How to Come Up With Solid, Reachable Goals

Hey everyone!  Liz here!

The major theme of this blog is personal development through setting goals.  Everything that is posted on this blog is a result of goals I’ve set for my personal development.  Everything I’ve done over the last several months has been a result of goals I’ve set for myself and using journaling as a key tool to reach those goals.

No, I didn’t become famous or rich or anything, but I’ve absolutely improved my quality of life and am happier and more productive as a result.  I’ve changed old habits, created new routines, begun new hobbies, lost weight, learned new skills and gone to new places.

It all started with a journal entry in December of 2017 where I outlined three things that I wanted to try to do – lose weight, take photos, have a clean house.

I talk more about these things and the entire journaling process in an upcoming blog post so I’m not going to go into that right now.  I’m writing this post to help you figure out what your goals should be.

In order to take the most advantage of this post, you’ll need something to write on.  Preferably your journal but a notebook or a simple piece of paper will do.  You just need a place to write out your thoughts.

You’ll want a peaceful place to do this.  Somewhere quiet where no one is going to come disturb you.  You might want a hot or cold drink to sip on, some nice music to listen to (or not, if it distracts you), whatever is going to let you think deeply and introspectively.  Candles might help, a cozy blanket, whatever.

Once you’ve gotten settled in, think about where you want to be in six months.  For the first couple of goals, don’t go insane.  Don’t be like, “I’d like to be the president of the United States” or “I’d like to own a private airplane.”  Six months is clearly not a rational amount of time to be able to reach those goals (unless you’re a millionaire in which case you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog).

Seriously now.  Where would you like to be in six months?  Six months is actually a really long time!  You can get a lot of things accomplished in six months!

You can train for a 5k in six months.  You can learn to play simple songs on the guitar in six months.  You can lose at least ten pounds (probably more) in six months.  You can read a lot of books in six months.  You can visit at least three new places in six months.  You can learn how to cook some delicious meals in six months.  You can learn how to dance in six months.  You can start several new hobbies in six months.

Truly, honestly, one of the best things about life is that you can make whatever you want to out of it.  It doesn’t matter how old you are or how hard something seems, you can learn to do something at any point in time, you just need to start.  So choose something you’re interested in!

Once you have three or four solid goals that you are interested in, take some time to consider why you want to do these things.

This is actually the hardest part.

Your reasons to do something should not be based on other people’s feelings.  You should not want to learn to play the ukulele in order to impress other people.  The likability of the ukulele is subjective and if your goal is to impress people, you’re going to constantly be working to impress people, some of whom just will not be impressed.  Rather, a better reason would be something like, ‘to learn a new skill’ or ‘to make beautiful music’ or ‘to be more creative’ because these are things that enrich your life, you are in control of them, and they are not based on other people’s emotions.

Here’s another example.  Let’s say you want to learn how to dress better and build a more professional/adult/quality/insert adjective here wardrobe.  Your reason why should not be ‘so that people like me better’ or ‘so that people will think I look good’ but rather something like ‘so I feel more comfortable in my clothing’ or ‘so that it is easier to dress in the morning’ or ‘so that I feel more confident’.  The first two examples are based on other people’s fickle, subjective, oft-changing emotions.  The last three examples have to do with things you can actually control – comfortability, ease and confidence.  (Bonus: By dressing better, people will take you more seriously.  But that’s just a side effect of your goal.  Don’t use that as a reason because some people just refuse to be impressed.)

Basically, if your reasons to do something have anything to do with the way other people feel, they are not good reasons and when the going gets rough, you’ll give up on your goal.

When I was first trying to lose weight I did so because I wanted my fiancé to think I was beautiful.  I thought, for some reason, that he would like me better if I were skinnier.  He never, ever made statements of that sort and has made it abundantly clear that he will love me no matter what size I am.  So when I made his lack of concern about my weight my motivation to lose weight it makes sense that I lost my drive after about eight months.    When the rubber met the road and it got hard, I turned to my reason for starting and realized that it wasn’t really there.  He doesn’t care about my weight, so why should I?

So I quit.

It took a few months to get back on the wagon and in that time I had to figure out why losing weight was important to me.  Long story short, I finally found better motivation and it’s been relatively smooth sailing since then.

Once you’ve come up with good reasons that are things that are directly in your control, take a few moments to figure out how you’ll know when you’ve reached those goals.

My first goal – to lose weight – was easy.  I’ll know I’m thin when the scale says 135 pounds.  That goal has since been adjusted a little bit as I try to get to 125 but I needed to start somewhere.  My reason for losing weight is so that I’ll feel more confident, prove to myself that I can do it (and therefore so can anyone else) and to learn self-control.

My second goal – to take good photos – was a little more difficult.  I am not a professionally trained photographer and there are bazillions of more experienced photographers than I but there was a simple test I could do: Enter in the county fair photography contest.  If I can place (even third!) in the county fair, I’ll feel pretty good about my photog skills.  Boom.  Now, this is highly based on other people’s opinions because a judge, at the end of the day, is someone who is looking at your art from their point of view and they might not like it as well as well as you do so it isn’t a good reason to start taking photos (winning the county fair isn’t my reason for taking photos) but it isn’t a bad goal because I’m the one who chooses which of my beautiful photos is entered in the competition.

My third goal – to have a clean house – was super easy.  My reason for having a clean house was so that I could come home to a stress free environment.  Something I can completely control.  I’ll know I have a clean house when….the house is clean.  Bam.  This third goal was more about programming a habit so that I’d have a clean living space but I also consider it a goal.

Once you have your goals, reasons and measurements for when you’ve accomplished them, the rest is completely up to you.  You have to keep going.

Figuring out your goals is the easy part.  Keeping the dedication for six months is going to be very, very difficult.  Fortunately you’ll have your reason to fall back on, but sometimes even that is not enough.  We’ll talk about strategies for that later on.

The next step is to figure out the next step.  Start small.  Don’t go out spending hundreds of dollars on new equipment that you probably don’t need right now.  Go to the library and check out some books that will help you with your goals.  Find a nearby gym or yoga studio that doesn’t cost a lot of money.  Dig out an old camera, brush off your guitar or find some tennis shoes.

Look up YouTube videos, do internet research, see what the experts advise to start.  Come up with a solid strategy for tomorrow.

And then tomorrow, come up with a solid strategy for the next day.  Then again, and again and again.

Until you’ve reached your goal.

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