7 Keys to Setting Your Goals
One of the most common reasons people avoid writing their goals down is because they don’t know where to start. They’re not sure how to do it in a way that really sets them up for success. I put together the following list, after a ton of trial and error, to help you clarify, organize, and achieve your goals with success.
1. Create Categories
It can be tempting to sit down and write a huge scrolling list of everything you want to accomplish over the next year. But it usually leaves you feeling overwhelmed and confused about what’s most important because re-creating your website is sandwiched between cleaning out your closets and getting your favorite boots fixed. Instead, start by creating the categories your individual goals will sit under. I recommend starting with three categories: yourself, loved ones, and your work. If you want, you can break it down further. For example, if you’re an actor and also run a production company, create one work category for each, which will leave you with four total categories. Starting with goal categories ensures you experience growth in each area of your life.
2. Create 10-12 Goals For Each Category.
After you define your goal categories, make a list of ten to twelve high level goals that feel most important to you in each category. It can be tempting to list smaller goals, which are actually nitty-gritty details of larger ones, but aim to pull back the camera and focus on the big picture for the next year. Ask yourself: If I could achieve only ten to twelve goals for each category this year, what would they be? That might sound like a lot, but most people end up writing a lot more than that. Keeping it to this number will ensure you don’t fall prey to The Most Insidious Form of Self Sabotage, which is putting too much on your plate. It’s also important that the high level goals you write down for this year feel achievable, in this year.
3. Prioritize The Most Believable.
You really can achieve anything you set your mind to. However, if you choose goals that don’t feel believable enough right now, it can set you back even further in the long run than setting none. For each of your goals, ask yourself: On a scale of one to ten, how believable does this goal feel right now (one being unbelievable and ten being most believable)? Make sure the goals on your yearly plan are at least a six or higher. Any goals that score less than a six can be put in the hopper for next year. They may have a higher rating after all the successes you’ve had since, due to focusing on more believable goals. It’s important to know your pie-in-the-sky vision—the big picture goals you’re working toward—so you know what steps to take right now, that will lead you there. But plan for where you are. For example, if your goal is to perform in front of large audiences, but you’ve never been on stage, start with performing for a group of three. If you want to direct feature films, but have never been on that side of the camera, make a short film first.
4. Be Specific.
Make sure your yearly goals are clear and specific. For example, say you have a goal of feeling more inspired this year. It’s a great start, but not something that’s easy to check off. I mean, would you check it off after one moment of inspiration? A hundred? Instead, use that general goal to create a more specific one. In this case, you could plan to put yourself into the situations when inspiration is most liable to strike. You could schedule two hours of “Inspiration Time” every week where you to a concert, visit a museum, see an improv show with a group of friends, or take your guitar to the lake. This kind of goal would ideally be written on your yearly goal planning sheet (2 hours of Inspiration Time a week) and then from there, you can write it into weekly goal planning sheets, which are the best way to plan your very next steps.
5. Create Renewable Deadlines.
The problem with self-imposed deadlines is that if some part of you fears not reaching it, you end up with one foot in and one foot out—part of you is planning for success and the other planning to fail. The achievement of most big goals is a process, and you can’t always predict what factors will come into play. Deadlines, especially ones that come with accountability, can be great as long as you celebrate how far you got if you don’t meet them fully and allow yourself to renew them. This cultivates a feeling of being “all-in”, no matter how long it takes. It’s like telling yourself: No matter how long it takes, I’m not stopping until I reach my goal. That attitude is exactly what it takes to succeed.
6. Create Yearly, Monthly, and Weekly Plans.
It’s best to start by creating your yearly goal plan, and then break your goals down further by month and week as the year unfolds. If you just have a yearly plan, you’ll likely feel overwhelmed and won’t know what to focus on day by day. Choose one of your yearly goals and break it down into bite sized steps for the month you’re in. For example, if one of your yearly goals is to re-create your website, one of your monthly goals might be to research other websites and get clear about what you do and don’t like. If you have a yearly goal of getting into great shape, this month you might sign up for a kickboxing class. When you break your goals down yearly, monthly, and weekly, it’s easy to focus on what’s in front of you while also knowing it’s advancing you in terms of the big picture. This eliminates the energy drain of constantly wondering: Am I doing what I’m suppose to be doing?
7. Celebrate Your Successes.
Start each of your yearly, monthly, and weekly goal plans with a brief of what you appreciate having already accomplished from the previous plan. It’s really energizing when you’re working toward your goals to remember how far you’ve already come. It switches your mind to focus on what you appreciate about your progress and makes you feel successful. It’s always easier to achieve your goals when you’re already feeling successful.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when creating your goal planning sheets, we’ve already gotten things started for you. You can download our Yearly, Monthly, and Weekly Goal Planning Sheets for free, right here. And once you get into the habit of using them, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them.