Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

7 steps to making goals you can keep

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Setting goals is an important step toward living a better story. Through goal setting we are trying to become better people and to accomplish greater things.

New Year is the perfect time to make a fresh start.

Goals are critical to success for several reasons.

  • They provide clarity about where we are going.
  • They give us a way to measure our progress.
  • They help us stay motivated.

Without a clear understanding of what we want to do or who we want to be, decisions become more difficult, perhaps even conflicting.

If you have the goal of getting rid of your credit card debt, then the choices you make about spending money will be affected. If you have a goal of starting a new business, then the training you pursue and the ways you spend your free time will change.

Without goals, you may wander aimlessly.

photo by tibor5 (iStockphoto.com)

Unfortunately, most of us will break the New Year’s resolutions that we make. Good intentions hide behind bad habits. Old routines will give way difficult changes.

One of the reasons resolutions fail is that we do a poor job making them. We set goals that will never work.

Here are 7 ways to help you make goals that result in real change.

1. Dream Big

Most of us only accomplish small things because we don’t dream big. We settle for less. We are content with the status quo. Don’t just imagine yourself a little better than you are now, imagine the way you should be. Who do you want to become? Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? Answer these questions and then go make it happen. Do the impossible.

2. Be specific.

Dreams give us a vision for the future, but they won’t happen without a plan for today.  In addition in knowing where we want to head, we need to be specific about what to do next. Setting the goal of losing weight won’t work. We have to change our lifestyles. Instead of saying, “I need to exercise more,” your goal could be, “I will go to the YMCA at 6:00am on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays before work and run.” Being specific makes it harder to let yourself off the hook.

3. Be incremental.

In addition to having a bigger goal, determine steps that you can take to get there. If your goal is to run a marathon, but you haven’t run in years, the distance of 26.2 miles seems to great. Gradually build up to the distance by first getting in shape for a 3 mile race. Then build up to 5 miles followed by a half marathon. Then getting ready for a marathon is an easier task. Setting your goals in stages will give you confidence through early success and prepare you to take on the bigger distances.

4. Use a timeframe.

Goals without  a deadline are a set up for failure. Deadlines keep us on track. They help us to make sure we are making progress. They give us an extra motivator, a sense of urgency. Would you ever have finished a term paper if your teacher hadn’t given you a deadline? Instead of saying that you want to write a book, be sure to develop a timeframe fore each step. Set a goal of writing an outline by the end of the week. Write the first chapter by the end of January. The second chapter in February and so on. Eventually you will have written a book.

5. Constantly revise.

Our resolutions often fail because we are not flexible. We set a goal and then when we do not achieve it, we feel like a failure. Instead of viewing our goals from a  black and white perspective, see it as a process that constantly needs to be refined. The end goal may need to change. The means we use may be different. The timeframe may be off. It is not a failure to change our goals, but it is a failure to not make them.

6. Be accountable.

If you have a close friend you can trust, it is also helpful to tell them about your vision and resolutions so that they can help keep you on track. Accountability only works, though if you make yourself vulnerable. Be honest. Be humble. Be open. Knowing that you will have coffee with a friend next week will help you make better decisions today.

7. Develop a review process.

Establish a system to constantly evaluate your progress. Go over each specific goal and the steps you are taking to get there. Are you keeping up? What can you do to help yourself get there? What needs to change? Do this weekly, quarterly, and of course yearly.

Goals are valuable. They give us clarity and help us to know what direction we want to head. These 7 steps can help us not only make better goals, but actually keep them.

What are your goals in life and what has helped you achieve them? Share in the comments.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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16 Replies

  1. Eric Grogan

    We used this as our family devotion tonight as we each set goals for the year. Thanks Jeremy!

    1. Cool. You in for Wednesday morning?

  2. Great stuff Jeremy.  I especially like the 3rd one – be incremental.  In all my mentorship I encourage my people embrace the power of incremental change.

    1. It’s like building a Lego version of the Black Pearl (my son just did this last week) there are steps and you can’t skip them, so you do the first page and when it is finishes, you move on to the 2nd. After 2 1/2 days, several mistakes, and finding the piece the dog carried off, you finally have a complete ship.

  3. This is great Jeremy! It’s reassuring to hear someone else talk about changing your goals in route. Sometimes I feel like I’m cheating somehow, but lots of times goals just don’t make sense by the end of the year!

    I’ve been working on my review process a lot lately trying to find something that works best for me. Right now I’m doing a quick (20 min) review process monthly and using that to adjust my course. I tried weekly before, but that was too much overhead.

    1. Thanks, Deacon. I think changing in route is very important. Personal change is a process. One that has to be refined as we understand what we need to be.

  4. These are great. Thanks for the post.

    I’m working on one other: Be Consistent.

    My goal for 2012 is to do more writing, and for me I need to lay the groundwork of daily discipline. You know, get up, open the laptop and start punching keys.

    What actually happens once the laptop is open is almost secondary in these early days, as I’m just trying to create momentum that doesn’t currently exist.

    1. Sounds good. One of the first steps to doing anything worthwhile is to show up. Everday. Keep me updated on how it’s going, Leighton.

  5. Anonymous

    Good post Jeremy.  I will visit your site more often.  I read your post on Michael Hyatt’s site. 

  6. Constant revising is really a great advice, that is something I didn’t take to consideration before and that is why I often failed in my achievements.
    Thank you for the tips, very useful pieces of advice for ambitious people who really want to reach the goal.

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