5 Essential Steps to Setting Purposeful Goals

Photography by Danielle Moss

Photography by Danielle Moss

We hear a lot about the importance of goal setting on social media. Something that is not usually said is how to go about accomplishing them. Why can following through on our goals be so difficult? One of the biggest mistakes some people make is keeping goals in their head. Getting your goals down on paper is the first step to staying committed to your goals. Actually, research has proven that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them than people who keep their goals in their head. So grab a pen a let’s get started!

So why should you set goals? For one, it’s scientifically proven to increase motivation and achievement. Second, we all strive to have some kind of purpose in life. Not all goals need to be these long, extravagant adventures. Maybe you want to increase your productivity at work. Or reduce the amount of time you spend staring at your phone. What new books do you want to read? Where do you want to travel next? Having goals allows you to create the life you want. Think about something you are currently unhappy about in your life and make the commitment to change it! Up for the challenge? Keep on reading.

1. Purposeful goals are strategies. Not results.

When thinking of “goals”, we tend to create lists of outcomes, or what we want to see, rather than what we need to do. However, purposeful goals are specific and focus on strategies to accomplish something. For example, “being more healthy” is a result, not a goal. “Eat at least one salad a day” is a goal. In order to get the results you want, you must define your goal in terms of how you will achieve them.

2. Choose your top three.

This is where many people fall off with goals. In order to get results, we must stay focused and prioritized. It’s impossible to make progress in one area of your life if you have 50 things going on in other areas. Start by picking up to three goals that mean the most to you. What matters most in your life? Prioritize your list and tackle one at a time. Maybe you have one goal that is so large you need to break it down into three smaller goals. It’s much easier to accomplish a goal that is manageable than one that is overwhelming and unattainable.

3. Set realistic deadlines.

Deadlines can be a little daunting, especially if you are already overwhelmed with things to do for your work life. However, your personal life needs deadlines too! Even if you don’t meet these deadlines, you will push yourself to achieve more than you would without an end time. It seems like every January we make the same goals: lose weight, eat more healthy, pay off debt, and so on. Without deadlines, we go on for years with the same goal. Think of these deadlines as extra motivation to get you to those end results. 

4. Get to work.

Now that you have your goals set, it’s time to put them into action! In order to do this, you must be able to identify what resources you already have, what tools or skills you need, what obstacles you may face, and who/what will keep you accountable to these goals. It’s impossible to make progress on something you are not prepared for. Back to the salad example, you can’t “become more healthy” by “eating a salad once a day” if you don’t have the actual produce necessary to make a salad. This sounds like common sense, but as we shift our goals to something less concrete, it becomes a huge part of whether to not we stick to what we start. Sure, I want to write a book someday, but if I don’t figure out how and what I need to do this then that someday is going to become never. This part of goal planning takes a lot of preparation and focus. Don’t lose sight of your goals because you skipped this step!

5. Track your progress and practice gratitude.

This is a critical part of goal planning. If you are half-way to your deadline and no progress has been made, it is possible you need to reevaluate your strategy (and this is ok!). We don’t need to wait for January 1st to make new goals. Take a step back to Step 4 and re-identify the resources, materials, or skills you need to realistically get results. If you are on track with your goal, then keep going! During this step, take time to appreciate the progress you have made, results achieved, and focus on what has truly mattered to you. Even if you have not started to see results, appreciate the effort you have put in to your goals. Gratitude will increase your positivity and keep you motivated. 

Need something to help get your started? Download this free Goal Planning Worksheet.