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There are a million blog posts on the internet and libraries full of books on how to set goals. But sometimes the books don’t do it for you. You need someone in person to help you – a friend, a partner, a business coach or a therapist. Someone I was working with recently asked me to help her set goals.
Little did she know that I love setting goals. I have set goals my entire life. I don’t remember my parents actually teaching me this skill, but they must have along the way. My first memory of setting goals was in Middle School to become a psychologist someday. I had researched the education I needed, worked out a timeline, and even an income chart for when I graduated.
If it gets written down, it will happen
Goal setting has been so effective for me that I have learned to be very careful of what I set down as a goal. Why? Because if it gets written down, it will happen. Not to get too woo-woo/spiritual on you, but I’ve learned that if it’s down on paper, it will happen even if I forget about that particular goal. Hence, the carefulness. In fact, some of my personal growth work has been around letting go of some goals when they don’t fit me anymore.
I recommend setting both short-term goals and long-term goals. Let’s talk about Short-term first then I’ll give ideas for Long-term goals. If you’re the type of person who wants to skip the blog post and go right to the meat, scroll down to get my FREE Primer.
These are the ones that get written down for the week. Every Sunday night or Monday morning, sit down and plan out your week. On the left, I write down day by day. Monday through Friday. Work gets put on there as well as routine tasks, like pick up the kids from school. I like marking things off, so this works for me.
On the right, I put down what needs to get accomplished, like Make flyer for Workshop, Get quotes to re-finance the house, Write Weekly Blog Post, etc. These are short-term goals – just for that week. Now some of them may get carried over to the next week. But try to make them as specific as possible so that they can get accomplished that week.
A common error I see people making who say they can’t accomplish goals is that they only have the end goal written down. They haven’t broken it down into components, so then nothing ever feels like it’s getting done. They feel like they’re at a standstill all the time. They feel overwhelmed and helpless. There’s a way out of this.
Let’s say you want to re-finance the house. That’s not a one week process but you know you want to have it started by one month. The first week would be
Contact three banks or mortgage brokers to get quotes.
The second week would be
Talk to partner or friend to double-check numbers
Make a Decision which one to go with.
The third week would be:
Contact bank or broker and let them know your decision.
If you break goals down, they will get done! Remember this as we move forward.
Throughout my life, I’ve set Long-term goals different ways. I’m going to share two of my tried and true favorites.
1. First method – Set birthday goals. Set the number of goals of your birthday year. Turning 35? Set 35 goals for that year. I do this instead of New Year’s Resolutions. People hear that and immediately say, “No way! I can’t set that many goals!” Yes, you can. Here’s how:
Set goals on your birthday every year.
Start large – Big, huge goals are easy to put down
Start easy – Put down something you know you can get done quickly and some things that are easy.
It’s o.k. to put down some on-going goals (these feel more like New Year’s Resolutions) like “Take kids to the beach one day a month.” These ones I mark as “Doing” or “Did last month but missed February” when I check on my goals list.
If you’re running out of goals, get specific. Break larger ones down into smaller pieces. Redecorating the kid’s room turns into five goals of Pick a paint color, Buy the paint, Paint the room, Take Josh to the store to pick a new bed. Buy the bed.
Put down what I call “No Brainer Goals.” If you have a child starting school in the fall and need to pick a school, again, break this one down. “Look at x school. Look at z school. Pick school” becomes three goals. Picking a school is not always easy, but eventually you will be able to mark this one off because you HAVE TO! He has to go to school somewhere!
2. Second method – Write out goals according to a timeline. One month, Six months, Two years, and Five years. And according to three or four areas: Personal / Health, Family, and Work / Financial.
Personally, I don’t like to do longer than five years out. I used to when I was younger, but these days so much can happen in five years that I like to leave it open for change and possibility. Whether you do 10 or 20 year goals is up to you. If you like to do it, go for it!
This is the same method that Daymond John of Shark Tank fame uses. Dave Cutler interviewed him on his Bulletproof Exex podcast. The video is below if you want to let it play while you read the rest of the blog post. Or search it up and listen to it on your phone, in your car, etc.
Four Personal Twists on Goal Setting
Before I explain this further, I don’t have just one, but I have four personal twists . . . yes, FOUR!
Write your goals in the past tense, as if they already happened.
Put emotional statements at the end of your goals
Think ahead for yourself.
Record yourself saying your goals and listen to it once a day.
Writing your goals in the past tense will make them happen! “By two years, I will have moved into my dream house” is very different than “Two years from now I will move into a dream house.” The first way, it has already happened. When you write your goals like this, they are more likely to happen.
Emotional statements are super important to keep you motivated. Look at the difference between “I will exercise 3x/week” and “I will exercise 3x/week so that I feel happier every day.” The second one is way more motivating! Another example, “By two years, I will $200,000 per year” and “By two years, I will make $200,000 per year so that I feel happier about money, can sign my kids up for whatever activity they want to do, take at least one vacation a year, invest wisely, and feel good about giving back to my community easily. I will never make less than $200,000 per year again after reaching this goal.”
Thinking for yourself in the future ensures that you don’t reach a goal and then it disappears. Try to think of what you really would like in the future. Do you want to make $200,000 per year and never make less than that again? Then write it like that!
All of us have voice recorders on our phones. Once you write out your goals, record yourself saying them. And at the end, give yourself some encouragement or make some positive statements about yourself. Tell yourself, “You are Worthy.” Say, “You can do This.” Make crowd noises and cheer for yourself. Whatever you find motivating, add it to the end of the recording.
Super Short FREE Primer on How to Set Goals
I put together a Super Short Primer on How to Set Goals for you that condenses all this information (I know – it’s a miracle. You don’t have to join a newsletter to get something! Woohoo! Of course, I would love it if you did join the newsletter below, but you don’t have to to get the Free Primer!).
Now let’s get into it.
Try to do at least three goals in every area. Write down goals you really want. Don’t put down things you’re just iffy about. Start with your one month goals, then move to 6 month, then extend out from there. Make them specific. Don’t do, “Exercise more.” Instead do
“Do yoga 30 minutes per day . . . so that I feel calmer and more centered and so that my joints and muscles continue to be strong and limber.”
“Walk twice a day for 10 minutes at a time . . . so that my numbers come down and are in a good range and so that I feel healthier and feel better.”
“Take the stairs twice a week when going to work . . . so that my heart rate increases at least twice a week which I will know is a sign that I am getting healthier and I will feel good about that.”
“Lift weights at the gym three times per week for four weeks . . . so that I feel stronger, more empowered, and more powerful in my body and my life.”
Make the goals specific and emotional. Do this for each category. Another example around kids. . . . Instead of “Spend more time with kids,” try . . .
“Play a board game with the kids once a week so that they have good memories of us spending time together and I feel good about developing those memories.”
“Take the kids to the park once a week so that we all get good sunshine and air, the kids run around and get some energy out, and so that we feel happier together and I feel good about being a mom (or dad).”
“Pick one show to watch as a family together on the couch so that we can snuggle up, laugh, and feel good about each other doing something fun together.”
“Take the kids to Disney at least once this year to grow memories of spending time and having fun together as a family. And I get to see them all excited and feel happy about that.”
Or you can do this backwards. Start with where you want to be in 5 years and work backwards from there. If you want to have two kids by 3 years from now, then you would backwards to one kid by one year and work that one backwards to your one month-6 month goal of getting busy several times per week (!) and a one month goal of researching how to eat the best and prepare your body for conception.
Some of the categories overlap, so put the goal where you feel it fits the best. Personal can be that your spouse feels truly loved every day or that can go into the Family category. Meditation, exercise, BMI can go into Health/Personal. You get to decide which category it goes into. Some people have investments separate from their Work life. Financial may be a separate category than Work for them.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at this point, pick one category and write goals for it that expire in 6 months. Health is usually pretty easy.
Choose an exercise I like and that makes me feel good
Do the exercise 3x/week so that I feel better
Add another exercise I like and do it 2x/week so that I feel like exercise is interesting and so that I feel better, so that my numbers come down and are in a healthy range the next time I go to the doctor.
Done . . . Move on to the next category.
Be careful about how you write them. So let’s say you want to make a million dollars by the time you’re 35. Write that but also add that you will make it and keep it; that you’ll never return to an income of less than one million per year; that you’ll use the money to help yourself, your family, and others or that you’ll improve the world with the money in some way while also keeping at least half to feel abundant and change your financial family tree forever for your kids. Write the goal specific enough to feel secure in it. Try to think ahead for yourself.
How to keep track of your Goals
I like to check the goal list every couple of months. Other people like to put it away and forget about it until the next year. I’ve done that too and have been surprised by what I’ve accomplished on the list that I totally forgot about (that’s why I say to be careful!).
Speaking of Writing
Don’t think this has to be written out. Do it in a format you like. For years, I kept a secret “hidden” webpage that only I knew was there and checked my list on the web (please don’t go searching for it lol!). I’ve done the list as an email to myself that I file. I have a friend that does it in art journal format. Pinterest now has hidden pages. You could do it there, visually, just as easily. You could make a video blog of your goals.
Don’t be scared to put down things you have no idea are possible. When you look back over the year, you’ll be amazed that you accomplished a goal you completely forgot about!
Final tip – Have fun with it! Get silly! Put down things you think are funny to keep you entertained.
I specialize in hypnosis, anxiety and helping adult children of toxic parents feel more stable. Subscribe to my newsletter to continue to get great tips and free content in your Inbox.