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Have you ever asked someone how they’re doing and they respond by saying, “you know, same stuff, different day”?
Or have you ever had that response yourself?
To me, this common answer signals that you’re not getting what you want out of life, you’re on autopilot, and you don’t have a clear sense of direction regarding where you want to go.
If you often feel like you’re working hard but not getting anywhere, then you may need to improve your goal-setting skills.
Setting goals is a powerful process of imagining your ideal future and then motivating you to turn this idea into a reality. By having a precise idea of the things you want to accomplish, you will have a better sense of direction when you’re choosing where (and where not) to concentrate your efforts.
Once you’re equipped with your long-term objectives coupled with your short-term motivation, you can organize your time and resources in a way that will help you reach your goal.
So what exactly is a goal?
Any time you’re planning for the future, you’re setting a goal. This could be something that seems insignificant in the grand scheme of your life (cleaning the house after work) or it could be something that will be very impactful (returning to school to get your master’s degree). No matter how small the task is that you’re setting out to do, you’ve created a goal.
The minute you’ve set a goal, you have changed from being in a passive state to being actively involved in an area of your life.
However, it can’t stop there. You need to set goals in a range of areas of your life in order to be well-rounded and ultimately feel fulfilled. Consider these high-profile components in your life: your career, finance, health, leisure, organization, relationships, and spirituality.
If you set goals in all seven of these areas, not only will you feel a sense of purpose and progress, but you will also be able to take control of your life and accomplish the things that you want for yourself. (Learn how to write a life purpose statement.)
In this article, I am going to talk about the importance of setting goals in all areas of life, but first, let’s talk about an effective goal-setting method.
Surely you’ve heard of SMART goals by now, but have you come across the idea of SMARTER goals yet? In order to create an objective goal, it has to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Then, you must be able to Evaluate your process and Readjust for the future.
About ten years ago, my goal was to become a runner.
But after running for a bit, I asked myself, “Am I a runner yet?” And if so…”Now what?”
Sure, I could run one mile, and then two, and then three…but had I reached my goal?
I guess the answer to that question is subjective. But, if I had made a SMARTER goal, I would have known exactly when I had reached my goal and I would be positioned to create my next goal. Here is what my goal should have looked like:
Within the next 6 weeks, I want to be able to run 3 miles at a 6.5 pace without stopping.
Then, whether I achieved that goal or not, I would go back and evaluate the goal (should it have been 4 weeks? 8 weeks?) and see if I needed to readjust my goal-setting method for my next goal.
RELATED: 21 Examples of SMART Goals
Want to set goals you can actually achieve? Then watch this video that provides a quick overview of SMART goals with 21 examples.
7 Areas of Life to Set Goals For
Let’s look at the 7 areas of your life in which it is important to set goals.
1. Career Goals
The average person spends 90,000 hours working during their lifetime–so this is a critical area of your life where fulfillment is key. This is a part of your life where you need to break down your large goal (such as becoming a lawyer) into much smaller goals. Make a career plan and then write down the short-term activities that you need to do in order to fulfill that plan.
For example, if you want to ultimately become a lawyer, some short-term goals associated with that would include learning, developing skills, practicing, gaining experience, and obtaining all of the necessary degrees.
Each one of these short-term goals then breaks down into several tasks. When it comes to learning, you may set out to talk to three experienced lawyers within the next week to create a list of recommended books to read, well-known cases to examine, seminars to attend, etc.
As for developing skills, make a goal to set aside at least 30 minutes per day to work on your problem-solving skills. During this time, you can read books on lateral thinking, practice the five whys technique (which can lead you to build a continuous improvement habit), or work toward developing a solution-oriented mindset (which includes being objective, developing a plan, being creative, and being flexible).
The point is that every step to achieving your ultimate goal of becoming a lawyer will involve a lot of mini-goals that can all be celebrated as they’re accomplished so you can stay motivated and feel like you’re making progress.
It is then up to you to follow your career plan. You will find it’s necessary to review and update your plan as you go along. Perhaps you will run into roadblocks or need to switch up some activities that aren’t necessarily working for you. This is part of the evaluating and readjusting phases of SMARTER goals that are important when you’re setting out to build a career for yourself and throughout your life-long career journey.
2. Finance Goals
Setting financial goals is a critical part of becoming financially secure. Without making specific goals, you are at risk of being reckless with your money. This can lead to problems when you face unexpected expenses or are ready to retire.
Reviewing your financial goals each year and updating them as needed will help you track your progress from the previous year and stay in a secured financial state that will allow you to eliminate the stress that’s involved with life’s unavoidable expenses.
When it comes to your finances, it is important to make short, mid-term, and long-term goals. Setting short-term goals will provide you with the foundational knowledge that you must have in order to meet your long-term goals. Creating a budget and setting a goal amount of money to have in an emergency fund within the next 6 months is a good place to start. When you sit down and look at your income versus your expenses, you may be surprised at how much money you’re spending (or wasting) in a certain area of your life. Track your spending and make goals to pay off any debt in X months.
Once you’ve gotten your finances in order and you’re making more than you’re spending each month, you can start on more moderate goals such as paying off student loans or buying life or disability insurance. Or, you may make a goal to buy a house within the next year. Your moderate goals will incorporate your vision for your future a bit more. Maybe you want to renovate your kitchen or buy a vacation home one day–these are things to keep in mind when considering your mid-term financial goals.
For your long-term financial goals, you really want to be thinking about retirement. What will it cost each year for you to live the life that you want to live? What age do you want to be when you retire? What strategies can you use to increase your retirement savings? These are all things to consider when you’re making your long-term financial goals, and it’s often a good idea to consult with a financial advisor of some sort to give you some guidance on these decisions.
While you may not make stable progress when it comes to meeting your financial goals, the important thing is to be consistent with your efforts. You may have to readjust your plan if you lose your job or are hit with a high medical bill, but as long as you get back on track, you will still be making progress toward your financial goals.
3. Health Goals
Making health goals is a critical part of living a long and full life–and it is important to realize that there are a lot of factors that go into your overall health. You have to set goals for your physical health, your eating habits, your stress level, and your life’s balance.
You must first evaluate where you are right now in all of these areas of your overall health and then determine where you want to be. Maybe you want to lose 50 pounds or stop eating fast food or even spend one day a week “unplugged” from all technology so you can rest.
Start by considering your current physical health statistics, your sleeping and exercise habits, your fitness level, your eating habits, your emotional wellbeing, any illnesses that run in your family, and any bad habits you may have (such as smoking or drinking).
Look at the areas that could use some improvement and do some research on the topic in order to create some effective goals. Making a goal of losing 50 pounds in one month is neither realistic nor sustainable–let alone healthy–and with the proper research, you won’t make a goal like this that will not last.
Doing your research will also help you have realistic expectations. For example, if your goal is to quit smoking, you may learn that it could take up to three months for your cravings to go away. With this information in hand, you can be more mentally prepared to fight that battle.
If you’re able to objectively look at where you are versus where you want to be in regards to your health, you will be positioning yourself to live a longer and more comfortable life.
4. Leisure Goals
Without leisure goals, you may be setting yourself up to lead a pretty boring life when you’re not at work. Your leisure activities play a large role in benefitting both you and your community. Participating in leisure activities gives you an opportunity to focus on your skills, hobbies, and passions while also possibly engaging with your community in some way. Whether you’re playing in a local softball league or you’re a spectator at the professional football game near your city, having leisure goals is an important part of living a well-rounded life.
While everyone may have their own definition of leisure, the one thing that is always true is that a leisure activity is one of your choosing. Participating in a leisure activity not only enriches your life, but also gives you the chance to learn new skills. These activities are also effective stress reducers and present you with the chance to meet other people who share your interests.
One leisure goal that you may have is to try something new once a month. The best way to find out what you like is to explore new activities–even ones that you never thought you would be interested in. By doing this, you will end up engaging in activities and doing things that may surprise you by allowing you to demonstrate skills that you didn’t know you had. In turn, this will help boost your confidence and self-esteem. You can take pride in your accomplishments and continue to make goals to improve upon your craft.
One leisure activity that I have created goals around for myself in the past is reading. I love reading, but I have very little time to dedicate to it. But, when I set a goal to read one book per week, I find myself making time to dedicate to this leisure activity, which helps me have more of a balance in my life. Every book that I choose to read offers some sort of lesson or new perspective on life, which adds to my continual personal growth.
No matter what leisure activities you enjoy, you can create concrete goals to ensure you dedicate the time to participate in the things that you enjoy and that you find fulfilling.
5. Organizing Goals
If your life or surroundings are in disarray, chances are that you are living in a constant state of stress. You can help yourself stay on track with organizing goals so you can get your life in order and ensure that it stays that way.
An example of an organizing goal that I have found helpful is to spend 3 hours per month purging my house. This includes decluttering my garage, my closet, my kitchen, my office, my living room, my car–any space where I spend a lot of time and things begin to accumulate. I’ve also found it helpful to maintain a calendar to ensure I remain on schedule with my organizing goals and to help organize my daily life.
Think about a physical area of your life that evokes stress. Do you walk into your disastrous living room and think to yourself, “I have so much to do” because all you see is chaos? Focus on these areas of your life and make specific goals to reduce the amount of stress that you’re facing. Staying organized will make every aspect of your life easier.
6. Relationships Goals
It takes a lot of work to create and maintain healthy relationships. If you’re in a relationship, your relationship goals should be shared goals that you and your partner have to improve your life together. If you’re not currently in a relationship with another person, the most important relationship to work on is the one with yourself. Until you are satisfied with who you are and you’ve become the best version of yourself, you may not be able to be the kind of partner that you want to be for someone else.
Often, couples set the goal of improving their communication. This can be done by setting time aside each week to discuss any areas of concern that each partner has. By listening to and addressing one another’s needs, you can then set objectives to meet them. For example, let’s say your partner feels left out of your life outside of your relationship. Ask your partner what it would look like to them to feel included. This may be going to the gym together or touching base at lunch time every day. Make concrete plans to fill this gap.
Or, maybe you have the goal to stop arguing about money. If this is the case, sit down and agree upon an objective and firm budget to remove any room for error or questioning. Whatever the issue is that’s standing in your way of having a peaceful relationship, find a way to resolve it. Making a goal with a specific action plan to stop repeating the same argument can help you problem-solve as a team.
7. Spirituality Goals
It is not uncommon to go with the flow of life, forgetting the importance of spirituality. Some follow others in their community by going to church, reading scripture, and praying at specific times. Others wander through life aimlessly, asking questions without determining an answer.
By setting spiritual goals, you can work toward a better life as you find your own path toward self-actualization while living in compliance with your personal values. No one can make your spiritual goals for you due to their highly individualized nature, but one thing you can do to start setting these goals is to explore your own beliefs. Think about the big questions that you want answered, like what is the purpose of your life? Do some research, reflection, and meditation to try to set you in the right direction. Keep a record of your thoughts and feelings as they evolve.
Once you do this, you can make concrete plans to incorporate spiritual practices into your life. This can be as small as doing acts each day that relate to your spirituality. Incorporating spiritual practices will help you create a habit of practicing your spirituality and living the life that you believe is right to live.
Some examples of spiritual goals are to learn forgiveness, performing random acts of kindness, and always being honest. These are the intangible parts of your character that define who you are and how you live your life. You will see a great change in your satisfaction with life once you start working toward your spiritual goals–whether your spiritual goals are simple or they take a lot of work.
Like all of your other goals, you can re-evaluate your spiritual goals to keep track of your progress. Keep in mind that change won’t occur overnight, but if you make small steps toward a larger change, you will eventually work up to achieving your goals.
Setting goals is important for deciding what you want to get out of life, distinguish what is important to you from what’s ultimately irrelevant, becoming motivated, and building confidence as you achieve your goals.
Set your larger goals first and then break them down into smaller goals that will help you ultimately get to where you want to be. (Choose the best goal setting app to help you succeed.)
Review your goals on a regular basis to ensure that you’re staying on track or to determine if your goals have changed with time and you want to reevaluate them. And remember, when you meet a goal, make sure to celebrate appropriately.
Start setting goals if you don’t already do so. As you do this, you will find more excitement, fulfillment, and a greater sense of personal satisfaction with your life.
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.
Connie Stemmle is a professional editor, freelance writer and ghostwriter. She holds a BS in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her 4-year-old daughter, running, or making efforts in her community to promote social justice.