The importance of setting goals in life is undeniable, yet, most people don’t know how to set goals properly. Almost everyone (including myself) is guilty of expecting too much or too little from ourselves, which disrupts both the goal-setting, and our quest to achieve them. If you also feel like you’re guilty of this, don’t worry. This article will show how you can also set goals for success. Let’s dive right in!
Benefits of setting goals
Positive Psychology defines setting goals as “a successful plan of action that we set for ourselves”, the keyword here being ‘successful’. That is to say, when you learn to set goals effectively, you’ll be able to give your tasks purpose, manage your life better, and push yourself forward. Goal-setting is heavily linked with an increase in motivation, self-esteem, and autonomy. The rise in self-reliance and confidence you experience after accomplishing a set goal will especially be handy in your personal life, your work, and for your mental health (which we’ll detail further in the article). So, on the most basic terms, setting goals for yourself is basically to create a roadmap to control your to-do list. And once you start looking at the world in a goal-oriented way, failures and setbacks become temporary hurdles before you can set even better goals. This mindset can do wonders for your self improvement.
What are SMART goals?
No matter how fool-proof they might seem, setting goals for yourself can easily turn into a challenge. Most people are guilty of either being too ambitious with their goal-setting, or underestimating themselves. In return, to help people set better and more realistic goals, psychologists have developed the concept of SMART goals. The acronym SMART stands for:
- Specific: Your goal should be specifically about one thing or concept, and it should also be purposeful. Be as narrow with your definition as possible to not leave any room for confusion. It’ll help to ask yourself why you’re setting this goal in the first place.
- Measurable: There should be a clear target for when you achieve your said goal, and you need to be able to measure your progress as you work towards it.
- Attainable: Making sure your goals are achievable is one of the most important tips for setting goals. Be realistic about your strengths, as well as your limits. Expecting too much of yourself can seriously limit your progress and motivation.
- Relevant: Your goal should make sense within the framework of your life, align with your future plans, support your dreams, and reflect your personal values. If it isn’t relevant to your life and your mindset, chances are, you won’t be motivated enough to complete it.
- Time-bound: Somewhat related to the ‘M’, you should have a target deadline of completing your task(s) and reaching your goal. This doesn’t have to be extremely specific, especially if it’s a goal that will take a long time to achieve. However, you should have a somewhat certain endpoint in mind to be able to track your progress accordingly.
Once you transform your process and start setting goals for yourself based on these 5 criteria, you’ll see and feel the difference.
An example of a SMART goal
Let’s say that you are a freelancer currently working from home. You’re struggling with creating a healthy work-life balance because you tend to overwork yourself. You’ve noticed that this has led to a decline in your mental health, mostly due to burnout and feelings of isolation. As a result, you decided to set a goal for yourself to reduce your extra hours and dedicate more time to socializing. An example of a SMART goal in this case might be: “I want to create a healthier work schedule and spend more quality time with my loved ones in order to improve my mental health. To achieve this, I’ll reduce my hours from X hrs/week to Y hrs/week for a month, and the remaining Z hrs/week will instead be dedicated to socializing. During this time, I’ll also evaluate my productivity and mental wellbeing if this change creates a difference, and rearrange myself accordingly.” Let’s go over how this ticks all the SMART goal boxes. Specific: The reasons for your goal-setting are clear, and you’ve defined a specific action (reducing your hours).Measurable: You decided to decrease your working hours from X to Y.Attainable: Your reduced hour goal is (theoretically) in the perfect ballpark to give you more room to breathe, while also guaranteeing that you can still finish your tasks. If you cannot manage with these measurements of X, Y, and Z, you’ll have more knowledge on how to fine-tune it to your needs. Relevant: Your goal is directly related to your work and personal life, and aims to solve a central problem in your current state. Time-bound: You’ll be trying this for one month, and then alter it and retry afterwards if necessary.
What to do if you’ve failed to achieve a goal
Even when you’ve followed the SMART goal guideline and think you’ve set yourself perfectly manageable and realistic goals, you might still not be able to achieve them. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.Here’s a short 4-step checklist to help set you on the right path when you’ve failed to achieve a goal:
1. Don’t be too hard on yourself
Like I said, it happens to the best of us. Going into this with negative thoughts about your (temporary) failure can create an obstacle for your self-improvement. Instead, focus on the benefits of setting goals, set a new one, and try again!
2. Evaluate what went wrong
Did you experience difficulties keeping up with your set deadline? Were your tasks too much/too little? Was the duration too long/too short? And most importantly, was the problem your formulation of the goal, or unforeseen independent reasons? Take some time to reflect on what went wrong with your SMART goal, and think about how you can improve it instead.
3. Make it make sense for you
Research found that in 2015, over 80% of New Year’s resolutions failed. Many people don’t keep up with their New Year’s resolutions after a while because their goals were either too unrealistic, or they simply started at the wrong time just to ‘fit in with the trend’. Sure, resolutions can be a great source of motivation for many people, but it might not make sense for you to start at that time, or at that intensity. Which is why when you’re reforming your goal, remember that the purpose of setting goals is to benefit yourself, so try to do what will be the best for you.
4. Believe in your abilities
Self-trust is extremely important when you’re starting on your journey. Know that, just because you couldn’t achieve it the first time, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do it again. Try to look at your initial failure as a stepping stone to knowing yourself better, and becoming more skilled in creating better goals. And once you’ve set yourself a manageable goal that fits into your personality, there’s no reason for you to doubt your abilities.
5- Track your progress along the way
No matter how hard you try to focus on the positives, you might still find yourself unable to feel motivated. Once you start to effectively track your progress and see that you’re not staying in place, every small bit of improvement will inspire you to keep going. It will also help you determine what to change and/or improve with your future goals.
Setting goals to help your mental health
Taking care of your mental health might seem difficult at times, but with the right approach, it is definitely possible to make your life more manageable. This is where setting goals comes in. Setting specific goals can create robust changes in one’s state of mental health. Especially with conditions that affect your concentration and long-term planning abilities, such as ADHD, goal-setting can be crucial for neurodivergent people to function –even on a day-to-day basis. If you want to incorporate consistent goal-setting into your life as a neurodivergent person, try dividing them into simple daily tasks, and long-term goals. Some advice on goal-setting might be irrelevant for neurodiverse people, so take the suggestions and change your goals to accommodate yourself. Some daily goals can include organizing your room, or even getting out of bed, for example.
Setting goals for success as a freelancer
Managing a business by yourself requires setting clear, realistic goals. On the road to success, goals can both help you manage smaller to-dos on the daily, while also serving as an outline for future business plans. Increase your productivity and have a better grasp on your personal life by setting goals for yourself as a freelancer. In the meantime, eliminate unnecessary stress by using Ruul, the comprehensive platform that empowers autonomous work and self-employed professionals. Using Ruul’s work, finance and compliance features, you can handle and automate your administrative tasks all from one place, and leave more time for self-improvement. Be sure to register now, and to keep up with the Ruul Blog for more on the freelancing landscape.