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“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” — Leonard Bernstein

What do you want to accomplish?

If you’re like most people, you have an answer. Well, you think you have an answer. You have a fuzzy vision of a far-off future where you are happy, successful, and doing exactly what you want to — whatever that is. The ill-defined nature of most people’s aspirations is exactly why most people don’t achieve the great things they think they will.

80% of people never identify exactly what their goals and aspirations are. Of the 20% that do, even fewer bother to write them down. No wonder so few people feel they have achieved their dreams. They never even knew what exactly they wanted to achieve in the first place.

By setting definite, concrete goals, however, you can avoid this fate. Goals make you an active participant in your life. They give you a deadline and a sense of urgency about accomplishing the things you want to in your life. They force you to identify exactly what it is you want and exactly what route you think it will take to get you there.

They turn your soft-focus vision of a happy future self into a real person you can become, one successful goal at a time.

Yay! That’s a good thing. But once you’ve identified what goals you want to accomplish, creating the strategies for getting there can be tricky. Here are our top 5 tips for setting amazing, achievable goals that will help you go the long, exciting distance into the future.

  • Break big ideas down. Becoming the CEO of your own successful startup is a great goal. But if you’re not currently an executive at a business in the field where you hope to launch, you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you. Don’t make the big goal your only goal. Create opportunities for small wins and building momentum by breaking big ideas into smaller parts. Set goals like:
    • create a blog with an email list of over 1,000 subscribers
    • get a job at a tech startup to learn how one operates
    • start a monthly lecture series at your local co-working space
  • Write them down and check in. It’s easier to track progress and adjust strategies when you have concrete goals in front of you. Writing them down might feel unnecessary, but it really is a huge help. Not only are they easier to work with when you can see them right in front of you, but committing a plan to paper (or iPhone notepad) also makes it feel more real in your brain. More like something you’ve committed to. Something possible.
  • Plan for the bumps. Life gets in the way of our biggest goals sometimes. Get in the mindset now — before something gets in your way — that should something come up, this goal is on hold only, and is not something you’re quitting. Decide this before you’re stressed about a big project at work or situation with your partner; that way, when you’re in the stressful moment, you already know that a break is allowed but quitting is not. Always come back to the goal.
  • A little less conversation, a little more action. Once you’ve decided a goal to achieve, it feels amazing! But as Derek Sivers describes in his TED talk, that amazing feeling can actually keep you from achieving your goal. The more you talk about what you are going to achieve, the less likely you are to do it. So focus less on motivating yourself and staying excited, and focus more on just getting through the task at hand. Make progress, even when it sucks, and let the satisfaction of accomplishment be your reward. Don’t soak up the good vibes before you’ve done any work for them.
  • Stretch yourself. Don’t be afraid to dream big. You know the old saying: “Shoot for the moon, for even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”. Set a goal that’s a bit of a reach for you. Be honest about what you’re capable of, but don’t sell yourself short either. The more progress you make on a big goal, the closer you are to achieving it. Every small goal accomplished along the way proves you are able to do things you didn’t used to be able to. So keep thinking big.


Tags: change, goals, improvement,

2 Responses to “How to set goals for a happier life”

  1. Fred

    Breaking big ideas down is key. I’ll often try to break things down as far as possible; my general rule is that if it takes more time to do the task than to write down the todo, I’ll write it down. This can be annoying sometimes, but is effective in identifying blocking parts of the total task.

    • Kate Stull

      That’s a great point, Fred. Figuring out which parts of a task are going to be your biggest blockers up front is really helpful for laying out a good strategy for getting things done. That way you know which things you can quickly complete and set aside, and which tasks will require more focus and energy. Thanks for your comment! :)