I came back from an amazing volunteer trip to the Philippines about a month ago. The trip was amazing for a myriad of reasons, but one of the reasons was the fact that I had time away from everything to really think about what I wanted for my life presently. Part of that questioning was coming to terms with the fact that maybe I was reaching some of my goals, but not others. For some people thinking about what they want in their lives happens once a year, around New Year’s, or every few years or maybe even never. Regardless of how often you spend time thinking about what your goals are, you likely have short term or long term goals.
I’ll share with you some of my goals for the next couple of years. These are not all my goals but a few that I think are reasonable to achieve in the next several years. Furthermore, these goals are specific, relevant, measurable and have a time frame.
- Achieve permanent residency in Australia sometime in 2017.
- Volunteer overseas for at least 3 weeks in the next year.
- Achieve higher proficiency levels with speaking Spanish over the next year.
Setting goals for yourself can be tricky. Many of us are not taught the proper way to set goals for ourselves and what works for you may not work for another. However, there may be ways in which you are sabotaging your own personal development.
1. The goals you have are what others made for you. Think back to major decisions you made or where you have invested much of your time, energy, money and resources into. Even though you may think you are living your life for you, you may realize that you have made sacrifices and pursued interests based on what other people want for you. Telling you to go out and live your life for yourself may seem easy, but think back to habits you fall into. Do you tend to feel guilty or bad telling people no? Do certain things sound fun in the moment, but you realize later on that your time would have been better spent elsewhere? Do you feel wishy washy about your goals? Maybe your family is encouraging you to pursue one career path while your heart is elsewhere. Perhaps you are really talented or skilled at something but you really don’t have the passion for it. Be honest with yourself about how you are living your life.
2. You don’t know what your goals presently are. I’m guilty of this one quite often. People change. Circumstances change. Life changes. Your goals from a decade ago may change. The passion you had for art may diminish. That business idea may be something you don’t find particularly interesting anymore. You may realize you were more passionate about impressing others with a project rather than the project itself. It’s good to always check in with yourself regularly. Depending on your goal, you may need to reassess every few months or every year or so. Be honest with yourself about if your goals are applicable to your life anymore. You might even need to start from scratch and be clear about what goals are genuinely important to you. Becoming more proficient at Spanish was not a goal that I had known I wanted. Years ago I had always wanted to become fluent at Spanish but that goal changed over time. Recently I’ve realized how important it is for me to become proficient in a foreign language and Spanish was always that language for me. You may have goals that you haven’t realized just yet or are outdated. Take time to figure out what your goals genuinely are.
3. Your timeframes are unrealistic or non-existent. Saying that you want to lose weight and get healthier is a great goal, but without a timeframe you may find yourself unable to measure your progress or getting frustrated at your results. Establishing a timeframe is essential but the timeframe also has to be realistic. Don’t stress if you don’t get your timeframe right, since setting a timeframe to complete your goal may require a bit of trial and error. For instance, you might set a goal to read a book every week so that you are constantly learning and incorporating better habits. This timeframe may be reasonable for certain people, but maybe not for you. Maybe with your priorities, reading once a week is too much. Yet, reading a book fortnightly or once a month may be more reasonable. Also be careful of having timelines that are too long. For instance, maybe you want to finish your book in the next decade. That may seem like a reasonable goal but also it doesn’t encourage you to commit to developing a writing habit and taking steps to really push yourself to meet your goal. Find the balance between making an active commitment to reaching your goal but also allowing yourself enough reasonable time to meet that goal.
4. You are allowing negative self-talk to control your actions. All of us battle with insecurities at some stage in our lives. These negative thoughts will criticize, hurt and encourage you to quit before you even begin trying. Negative thoughts operate off of fear. Work on loving yourself and being kind to yourself. Yes, you may have shortcomings but work on recognizing when your negative thoughts are exaggerating the reality. For instance, you may have an issue with procrastination. Negative self-talk may make you feel like you are lazy, will never accomplish anything and make you think that you can never complete anything you begin. Controlling and being aware of your negative thoughts will allow you to realize that yes, you have a problem with procrastination but that problem does not define you. Matter of fact you can work on that problem, adopt healthier habits and be one step closer to your goals.
5. You expect it to be easy. The best things in life are often not easy. Anything wonderful takes hard work and perseverance. There is no quick fix, no shortcuts or magical formula that will make everything work perfectly. Achieving your goals is going to require determination and tough work. There will be days where working towards your goals seems like a chore. There will be periods where you feel like giving up. Achieving a goal is not easy and often requires us to adapt, change and look within ourselves at our own shortcomings and what we can do to move past these shortcomings. You are going to have to put yourself out there and feel uncomfortable. A few years ago I did a fundraiser for an organization I care about. I had to ask loved ones for money to donate. This made me feel very uncomfortable but it was essential to meeting the fundraising goals. I had to step far out of my comfort zone to meet a goal of mine. You will need to do the same. Trust me, it’s worth it. Follow your dreams but remember that the journey isn’t going to be easy and will test you in many ways.
6. You think everyone has it easier than you. One of the biggest hurdles to accomplishing goals is focusing too much on what others have. You feel upset that someone younger than you seems to have accomplished a goal while you are still working on your own. Maybe you feel resentful that you didn’t start getting healthier earlier in life or believe that other people who are healthy do not have to try as hard. Your wealthy friend seems to always have their financial dreams come true while you are always struggling. Whatever the situation, trying to compare yourself with others will only hold you back. Firstly, you will never truly know someone else’s experiences and struggles. That person had to go through their own struggles to succeed but you may not realize that. Everyone has their own motivations and dreams which comes with its own unique set of obstacles. Your boss who seems to have the high salary and the perfect family may be struggling intensely with trying to balance his work and family priorities. You just never really know what’s going on behind the scenes. The best thing you can do is focus on yourself and make the best of your situation.
7. You have a difficult time prioritizing. Accomplishing your goals takes a strong ability for time management. You cannot do everything you want to achieve your goals. However, there are other things that are not worth neglecting to achieve your goals either. When you don’t prioritize you will probably spend too much time doing things other than working on your goal. However, if you prioritize your goals too much you may neglect people and things that add value and meaning to your life. Being able to manage your priorities effectively allows you to actively work on your goals but leaves room for your loved ones, work commitments and time for relaxation as well.
8. You are unable to ask for help or support. Achieving your goals relies primarily on you, but sometimes you need a support system. Whenever I feel like I’m struggling, I have a couple of friends who are my supporters who I can communicate those struggles to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to have loved ones give you encouragement when you are feeling like you are in a rut. Also, sometimes goals do require a reasonable level of assistance. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is often easier when you have a friend who will keep you accountable or go to the gym with you. Working on your book might be easier when you have a mentor or a friend experienced in writing who can give you constructive feedback on your book. Starting a business can be intimidating and you may need to reach out to successful entrepreneurs for some tips and advice. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. You’ll be one step closer to your goals when you can set aside the false belief that you have to do everything completely on your own and without any support.
9. You are not checking your progress. Reaching a goal requires that you touch base on your results every so often. This gives you an opportunity to appreciate the steps you have made and to check what’s working and what isn’t. When something isn’t working, it’s important that you review your goal and make modifications in how you approach achieving that goal.
10. You are not being persistent. Meeting a goal is not easy. Achieving our goals is difficult, very difficult. You have to persist, even when you feel like giving up. You also have to be patient. Results will not happen overnight. There may be weeks where everything is moving fast and heading in the right direction, but then there will be times when progress is slow or at a complete standstill. Keep being persistent.
Stay motivated and check in with yourself regularly. Ditching negative habits will help you avoid feeling stuck in meeting your goals.