How to Start a Goal

May 9th, 2007  |  Published in Goals

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I’m in the process of taking my life off of autopilot. My current mental mode is to live in the future, dreaming of what life might be like once it’s time for our little vacation, or what it could be like when I’m totally done with school. Only recently I realized that it’s so much better to live right now, and to enjoy everything I do. It really makes a difference, and I now look forward to work, play, and whatever. Life’s usually pretty fun (but don’t think that this doesn’t mean that I have ups and downs! We all get them.)

Start with goals.

Settings goals has been a key to enjoying life for me. I like to have goals in a few different categories, including financial, spiritual, personal, and education. In addition to your own goals for yourself, don’t forget family goals or any other type of goals that may apply to your situation. Think of different ways to improve yourself, and work consistently at these goals until they become habits. When I served as a missionary in Argentina, our mission president reminded us that “a goal that is not written down is a dream”. My problem had always been that I didn’t have goals, I had dreams. I wanted to dream about what the future would be like without doing anything now to change that.

Set good goals.

Good goals are SMART. This means that they are Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic, and Time-based. These principles apply to all goals, not just personal ones.

Specific Goals

My wife and I are saving up for a new washer and dryer. Our goal is to buy one at the end of next month, but that’s not very specific. In our case we haven’t figured out exactly which one we want (that’s another goal), but once we do, we’ll specify what exactly we want, like “We will save money to buy the Whirlpool Duet Sport washer and dryer”.

Measurable Goals

When we started looking and washers and dryers, we realized that there was a huge price difference between all washers and dryers. Some were high-efficiency and others were top-loading. We want our goal to be measurable, so since we’re saving money for appliances, we want to add something measurable to our goal, such as “We will save $1500 to buy the Whirlpool Duet Sport washer and dryer”.

Agreed Upon Goals

Think of those around you when you make goals. If they are directly involved in the outcome, they should have some sort of say in your goal. In our case, my wife and I both have to agree upon the goal to buy a washer and dryer. This helps us both commit ourselves to saving money for this purpose.

Realistic Goals

If I wanted to buy a washer and dryer next week and hadn’t set aside any money at all for this, it wouldn’t be realistic. Make sure you don’t set yourself up for failure when you set your goals, because that takes all the enjoyment out of achieving it in the end.

Time-based Goals

Having a time-based goal means that you have a specific time in mind for when it should be completed. This way you can measure your progress at any point in time, and track yourself along the way toward this goal. For our goal, my wife and I can say “We will save $1500 by June 30th to buy the Whirlpool Duet Sport washer and dryer”. If the goal is a long way in sight (or even more than a week or so in the future), it’s often helpful to break up that task as well, and say “We will save $200 a week” or something similar, so we don’t end up trying to put together the money the last day of June and calling it saving.

After we have our SMART goals, we’ve got a good start, but we’ve completely left out the implementation. Remembering to address the five principles of SMART, however, will help us realize the interim steps we need to take on that way, and we can set up our own reflection time to track our progress and make sure we are working toward our goals. This process has helped me to enjoy the journey of achieving goals rather than just the end outcome.

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