Most of us know the famous saying by Benjamin Franklin:
If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.
And there is so much truth to this. No matter what we would like to do or achieve, if we don’t set goals for ourselves and work out how we can get closer to achieving them, nothing will change. We will just keep dreaming about a better life and eventually get miserable. This counts for various areas of our lives: Work and career, relationships, fitness, dealing with money etc. So how can you successfully set goals for yourself, especially if you may not even know which direction you would like to head in? I have put together five steps to make things easier for you.
1. Create a Mood Board
Recently, I read an interesting book called “Leave Your Mark” by Aliza Licht, which introduced the idea of mood boards to me. Aliza Licht works in the fashion industry, where mood boards are commonly used. The idea is to create a form of (online) collage including photos, ideas, headings and words that are important to you. In the first step of creating a mood board, you can just go crazy! Don’t think about goals yet, just try to identify what you love and what are passionate about in life. Make sure you are not rushed and have enough time to think about everything. This is the fun part of the task, so if you don’t enjoy doing this you are probably working with the wrong ideas 😉 Get inspiration and dream big!
Once you have done this, you need to give your ideas weightings. If something is more important to you than something else, it should be bigger. This means you may need to make some photos and some of the font bigger or smaller. In the end, you will have different ideas, photos and words in various sizes. Hopefully, this will now give you a good idea of what you value in life and what you would like to work towards in the future. With the basis of your mood board, you can now pick your individual goals. Remember that your mood board is not static and may require changes over time. This is completely normal since your life is moving and not static either.
2. Set a Time Frame
You have picked your goals, but how do you work towards them? Everyone can set goals, but persistence is the hard part. The first thing you need to do now is set yourself a time frame. When would you like to have achieved your goals? Every goal may require a different date. Most important about this step is being realistic. Of course, we all want to achieve our goals rather sooner than later, but if you put yourself under an immense amount of pressure it won’t work.
Sure, you will need to work hard, but you still want to enjoy your life in the meantime. Sometimes you may have to commit to a few months of very little sleep or an incredibly tough daily routine. That is fine, as long as it is not permanent. Just remember that there is no point in reaching your goals if you lose your happiness and wellbeing on the way. This would result in making steps backwards rather than forward and is the opposite of what you are looking for.
3. Come Up With Your Plan
You know your goals, you know your time frame, now you need to actually plan how you can achieve your goals. What will you need to do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis? How much time will it take? Are there other things in your life that need to be changed or arranged differently now? Come up with a calendar overseeing the time frame and create a list of steps you need to take from now on. Put the calendar and list somewhere where you can always see them and you are reminded of your goals regularly.
Again, be realistic with your individual steps and small goals in between. If you are, for example, trying to lose weight and you are expecting to lose a lot in the first month already, you will be disappointed if you don’t achieve that number. Consequently, your whole plan and commitment may collapse. Rather than putting your small goals in numbers (“I want to lose 5 kilos in three months”), create steps such as: “On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I will eat at least one meal that contains vegetables” or “I am committed to go to my gym classes regularly on Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings.”
Can you see the difference? The last two steps sound so much more achievable. Plus, you can put a tick in your calendar for achieving a point that is on your list a lot more often, which helps you to continuously feel like you are on the right track.
4. Follow Up and Be Accountable
This step is the hardest. It requires grit, perseverance and resilience. Your personality type decides how hard following through and holding yourself accountable is for you. The idea of the fourth step is to regularly check on yourself and your list to make sure you are following everything on there. You need to be honest with yourself and, if need be, correct your course as soon as possible.
One of my favourite authors, Gretchen Rubin, came up with four personality tendencies, which help us a great deal when we are looking at habits and goal setting, particularly also with this step. The four tendencies are Upholder, Questioner, Obliger and Rebel. If you are unsure which type you belong to, you can take a short test and read more about the four tendencies here.
Every personality type has their own problems when it comes to achieving goals. Luckily, there are ways of supporting each of them and making life easier for them.
5. Understand Your Personality Type
Understanding your personality type helps you be successful in reaching your goals long term.
If your are an Upholder like me, remind yourself of the big picture. While it is fine for you to follow steps because you respond readily to inner expectations, you don’t always like the risk that is involved. Not everything will always go smoothly, but your efforts and commitment will eventually pay off.
If you are a Questioner, it is fine to keep questioning, but make sure you either answer your questions yourself or you let someone else answer them for you. Why is this particular step important? Why does it make sense to take it? Similarly to Upholders, it will help you to look at the big picture of things so it is easier for you not to question every single step you are taking.
If you are an Obliger, create outer expectations you need to meet. Make appointments with a personal trainer, financial advisor or simply with a good friend once a week who you need to report to. You need to involve others in your plans to make this work.
If you are a Rebel, you will find all this extremely difficult. Step by step plans are not your thing and you need more freedom than that. But hopefully the fact that you can alter your plan as you go if needed will help you to feel less trapped. Your steps may look different than everyone else’s and that it fine. Surround yourself with people who are happy to help you. Even if you are a rebel and you like to go against expectations, you still need commitment to achieve your goals.
In summary, I hope these steps help you to define your goals and commit to a plan. All of us can achieve so much if we are serious about it. Yes, there will be some uncomfortable obstacles along the way. And some uncomfortable steps we need to take. But it will all be worth it, because it will help us lead happier lives. So let’s go out there and achieve our goals!