The idea of setting goals for what we would like to accomplish and doing our best to achieve these goals is an essential part that makes us human. The way to reach the goals we set may not go smoothly or seem easy; however, having goals, no matter how big or modest, is a part of why life is satisfying. It provides us with an understanding of purpose and direction, guides us towards the direction we would like to travel, and keeps us engaged and interested in a great way for our lives’ overall well-being.
Around 2000 years ago, Aristotle said, “Well begun is half done.” In the case of goals, he’s correct (as Aristotle seems to have been on numerous things). Becoming aware of how we set our goals will help us become more likely to accomplish them. And achieving them will make us feel happy about our lives and ourselves.
Where to begin?
- Decide. Make a list of things you’d like to accomplish or strive towards. It doesn’t matter what, so it’s something that you’d like to do, most likely something you’re intrigued by or inspired by. It should be something that you would like to do for your own reasons and not to benefit the sake of someone else or something else. It can be a large issue or just a little thing, and sometimes it’s easier to begin with, something that is small. It is also helpful when it’s an extra bit more than you’re currently able to accomplish goals that push you can be a great motivator!
- Note the goal down. Carefully. By writing down our goals, we increase the likelihood of us sticking to the goals. Write down how you’ll feel when you’ve achieved your goal and the date you’d like to achieve it. Think about what it will appear like and how you will feel after achieving it? What relates to what or who you are within your own life? Your goal should be described in specific terms and timeframes, e.g., “I’d like to plant some peas, carrots, and lettuces in the vacant patch of my garden towards this time next May’ instead of “I’d like to learn gardening.’ Your goals should be written according to what you’d like to achieve instead of what you don’t wish for. Example: ‘I want to be able to play French horn‘ again instead of I don’t want to be an amateur musician.’
- Let someone know. The act of telling someone we trust about our plans will also increase the chances of us sticking to these goals.
- Break your goal down. This is crucial for large goals. Consider your smaller objectives that can be steps along the path to reaching your larger goal. Sometimes our bigger goals are vaguer; for example, “I want to become healthier. By breaking them down, we can be more specific. A smaller goal could be to run more often or be in a position to run through the park for 20 minutes and not stop”. Make a list of your goals for the smaller ones and try to establish dates for them to achieve them. A few goals make each one a little more manageable and provide us with the feeling of having achieved our goals as we go along as well as making it more likely to stay on track towards our ultimate target.
- Make your first move. A fabled Chinese proverb states, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” If your aim isn’t to travel 1000 miles, contemplating the first step of the path will help to start. Even if you’re not sure how to begin, there’s no reason to be discouraged that your first step may be to look up ‘how-to,’ ‘ online’ or think of someone who might be able to help or take a look at a book about the subject from your library. Think about the following step.
- Continue to work. Achieving our goals can be challenging and sometimes frustrating, so it is important to keep going. If you’re taking a step that isn’t working, try thinking of another option to move you forward, even just a small amount. If you’re having trouble and need help, ask your friends to suggest what you can do. They might help you think of another way. Thinking about various ways of achieving our goals can make it more likely that we’ll achieve them. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break and review the goals you wrote down before starting. If you’re required to change the goal, that’s fine too. You can then think about an easy subsequent move…
- Celebrate. If you achieve your goal, be sure to take the time to appreciate the moment and acknowledge those who helped you. Consider what you learned and enjoyed along the process. Now, consider your next project or goal is it?