Three Steps to Effective Goal Setting and Planning

Three Steps to Effective Goal Setting and Planning

With summer coming to a close, Fall is a great time for goal setting and planning.

Something about the shrinking days, the cooling weather, and watching the leaves lose their summer luster urges us to change and new directions.

Maybe it’s a habit left over from school days, with the smell of new pencils and new clothes indicating a new school year. Maybe it’s the squirrels dashing around with their cheeks bulging with nuts, reminding us that it’s time to prepare for winter.

Whatever the reason, for many people the importance of goal setting hits home in the fall.

As we head for Labor Day, the traditional end of summer, here are three steps to make your personal goal setting more successful.

Step 1. Decide How You Want to Transform Your Life

What do you want to work on about yourself? Get healthy? Learn a new skill? Drop a habit?

Pick something that’s important to you. If somebody else wants it for you, that may not be enough. If you think you should, it may not be enough. The key to successful goal setting and planning is to make your goal your own priority.

Step 2. Get in Touch with Your “Why”

Effective goal-setting strategies always begin with the end in mind.

Think deeply about the pain or absence you’re experiencing and how this goal will help alleviate it. If your goal is learning to play the guitar, consider how much you will enjoy making music. Develop a clear picture of what success will look like — and feel like — for you.

Some people use a vision board — a collection of images that represent success — to look at every day. Others meditate on the desired outcome. Others take a few seconds to imagine what it will be like to have finished this great thing. Use any or all of these tactics, or something else entirely, to make your goal real and present for you.

When you know your “why,” goal setting and planning becomes meaningful and helps you to keep up your day-by-day momentum.

Step 3. Make a Plan

There are a lot of great tips on setting SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for

Specific: It’s not enough to say, “I want to be healthy.” That’s too broad and all-encompassing. You’ll be overwhelmed and quit before making any progress. Pick one element of health (for now) and pursue it.

Measurable: If you don’t know your finish line, you won’t know if you succeed. “Start running” is not measurable. “Work up to running a mile per day” or “Participate in a marathon six months from now” gives you a goal to work toward and a sense of accomplishment when you get there.

Achievable: Expecting too much of yourself will set you up to crash and burn. If you’re just starting a new language, don’t expect to be reading classic literature in the original in the first six weeks.

Realistic: If you’ve set yourself a big lifetime goal, such as learning to meditate or playing a musical instrument, focus on the habit. So it’s not “learn to play the piano.” The greatest concert pianist in the world is still trying to “learn to play the piano.” Instead make it “take lessons and practice a half hour per day,” or whatever you decide. At the end, you’ll find you’ve had some ups and downs, some good days and bad days, but you’ll see encouraging progress.

Timely: Part of having a finish line is knowing “when” you’re done. There’s evidence that it takes 6 weeks to create a habit. Try making 6-week goals. At the end of the 6 weeks, reevaluate your goal. If you don’t want to continue, try something else. If it’s become part of your daily life, you can keep going or increase your commitment.

Smart goal setting and planning will help you create goals that will change your life for the better.

Building a Life of Goal Setting and Planning

Goal achievement doesn’t have to be dreary. In fact, if it is dreary, you probably haven’t picked a goal that speaks to you. Using powerful goal-setting techniques can help you improve your life by making small changes every day.

What goals will you set? :)