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How to Set Goals That You’ll Actually Reach

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Do you set goals every year, only to fail miserably? Do you promise yourself that “this will be the year” or “I’m going to finally do it” only to give up after a week?

Every year, as the new year rolls around, I set goals. I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. Even so, I haven’t always been successful with my goal setting, and even less with my follow-through.

This past year, I decided to do things differently. Instead of setting arbitrary goals that I most likely wouldn’t achieve, I set goals that focused on my current life. I figured out exactly what I would need to do to meet those goals and set a plan in place to work toward them. Out of all the years that I was setting goals, I was the most successful this year.

Here’s how you can create attainable goals in three easy steps:

1. Base your goals on your life priorities

A couple of months ago, I took Crystal Paine’s Make Over Your Mornings course. One of my favorite parts of the course was setting goals. Days 5 and 6 are devoted to writing down your current priorities and developing goals based around those priorities.

My current priorities are my family (spending quality time with my husband and kids), my personal wellbeing (making time for sleep, exercise, and personal enrichment), creating a happy, orderly home, and blogging on Tickling the Wheat.

Your priorities may look nothing like mine, and that’s ok! The point is that your priorities should be the areas of your life that you most want to focus on. What is most important to you? What will be most important in five years?

Think about how you want your life to look in five years. What could you do now to make your long-term goals more attainable? Then take those goals and break them into smaller goals that you can reach.

Break your fitness goals into smaller goals

2. Know yourself (and what you can handle at this stage of your life)

It may be your dream to run a marathon, but if you’ve never run a day in your life, you’re taking classes for your Master’s degree, raising two kids, working a job, and trying to maintain a home life, this probably isn’t the best time to train for a marathon.

While it’s great to dream, there is a time and place for every goal.

One of my lifetime goals is to visit all 50 states in the United States. After I graduated from college, I was able to do some traveling and visit friends that had moved away. I was able to cross off a few states in one year, but I’m still only halfway done. However, at this point in my life, dragging two kids and a husband on a road trip doesn’t sound like fun. Every couple of years, maybe I’ll travel to a new state, but for now I’ll settle for small, family friendly trips, even if we never leave Michigan.

Make sure that your priorities are what you want to focus on now and in the near future.

For example, in twenty years, when the kids are grown, my priorities may change again. At that point, I’ll be able to take a road trip across the Great Plains. At this point in my life, though, I need to make sure that my goals align with my current priorities, like taking care of my young children. While a road trip may sound exciting, it’s just not feasible at this time.

Use a planner or tracking app.

3. Get ready to take action on your goals

“A goal that’s not written down is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Now that you’ve decided on goals based on your priorities and current stage of life, get ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work!

  • Start by writing down your goals. Then get ready to start working on your goal!

Now that you’ve made sure your goal is in line with your priorities and something that you can (and want to) actually attain at this stage in your life, it’s time to get to work.

When you're trying to get organized, doing a brain dump and writing down your tasks is a great way to be more productive (and free up space in your head).

  • Break your goal into manageable increments. The key to this step is knowing what you can handle and managing it.

Depending on the goal, I broke some of my goals into quarterly, weekly, or daily goals. For example, one of my goals is spending quality time with my husband. I plan on having quarterly “date nights.” Sure, we could say we were going to go out on the town once a month, but that’s not practical, especially during planting and harvest time. I’ll settle for a quarterly goal to make sure that we’re escaping the house.

On the other hand, another goal is spending time with the kids. We’re doing a program through our local library to read 1,000 books before kindergarten. It’s a daily goal to list the books that we’re reading (and read 2-3 books a day).

  • Track your manageable goals so that you can see the progress that you’re making.

For example, if your goal is to lose weight, break down the ways you could reach your goal. You could include a goal to exercise five times a week and eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Write these goals in your daily planner so that you see your goal, remember to do it, and then check it off every day.

Goal setting doesn’t have to be complicated. By setting attainable, broken down goals that are in line with your priorities at this stage of your life, you’ll be able to successfully reach your goals!

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