Whether you want to break one bad habit or restructure your entire life, the act of personal goal setting is one of the most effective ways to help you define and achieve your vision for yourself. If you don't have a clear idea of where you're going, getting there is going to be difficult, if not impossible. Use the following strategies to give yourself the best chance at success.
1. Limit Your Number of Goals
Identify what areas of your life need the most attention, then whittle the list down to something manageable. Choose a goal that will bring you the most satisfaction and will improve your quality of life the most at this point and time. Make a list of future goals and promise yourself you will tackle the other goals after you've achieved the goal you have chosen as your number one priority.
2. Examine Your Motivation
You need to be emotionally invested in your personal goal if you hope to make significant progress. Ask yourself why you want to make this change. Is it because someone else is pressuring you, or do you really want to achieve this goal? How will achieving this goal enhance your quality of life? How will you feel when you reach your goal? Write down your answers and post them someplace where you can see them daily.
3. Promise Yourself 30 Days
Commit to working on your personal goal for at least 30 days. It takes 30 days to establish a new habit or change a bad habit, so you will need to commit to focusing on your personal goal for at least that long. Promise to celebrate at the end of the 30 days-regardless of the results-just for sticking with the plan for that long.
4. Be Realistic
Realistic goal setting is more challenging than it sounds. You probably tend to either become overzealous about a goal, expecting too much of yourself, or you shoot too low, not expecting enough out of yourself. To figure out what is a reasonable personal goal for you, examine your past efforts in the area of desired change.
Determine what caused you to fail or find limited success, and build off your past experiences. Now use that information to break your main goal into realistic, achievable mini goals. For example, you can break the goal of exercising more into several mini goals. Your first mini goal might be to walk for 30 minutes each day for that first week.
Your second mini goal might be to increase that walking time to 40 minutes a day the second week. By the third week, you might decide to commit to jogging for one minute, then walking for two minutes for the entire 40 minutes of exercise. By setting goals that do not increase drastically in difficulty, you'll be much more likely to meet your goals.
5. Make Use of Goal Setting Tools
You'll need to get your goals down in writing, so find a goal setting strategy or tool that best suits your personality. You can utilize online goal setting and accountability tools, join a support group and use materials provided within the group, develop your own system or buy a calendar or desktop system. For a good description of several methods of goal setting strategies and tools, check out www.zenhabits.net, a blog written by Leo Babauta, the author of e-book "Zen to Done."
6. Rely on Goal Setting Checklists for Accountability
Accountability checklists can come in many forms. You may want a simple note card on which you can check out your achievements such as drinking eight glasses of water. You may want to use a journal so you can write out your feelings or struggles when you fail or achieve a daily goal such as smoking or eating unhealthy foods.
Perhaps you need to use a tiny notebook or a notepad on your PDA to record your daily spending habits so you and reduce your debt. Investigate the possible checklists, then commit to a system and record your daily progress. Be merciful to yourself when you fail, and celebrate when you succeed. Expect yourself to have set backs, but refuse to give up on your goal.
7. Find Tangible Ways to Measure Your Progress
Chart your progress on your computer, a wall chart, calendar or PDA and evaluate your plan weekly. If you are a visual person, print out a chart that shows exactly how you are doing. If you are socially motivated, enlist a friend to share in your daily successes and disappointments.
8. Plan for Additional Goals
Most likely you have more than one personal goal you want to achieve. Schedule out a tentative plan for the other goals you have, sketching for yourself an imaginary new you after you have tackled and achieved your goals. Dream about how much you will enjoy having more time or money or more serenity or a healthier body. As you sketch out your other goals, notice how some of your goals interact or cross over one another. Let this exercise inspire you.
9. Educate Yourself Regarding Your Personal Goals
Read books, blog posts and articles about the goal you are trying to achieve. Look for opportunities to hear from experts or people who have achieved your goal already. Fill your mind with these people's stories and advice, and let the information saturate your world. If you wish to get more organized, become an expert on what organized people do to stay that way. If you wish to climb Mount Everest, read about famous mountain climbers. Fill yourself with practical knowledge.
10. Resolve to Succeed
If you are not experiencing much progress, re-evaluate the initial plan and revise. Celebrate your month-long efforts, then start again. Commit to another 30 days with a new plan if you were unsuccessful in the first 30 days.
Keeping goal setting checklists can help you monitor what progress you have or have not made, what problems are setting you back and if you are remaining focused on your goal or not.
To learn how to set goals, you will want to engage in life goal setting exercises that will help you identify what your priorities are, what areas of your life need attention and what areas of your life are already in line with your end desires.