‘Tis the season for goal planning. Are you taking part? My husband and I set aside time each winter to set goals for the coming year. This has been incredibly beneficial for our marriage and family!
I wish I could say that faithfully setting goals means we consistently achieve them. Unfortunately, this isn’t how it works. Sometimes we get sidetracked and end up quite far from accomplishing our goals.
When I take a good, honest look at our attempts to achieve our goals, I can see that there are certain factors that support our goal achievement and certain factors that undermine it. These lead me to believe that the following strategies are essential if you and I are going to reach our goals this year.
How to actually achieve goals
- Set the right goals. We’re more likely to achieve well-thought-out goals than goals that are chosen haphazardly. Consequently, many people set their goals using the SMART criteria (see below for details). I tend to bristle at using a strict formula like this, but experience tells me that I’m more likely to achieve my goals when I use a systematic approach.
- Pray. As followers of Christ, we should seek the Lord as we plan and work towards achieving our goals. Praying helps us to set goals that grow us in areas where the Lord is working. It also strengthens us as we face challenges when trying to reach our goals.
- Review the goals often. “Out of sight, out of mind” is an old adage that remains quite relevant today. If we don’t see and read over our goals often, then we don’t remember them! In order to see mine frequently, I keep a copy of them in my home management binder.
- Stay motivated. Barring impediments from situations beyond our control, most of us will achieve our goals if we have sufficient motivation. Though we often have a lot of motivation when we set goals, our motivation tends to wane over time. There are a couple of easy things we can do to stay motivated.
- Be intrinsically motivated. It is unlikely we will stay motivated if we’ve set goals to please our spouses, children, friends, or employers. We must have a personal desire to reach our goals if we are going to be successful.
- Recall why the goals are important. Our motivation snowballs when we take time to list the various benefits of achieving our goals.
- Visualize the end result. Previewing what life will be like when we achieve our goals can be a powerful motivator when we get complacent or face obstacles.
- Identify key tasks for success. Knowing how to achieve something is often just as critical as knowing you want to achieve it. This is why I include a column to document key tasks for success on our goal planning worksheet. I have a tendency to rush through this portion because I sometimes think that the goal is the only important part. I’ve occasionally fallen short on my goals because I’ve failed to develop action plans based on key tasks.
- Get accountability. Sometimes we need to grab friends and loved ones to bring alongside us as we attempt to reach our goals. When we share our goals with friends and loved ones, they can hold us accountable by asking what progress we’ve made and by challenging us to work harder. Sometimes this accountability provides the extra motivation I need to attain a goal I’ve found particularly difficult.
- Adjust goals when needed. Sometimes our circumstances change and make it very challenging or even impossible to achieve goals we’ve set. Instead of giving into the temptation to be discouraged when this happens, we can adjust our goals so they are once again relevant and achievable.
What do you think of these strategies? Do they seem helpful? How do you plan to stay on track with your goals this year?