uncomfortable feelings. Achieving goals and making changes in your life requires confronting unpleasant feelings at times. The more you try to avoid unpleasant feelings, the harder it will be to make these changes. 
  4. Remoteness from your values: It can be hard to put a lot of effort into goals that you don’t see as having meaning or importance in your life. 
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DARE to face your fear 

Here are four ways to overcome the barriers to achieving your goals: 

1. Defusion- Observe your thoughts, rather than get caught up in them. Notice and observe them rather than immediately accept them as truths.

2. Acceptance of discomfort: Accept that change naturally brings with it unpleasant feelings. Drop the struggle against it and make room for unpleasant emotions. Notice how the unpleasant emotions come in waves. They will peak and then wash away. 

3. Set Realistic goals: If you lack skills, set goals around obtaining them. If your goal is too big, break it down into smaller chunks. If you lack resources, brainstorm how you will get them. 

4. Embrace values and connect with what matters to you about this goal. Is it truly meaningful? Is it aligned with your values? Is it truly important to you? Aim to engage in things that move your life forward the way you wish to go. 

After finishing this article, have a go at setting a SMART goal for yourself.