January is prime time for new beginnings. Every December we imagine new resolutions for the New Year. And this time we swear it will be different – this year we will actually keep our resolutions!
But every year, it’s the same story. We start off strong, and with each passing week we lose focus and motivation. By summer, we’ve all but forgotten about our resolutions. Then in December we’re right back where we started the previous year – promising that the next year really will be different this time!
I’m no stranger to making lofty goals, losing interest in them, and abandoning them altogether. I have been going through this cycle since I was old enough to understand what a New Year’s Resolution is.
That is, until recently.
A little over a month ago, I stumbled upon a completely different way to think about goal planning. I immediately put it into action, and I promise you, it is an absolute game-changer!
In this post, I am going to teach you how to set and achieve your goals for REAL this year, and every year after!
Disclaimer: Some links in this post may be affiliate links. This means that if you purchase something through that link, I get a small commission, at no extra cost to you.
How to Set Your Goals
The new method to goal setting that I recently learned was through Rachel Hollis, a motivational speaker and entrepreneur. I came across this gem while listening to her podcast, and tweaked it a bit to make it more tangible. Let’s dive in!
Define Your Long-Term Vision
Goals are much easier to stick with when they are intentional as opposed to goals you randomly decide you want to accomplish.
To create intentional goals, we have to be more future-oriented than we usually are. Instead of deciding where we want to be in one year from now, we should think about what we want our lives to look in 10 years from now.
First, grab a pen and a notebook. Next, start imagining what you want your life to look like in 10 years. Don’t hold back!
Start writing it all down. A few notes here:
- Do NOT type. Handwriting slows your brain down, allows you to be more thoughtful, and helps you to remember what you’re writing.
- Don’t write this in future tense. Write it in present tense, as if it is your life now.
- Again, don’t restrict yourself. If something pops into your head that you think is ridiculous or impossible, write it down anyway. Don’t you dare scale back, girlfriend!
Write down every detail of this life that you can dream of – the type of car that you drive, the types of friends you have, your relationship status, where you live, what you live in, how you dress, what you look like, how you feel when you wake up in the morning and when you go to bed at night.
Write down what a typical day is for you. Write down how you serve others, what your career is (if you even have one!), and the types of vacations you go on. Anything and everything!
Your dream life in 10 years is what you are going to work toward for the next 10 years. I don’t want to hear excuses that it’s impossible. You are perfectly capable of achieving it. Got it? Good.
Break Your Long-Term Vision Down into Dreams
We’re not stopping here though. Knowing what you’re working toward over the next 10 years is a great starting point, but boy does it feel overwhelming!
What you need to do now is dissect your future life into smaller dreams. To illustrate what I mean I’m going to share a piece of what I wrote down for my future dream life:
I have an amazing relationship with my husband and we have been married for 12 years. I have strong and close relationships with my two boys. I have a close knit group of girlfriends who are funny and down to earth. We get together once a week and laugh until we cry every single time. I am a successful blogger and we are 100% debt-free.
That kinda feels like a lot to accomplish! So, I broke them down into these smaller dreams to make it more manageable:
- I have an amazing relationship with my husband.
- I am very close with my sons.
- I have a small group of reliable and genuine girlfriends who truly care about me, and I for them.
- I own and run a blog that brings in $1m annually (I told you – dream BIG!)
- I have paid off all of our debt, including our mortgage.
Your list of dreams will probably be very long (if it’s not, then you’re not dreaming big enough!). Don’t let it scare or discourage you. Think of it as exciting!!
Prioritize Your Dreams
At this point, Rachel suggests picking the 10 dreams from your list that are most important to you. The idea is to work toward one dream every year for the next decade.
This is where we deviate. 😉
Instead of picking the 10 dreams that are most important to you, review your dreams and prioritize them as best as you can.
The first dream that you pick to work on should be the backbone to accomplishing the rest of your dreams. For me, that is having an amazing relationship with my husband. Our relationship is the foundation on which all of the other dreams are built. If we don’t have a great relationship, or if our marriage ever fails, it will be really difficult to bring my other dreams to fruition.
Besides, I like the guy – I’d like to keep him around!
For you, your backbone dream may be paying off your school loans so that you have money in the future to invest in a business. Maybe it’s getting yourself to a healthier state so that you’re in a better place physically and mentally to continue to work on all of your other dreams.
Whatever it is, that is the first dream you’re going to work toward. In fact, it is the ONLY dream you are going to work toward until you’ve achieved it.
Work on One Dream at a Time
One of the biggest takeaways from Rachel Hollis’ podcast is that we should only work toward one dream at any given time. She explains why with a story something like this:
We all agree that we have a finite amount of energy everyday. We need to recharge daily at some point.
Now imagine that you have 3 balls on a field. You push one ball forward, then the second, and then the third.
You continue to do this throughout the day. By the end of the day you’re exhausted. You feel discouraged when you look back at how far you’ve pushed the balls. You didn’t get them nearly as far as you wanted to.
After a period of time, you burn out and give up.
Now imagine that you are starting with only 1 ball instead of 3. All of your energy is going into pushing that one ball across the field. You’re still tired at the end of the day, but not as much because you haven’t been bouncing back and forth between balls.
On top of that, when you look back and see how far you pushed the ball, you feel exhilarated! And the same goes for the next day, and the next, and the next.
It’s the same story with your dreams. It just won’t work if you’re trying to tackle too much at once. You’ll drain yourself out and lose motivation.
So again, friend – one dream at a time.
Think about and decide on the first dream that you are going to give your all to. Everything else goes into maintenance mode. We’re still going to put our efforts into all other areas of our lives, like our jobs, families, friends, etc. But any extra energy, time, passion? It’s all going to that ONE dream.
Create Goals That Support Your Dream
So we now have the dream that we’re going to work on first. And although it’s just one small piece of our dream life, it may still feel overwhelming. That’s because we need a plan, or a roadmap, that will guide us in achieving that dream.
Have you heard of SMART goals before? If you have ever worked in Corporate America, then you most certainly have. And you’re also probably cringing right now (I know I am!). But I gotta admit, there’s something to it!
SMART stands for:
- Time Bound
We’re going to turn in our dream into SMART goals with tangible actions that will drive us to accomplishment.
How to Achieve Your Goals
Determine Your Goals
To determine what your SMART goals should be, think about your dream and the critical steps you need to take to get there. If your dream is to be debt-free, one of your goals could be to pay off the credit card with the biggest balance. If your dream is to live a healthy lifestyle, a goal could be focused on losing weight.
Make Them Specific & Measurable
Making your goals specific keeps you motivated and focused. For instance, if you set a vague goal of “lose weight”, you’re not truly focused on what you’re working toward and what success looks like. You could lose 2 pounds in 2 months and technically have hit your goal. But is that really the progress you are looking to make? How do you know if you’re on track if you haven’t decided how much weight you want to lose?
Think about what success looks like for you when it comes the goal. If your goal is to lose weight, is success losing 5 pounds, 10 pounds, or 20 pounds? If your goal is to pay off debt, is success paying off $500, $5,000, or $50,000?
Make Them Achievable, Relevant, & Time-Bound
Your goals need to be realistic. If they’re not, you will get discouraged and give up.
They also need to be relevant to the dream you’re working towards. This goes back to putting ALL of your extra energy into ONE dream. You don’t want to be all over the place. That’s a fast way to burn out.
Lastly, your goals should be time-bound. Otherwise, you’ll lose a sense of urgency and open the door for procrastination.
90 days is an ideal amount of time to accomplish your goal. You can make the timeframe shorter as long as it’s realistic. But don’t make it longer than 90 days. And again, make sure that the specific goal you set to accomplish in that 90 day period is actually possible to accomplish within that timeframe.
For instance, if you decide to work on becoming debt-free, your goals might look like this:
- Pay off the credit card with the biggest balance by March 31st.
- Pay off all school loans by September 30th.
- Pay off 3 remaining credit cards by December 31st.
Create Actions for Each Goal
You have your overall dream and you have it broken down into more specific, manageable chunks. Now you need to break it down into actions. What do you need to do daily, weekly, and monthly to reach each goal?
Let’s look at the debt-free dream example again. What do you need to do over the next 90 days to pay off the first credit card? Actions could be paying the minimum on all other debts, putting all extra money toward that particular card, and getting a side hustle to make more money.
What a SMART Goal Looks Like
To paint the full picture, let’s go back to the first dream I’m working on – Having an amazing relationship with my husband. Here is one of the goals I created to help me get there with him:
- Become emotionally closer with Adam by 3/31/2019. Success is less arguing, quicker bounce-backs after an argument, less tension, and more affection.
- Explain this goal to Adam so we’re both on the same page and working toward the same thing – the best relationship we can possibly have.
- Have one date night every week (whether it’s out of the house or in the house).
- Text something sweet to him everyday.
- Have an honest conversation with him about what his expectations, needs and wants are, as well as what mine are.
It’s specific (become emotionally closer), measurable (less arguing, etc.), achievable (I know we love each other and can make this a reality), relevant (emotionally closer means a better relationship), and time-bound (by 3/31/19).
How to Stay Motivated and On Track
As Tony Robbins says, where focus goes, energy flows! To stay focused on your goals, you need to remind yourself everyday what you are working toward and why.
Each morning, read your long-term vision. Then write down the dream you’re currently working on, why it’s important to you, the goals you’re working on, and the associated actions. Each time you write these things down, they are cemented even more into your mind.
Each evening, review what you wrote down in the morning. Next, reflect on your day and write down where you did good and what you could have done better. By writing down opportunities for improvement, you’re taking note of what caused them and you know what to avoid in the future. By writing down your successes, you’re motivating yourself to keep working hard.
Also, by tracking your progress you can figure out what is working and what isn’t. You can re-work your goals and/or actions as needed. For instance, if I find that I keep forgetting to text my husband something sweet everyday, I may decide that a better action is to thank him for something he did that day before he goes to bed. Afterall, I know I will always talk to him before I go to bed, and that will probably be more meaningful to him than a text.
Things to Remember
Here are some helpful tips to remember as you brainstorm, create, and track your dreams and goals.
Take Care of Yourself
Unless this is a goal that you’re working on, don’t go crazy and plan to begin working out 6 days a week and doing a Whole30 when you’re not doing any physical activity and snacking on junk food all day.
Remember, everything unrelated to your goal goes into maintenance mode.
But make sure you’re doing some more basic things to keep yourself healthy and feeling good. Drink 64 ounces of water a day, get 8 hours of sleep, and try to go for a walk or get outside for 10 minutes everyday.
You’ll have more energy to give to your goals if you stay hydrated and rested.
Additionally, do something special for yourself when you’ve accomplished a goal. You’ll deserve some extra self-care after busting your butt! 😉
Don’t Wait to Begin
There is a great piece of wisdom floating around that reminds us we can start over on any day at any point in time.
We can begin working towards our goals and making life changes on whichever day we want. It doesn’t have to be a Monday, the start of the month, or the start of the New Year.
What matters is that we start.
Yes, there is something magical about the beginning of a new year. It truly feels like we are given a blank slate to start over with and we’re more than ready to start fresh.
But really, any time is a good time to start working towards something that will improve your life!
You Can Begin Again
Don’t get discouraged if you miss one of your action items for the week, or if you don’t achieve your goal within the timeframe you set for yourself. Life can be tough and sometimes we get curve balls thrown our way.
If this happens to you, take a little time to evaluate why you missed the goal, re-engineer it, and start again. Remind yourself why this goal is important and why you shouldn’t give up on it. Keep your mindset positive!
Each day is a new beginning and a fresh start!
Share your goals with someone who you will motivate and encourage you, as well as keep you accountable. If you don’t have someone personally to share your goals with you can join a Facebook group or a community group that is working toward a similar goal as yours.
Your Dreams are Fluid
Who you are today is not who you were 5 years ago. And who you will be 5 years from now is different than who you are today. Your desires and needs are going to change throughout time. Therefore, so will your dream life.
Keep a pulse on this and adjust your smaller dreams and goals as you need to. Your goals and actions can be fluid. If you find that a goal doesn’t make sense anymore or there is a better way to do something, don’t be afraid to change it up! Just make sure that you keep the new goal SMART so that you can stay focused.
Make a Vision Board
Find pictures and words from magazines that represent your dream life. Pin them to a bulletin board and hang it up where you will see it frequently throughout the day. A vision board will help you remember why you’re working so hard toward your goals. It will give you an extra push on those really hard days when you feel like giving up.
If this is your first time making a vision board, this handy vision board kit will help you create it!
Your first and most important step is to imagine and write down your ideal life in 10 years from now. This is the basis for everything else. It will help you create intentional goals designed to make your dream life a reality.
There’s no reason to wait on starting this process. I recommend you start as soon as you have some quiet time by yourself. Afterall, the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll reach your long-term vision!
Here is an outline of the overall process so that you can see high-level what you’ll be working on:
- Define and write down your long-term vision.
- Review your long-term vision and write down all of the small dreams that make it up.
- Prioritize your dreams.
- Pick one dream, the first dream on your prioritized list. Create 90-day SMART goals that will help you accomplish that dream.
- Stay motivated and focused by writing down your vision, dreams, and goals daily. Review your day before going to bed and track your progress.
- When you’ve achieved a goal, repeat this process with the next goal.
- When you’ve made the dream you’re working on a reality, move on to the next dream until you’ve reached your long-term vision!
I know that making your dreams a reality seems daunting and sometimes impossible; But I also know that you can make it happen! The process is not always easy, but it is rewarding. Every action you take will bring you one step closer to achieving your dream life. You can do this!
Pin this post so that you can come back to it whenever you need to!