How To Set Goals and Succeed

The following post is from Sherri of Zen Family Habits:

source: Arjen van den Broek

When I first entered the work force, I remember going through typical and possible interview questions so I could be prepared.

The one question that always had me stumped was where do you see yourself in 5 years. I don’t know. Even now I don’t know that I could adequately answer that question because 5 years ago I would never have imagined that I would be where I am today.

Trying to set long-term goals is tricky. It’s tricky because our circumstances change, our desires change and our knowledge changes. I think the key is to not become so attached to where you want to be in 5 years and what that looks like in your head. Having that picture in your head and being happy along the way, enjoying the journey is key to a happy and successful life.

So what’s the point of setting long term goals when you likely won’t get there anyway? It seems kind of pointless.

Setting long term goals gives our life direction. Having goals that are off in the future allows us to live each day with a purpose in mind.

If our goal is to become debt free, we’ll think twice about eating out everyday and purchasing a $3000 entertainment center. If we didn’t even know that becoming debt free was a goal or something we wanted, then we likely wouldn’t think twice about frivolous spending.

How do we choose and prioritize goals to ensure success?

Prioritizing goals is something I think we all struggled with. There are so many things we want to do and only so many hours in a day and so much money in the bank account. Understanding what you really want and creating goals short and long term around that will be immensely helpful.

Wanting to lose weight, run a marathon, become organized, or volunteer more are great goals to have but if what you really want is to be financially independent in 10 years, time these may not be the best goals to focus on. Sometimes there’s a disconnect between what you really want (and it may not be immediately obvious) and what your actually doing or pursuing.

Here are some tips to help you decide what goals to set and how to prioritize them.

1. Begin with the end in mind.

I think this is the most important place to start. It’s tough to know what to do if you don’t know where you’re going. Brainstorm what your life looks like at various years into the future. What are your dreams, your hopes for you and for your family?

After a few minutes look at what you’ve written down and ask yourself do you really want that or is it something you know would be nice to do but you don’t really have any intention of doing it.

2. Visualization.

Visualizing is important because you get to walk through what it looks like and maybe more importantly what it feels like to when you actually achieve these goals. Using becoming debt free as an example — what does this look like and how will you feel?

First, what it looks like – Debt free is being rid of all consumer debt and only having to pay for the mortgage and normal living expenses.

Secondly imagine how it will feel – Being debt free has removed a lot of pressure, we’re not stressed as to where we’re going to get the money to pay for groceries each week and we have more money to allocate to fun. We’re less anxious and feel happier as a family.

This exercise can go the other way as well. Sometimes reaching certain goal may not make you feel any better. You won’t know for sure until you’ve actually made your way through the whole journey but a detailed and honest visualization experiment is the next best thing.

3. Create a road map.

Having a goal staring at you can seem harmless enough but sometimes the thought of getting started and not knowing what to do next can cause you to simply sit and do nothing.

Look at each goal independently and write down the absolute first step you need to take to get going. Then, write down the next actionable item you need to do and keep going until you have enough points to get going. The more detailed you can make this the better.

4. Synergize.

Overlap your actionable items wherever possible. If you have two goals – losing weight and eating better – the two pretty well go hand-in-hand. While you many not have to walk to eat healthy, purging junk food from your pantry will certainly contribute to your weight loss and help you eat more healthily.

The closer your goals are aligned with each other the easier it will be to keep moving forward as one thing will effortlessly feed into the next.

5. Get started.

We can’t reach our goals without doing this step yet it’s the most difficult for a lot of us to do. If you’ve done steps 1-4 there are no more excuses, there’s no where else to hide. Get going!

6. Re-visit.

If you’re like me and you tend to keep your head down and just do it until it’s done, this point is especially important. Just like climbing a hill if you keep your head down for too long you can potentially spend a lot of time hiking in the wrong direction.

Every once in a while lift your head and take a look around. Re-visit what your doing and if it’s still what you want to be doing. It can be really inspiring to see where you are and how far you’ve come.

What part of goal setting and achieving do you struggle with the most?

Sherri is a work-at-home mom to two young boys and has been married to her high school sweetheart, Gwynn, for 13 years. Read more from Sherri at Zen Family Habits, where she talks about all things family.
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