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How to Set Realistic Goals for a Strong Year

Have your goals failed before you got started? Fear kills dreams before they begin. Can you find the time? Is your attention, energy, and focus tied up with too many goals. In the book Unstoppable, Cynthia Kersey found that only 3% of people have goals and 1% write them down. There are countless reasons why someone fails to meet their objectives in life.

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time.” ~ Thomas Edison

Goal setting is not like throwing darts. You do not step up to the line, give the target a quick look, and hope for the best. Goal setting is a process of anticipating, thinking and synchronizing.

Benefits of Goal Setting

  • Achieve more in your life
  • Improve your performance
  • Increase your motivation and get more out of life
  • Increase your pride and satisfaction
  • Improve your self-confidence
  • Drop attitudes that may hold you back or cause unhappiness
  • Less stress and anxiety
  • Better concentration and focus

Achieving a goal is often determined before you even begin. Albert Einstein is assumed to have said you should spend the first fifty-five minutes defining a problem and the last five solving it.

Setting a realistic goal is easy. Do the analysis and understand your current situation first.

Anyone can come up with a goal. Unrealistic goals will fail. Take the time to define the goal or problem so you can solve it. Doing so reduces the ignorance of personal desire and ambition. Don’t put the cart before the horse.

Many believe Abraham Lincoln said, “If I had nine hours to cut down a tree, I would spend six hours sharpening my ax.”

By sharpening the saw, or the ax in Lincoln’s case, I am referring to the preparation in goal setting. Sometimes goal setters do not understand the preparation and skills required for the desired result. To increase the rate of success, you have to choose the right tools. Ensure each instrument your working with is sharpened for efficiency and effectiveness. It is much easier to cut a log with a sharp saw than a dull blade. The same goes for goals. Sharpen your physical and mental abilities first to increase your chances of success.

Realistic goals should stretch you enough to reach your full potential.

Challenging goals will yield better results than easy goals. People who set low goals may be afraid of failure. They chase after low hanging fruit. Easy goals do not have any power or emotional satisfaction resulting from the effort. Accomplishing easy goals will leave a feeling of emptiness. If you do not stretch, there is no personal growth and no personal gain. 

There is a delicate balance between too difficult and too easy. Your goals should be within your grasp, but you need to stretch to reach them. Set goals that are beyond your limits, so you have to push your boundaries to reach them. You begin to grow when you find yourself outside your comfort zone. Create daily task that gives you energy and encouragement to keep pressing on day after day. Realistic goals are achievable through reasonable effort.

First Define the Problem or Goal

Choosing the right goal can be harder than setting the goal. The strongest predictor of your success is setting the right goal.

Stephen Covey says it best, “First seek to understand and then be understood.”

Spend time thinking about where you are currently in life.

  1. What is your current situation?
  2. Describe your dreams and wishes?
  3. Will the changes you make better your life?
  4. Where do you want to be in a year?

Goal setting is a formal process of personal productivity planning. Keep these key points in mind when you begin.

Decide what is important to you in your life.

  • Drop the irrelevant and focus on the right things.
  • Find your motivation
  • Get small wins for more self-confidence
  • Ensure your goals are your own and not someone else’s.

Parents are to guide and influence their children. It is not uncommon for many young adults to start out trying to achieve the goals parents set for them. As they reach adulthood, they have learned to spend time planning for weekends, not their life. This behavior can last through the college years. The college environment also enables the lack of planning. Students focus on the near-term and not 5-10 year goals. There is a safety net in the parental nest and academic institutions. Once the net disappears, one finds themselves outside their comfort zone. Now, a young adult finds themselves with freedom. The power to act, think, and speak for oneself liberates you to find your life purpose. Young adults then begin to face hard decisions.

I believe children who chase after parental goals is why the attrition rate for doctors, lawyers, and engineers is so high. This demographic either drops out of school or switch careers later. Parents only want the best for their kids. So they pick admirable, high-paying jobs that could provide significant rewards. Each person in this world values something different and not all value what others do. Figure out what you want most in life. Then you will begin to shift your energy and focus on prioritizing your activities. Your time, money and energy will move you towards the right goals.

Do not compare yourself to others as a unit of measure. You should understand the current circumstances in your life. Ask yourself, what is in line with your current ability?

3 Easy Steps To Making Strides With Your Habits and Goals

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Realistic goals allow you to set yourself up for success. Big, stretching goals may not be achievable.  Account for the constraints you may face when setting realistic goals. 

Reasonable goals have realistic timetables, and you may have to go slow. Gradual, small changes translate into significant gains. Going slow avoids the yo-yo effect.  Slow and steady allows for more lasting changes. Transformation is not going to happen overnight, this week or next month. By taking bite size chunks, you are increasing your chances of success.

“Expect the best, prepare for the worst, capitalize on what comes.” ~ Zig Ziglar

You will have setbacks, and you will need to make adjustments along the way. If you go faster and try too many things at once, you will not be able to focus on the right modifications for success. Things are going to happen, and you will have setbacks. Do your best by anticipating hurdles and barriers. Don’t beat yourself up if an unexpected bump in the road happens. Begin again and learn from the experience and grow.

Commitments can sometimes get in the way. Goals can compete against each other for time. You may have to break that goal into smaller goals. Take into account the time thieves when deciding on deadlines. Analyze your time so you can develop a successful plan.

5 Things that Will Steal Your Time:

  1. Interruptions by visitors
  2. Ineffective delegation
  3. Procrastination
  4. Inability to say no
  5. Meetings

Realistic goals do not mean that you must share the same goal as everybody else.  

You live in a world where entertainment influences our lives. We live in a culture of make believe and great pretenders. Fantasizing corrupts the mind with unrealistic expectations. Many shows on television impress upon people. So much that you begin to create the world you want to live in rather than living a genuine and honest life. A certain amount of fantasy is good for exercising the creative mind. Practice control in every aspect of your life.

If you attempt too much, you are going to set yourself up for failure. The ideas are to focus on healthy and reasonable goals. Be optimistic but realistic. You can do this by setting smaller, achievable action steps. Bite-size chunks give you confidence, through consistency and momentum. Realistic is defined as assessing time, cost and other resources to complete the goal.

Goals should be Specific and Measurable.

  1. Clearly, state what you want to do.
  2. When you want to do it.
  3. How you are going to do it
  4. Who’s responsible for what.

Conceive, Believe, Achieve

Crushing Your Goals and Achieving Success Is A State of Mind

Goal setting is powerful and motivating. If implemented, goal setting is a powerful tool. You must believe the target is possible. Your beliefs become your realities.  Be sure your goals are believable, achievable, realistic and aligned with your values.  Your willingness and ability play a significant factor in making your goals a reality. Force yourself to be honest with yourself and revise your goal if necessary. You might not be able to achieve the whole goal in a year, but you can take the necessary steps towards it.

How much do you care about your goals?

Do you “want” to achieve the target or are telling yourself you “should.” Has a goal popped into your mind while reading this article? Thinking about setting that goal may have you feeling energized and excited? Or does it give you anxiety? Remind yourself of how your life will change when you reach the goal. Do not be afraid to fail or take on the challenge. Setting desirable, realistic goals takes practice. No one born an expert when they first started. It takes practice to be good and some even say you need to practice 10,000 hours to be a master at your craft.

In the end, goal setting is a process of personal growth and development more than anything else. If you take away at least one thing, you are much better than you began.

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  • Excellent! I’ve started to implement some of these in my own goal setting

  • Elizabeth Marshall

    I have always come into a new year with the mind set of setting goals rather than “resolutions”. This post is such a great resource on how to get started. Thanks for sharing your tips and helps.

  • Laura O in AK

    Wow! That’s one power packed post on goal setting. It is an area where I sometimes struggle, but know that if I break things down the ‘big’ goals are more achievable.

  • Tara Jones Wohlford

    I love the quote by Abraham Lincoln. I can totally identify with getting off course because of distractions.

  • Olu Afolabi

    Good piece on setting goals, Kirby! Like problems, spending time defining and clarifying your goal gives you a better chance of succeeding at it. You quoted Stephen Covey, “First seek to understand and then be understood”, and that drives it home for me. Thank you.

  • Kristi

    For the last month and a half I have been shedding things that distract me from reaching my goals. I’ve realized not everything has the same importance level and that limiting what I am involved in allows me to better prepare and focus on what is most important.

    I really appreciate that quote by Abraham Lincoln. Too often I want to just get started because I feel I am losing valuable time, if I’m not moving. To realize that planning is potentially more vital to the success of the project, will give me the ability to allow myself to plan more instead of just rush in. Thank you for that reminder!