Personal goals are serious commitments to start or stop doing something — particularly things that help or hinder your personal growth and progress.
Personal coach Aja Edmond explains how to set more effective life goals (plus provides a complimentary offer at the end of the article).
Goal-setting, particularly at the top of the new year, is alluring because it has deep roots. Setting personal goals can be dated back to the traditions of Western religions.
From the ancient Romans to modern Christians, people have been making annual promises or sacrifices to their deities for thousands of years in hopes of being blessed with favor and prosperity.
Nowadays, regardless of creed, setting goals is seen as a personal development tool that allows you to live with intention.
Yet, no matter if at the beginning of or throughout the year, most people forget about or abandon the goals they’ve set before they even really get started.
In fact, research shows that almost 90% of goal setters fail.
That’s because they set goals that are vague (“I need to lose weight”), absent of a plan (“I want a better job”), or not in their power to control (“I’m going to fall in love”).
You also have those who fail because they set too many goals (“I’m changing everything about my life”).
So before you fall into the same trap of making empty goals that are impossible to achieve, here’s a simple and more effective approach that will set you up for success.
Develop a personal growth plan
A personal growth plan is a comprehensive process designed to help you develop your personal values and life vision.
Knowing what you care most about and being purposeful in your pursuits is the best way to obtain enduring happiness.
To be happy you must manage your external environment and internal outlook in ways that positively influence your sense of self and contribute to your ability to thrive.
A personal growth plan provides a roadmap for accomplishing this. Without this overarching roadmap it is difficult to live intentionally and feel content.
You are more likely to flounder in life by half-heartedly running after random goals that are disconnected from your personal needs and desires.
Before making any personal goals, your first step should be investing the time in finding yourself — understanding what increases your feelings of self worth and learning how to make decisions accordingly.
Set goals in line with your life vision
After working through your personal growth plan, you’ll have crafted a clear purpose and you’ll understand how each area of your life (from health and relationships to career and finances) contributes to this vision.
When making your personal goals you want to be cognizant of whether they’ll improve or detract from your ability to pursue your vision. The best way to do this is to use a wheel of life.
The wheel of life is a tactical self improvement tool that helps you regularly evaluate your core life themes and determine if one or more needs attention, particularly if they disproportionately hinder your progress.
No matter if your personal goal is to lose ten pounds or launch a small business, you should always link it to a specific theme and understand how that theme contributes to your purpose.
Assess how realistic your goals are
Once you create your wheel of life and set goals for one or more themes, it’s time to assess how realistic they are and make any necessary adjustments.
There are three important questions you should ask when analyzing each of your goals.
IS IT WITHIN YOUR POWER TO CONTROL?
Harboring unrealistic expectations is a sure way to feel unhappy and disappointed in life, so it’s important to craft goals that are practical.
For instance if you are a single man or woman, setting a personal goal to fall in love this year will do nothing but set you up for failure.
That’s because this is an example of a goal that, although it could happen, is completely outside of the realm of what you have the power to control.
Instead, fully acknowledge your desire to fall in love then make a resolution to go out on more dates each month.
Then put a plan in place for making that happen, such as setting up a profile on an online dating app, to increase the likelihood that you’ll meet a viable partner.
In other words you have the right to harbor lofty desires but your goals should be the measurable, incremental tactics that empower you to do something about it.
As Harvard Business School psychologist Amy Cuddy discusses “the biggest mistake a lot of people make in setting goals for themselves is that they focus only on the outcome, not the process.”
The Free Minimalism Library
Start streamlining your life, style and self-care with our free online course and resource library.
IS THERE A CLEAR PATH TO ACCOMPLISHING IT?
Speaking of process, once you establish a clear and realistic resolution you need a system in place for accomplishing it.
Some may even argue that systems are more important than goals themselves, as Scott Adams, serial entrepreneur and creator of the Dilbert comics, reports.
A system is a routine. It’s what you must do on a consistent basis to reach a particular outcome.
And even if you don’t achieve the personal goal you’ve set, the system is designed so that you still win by committing to the process.
For example, your goal may be to building businesses that help people develop themselves.
Your system is the daily routine you put in place so that you consistently generate high-quality and useful ideas and insights for your customers.
Even if you don’t reach the exact milestones you’ve set for your ventures, sticking to the routine may still enable you to make a solid living by positively impact the lives of others.
So, in summary, when setting your personal goals, remember that it comes down implementing a system that supports it.
WILL YOU ENJOY WORKING ON YOUR GOAL?
According to Harvard Business Review, what separates goals you achieve from goals you don’t is enjoyment and immediate benefit.
Setting a goal is the first step toward achieving the delayed outcomes you want.
Yet, forgoing immediate outcomes or daily pleasures can undermine these goals.
By making the experience more rewarding in the moment, you’ll have a better chance at success.
Many of your goals are likely to be things you must continually work on for future gain.
That means the gratification you expect to garner from accomplishing them will be delayed.
However, as this Harvard study states, it’s hard to follow through on long-term goals when you don’t enjoy the process — no matter how important they may be to you.
To increase persistence you must seek and see the positive benefits that you can garner immediately.
Associating pleasant moments and enjoyable experiences with your goals will improve the likelihood of you obtaining them.
Your dedication to your life vision is the most important thing you need to set effective personal goals.
This will help you be more consistent and efficient than making disjointed personal goals that don’t connect to a higher purpose.
More importantly, it ensures you live a purposeful life: not one comprised of one-off goals that you may or may not achieve, but a life based on values that give you enduring happiness regardless of outcomes.