How to Set Realistic Goals

Have you ever made a long list of New Year’s goals only to come to the end of the year without achieving any of your goals? You’re not alone. Shirley gives tips on how to set realistic goals.

Setting goals can help you to achieve many things and can be a way to drive yourself towards a certain end-point so it is only natural to want to create a list of things you wish to change about yourself, or hope to achieve in a certain year. The key to setting goals is to set goals which are realistic, measurable and achievable.

Why Set Goals?

Ask any of the most successful people in the world if they believe in setting goals and you will discover why goal setting is vital for success. Setting goals provides you with both long-term vision and short-term motivation to achieve what you have set out to do. Working hard to achieve these goals allows you to understand what is truly important in your life and to focus your energy on what you hope to achieve in the future.

Tip: You might think that telling all your friends and family about your newly set goals may keep you accountable to achieving them right? Wrong! Watch this interesting Ted Talk on why you should keep your goals to yourself.

There is nothing wrong with setting big goals, like becoming an Olympic swimmer or buying a Porsche. However, it is important to set rational, down to earth goals. These are achievable goals which you are capable of accomplishing in a certain amount of time and goals which you are motivated to accomplish. Setting goals which you can achieve in a month or a year will keep you motivated. Similarly, setting goals you are not likely to achieve can become demoralising. Set goals which will challenge you and give you confidence when you achieve it.

Get Specific

Setting specific goals is crucial to setting realistic, achievable goals. Rather than setting goals which are vague or generalized, learn to set goals which are clear and well defined. Vague goals don’t provide sufficient direction and mean that you will not be sure what actions you need to take in order to achieve them.

For example, a vague goal may be to save ‘enough’ money by the end of the year to take a big trip. A specific goal is to save R15000.00 by the end of the year so that you know how much to spend on flights and how much spending money you will have. This goal will also allow to know exactly how much money to save each month, or how many extra jobs you need to take in order to save this amount of money by the end of the year.

Remember, your goals are there to facilitate your growth- be excited about them rather than frustrated. Make it as easy as you can to achieve your goals by defining precisely where you want to end up.

Set Precise Times and Dates

When setting realistic goals, it can be helpful to give yourself precise dates, amounts and times so that you can measure your degree of success. If your goal is to “spend less money on coffee” how will you know if you have been successful? Rather, set a goal to only buy one coffee a day for a month. Or to only have coffee at home for a month.

Perhaps you hope to save money for a big trip. Set yourself an amount of money you hope to save by the end of the year. If you do not set a way to measure your success you will not be able to celebrate when you know you have achieved something.

Write Your Goals Down

Setting goals you are excited to achieve means you need to write your goals down, somewhere you can see them daily and make a commitment to achieving these goals. Rather than having a vague goal in your mind, which you are likely to forget, write your goal down so that you make the commitment real and tangible. When writing out your goals, frame your goals positively. Rather than setting a goal to “lose weight” set a goal to get fit, healthy and happy. By framing your goals in a positive light, you are more likely to be positively motivated to achieve them.

Get Real

Once you have defined your goals, written them down and decided on a time frame in which to achieve your goals – it’s time to commit. Committing to your goals might mean adjusting your behaviour in order to facilitate achieving your goals. This will, in the long run, ensure that you achieve everything you set out to do.

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Goal setting takes practice! Don’t be disheartened if you don’t immediately achieve all the goals you set out to achieve. It is important to be positive and to set goals which excite you! A good way to start setting realistic and manageable goals is to set three daily goals and work as hard as you can to achieve these small goals or tasks.

Barack Obama believes this:

“…the best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” 

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