When we think about how to set goals in life, most of us will refer to SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-based) and however many other acronym templates have been hammered into our brains at school and at work. Of course, these frameworks are extremely helpful in an academic and professional setting, but they don’t quite cut it for life.
Setting goals, for me, needs to be an inspiring exercise. It needs to dig into the heart of what you’re aiming for and why and bring that to the forefront, because that’s what’s going to keep you going. Let’s look at 3 inspiring ideas for how to set goals in life.
“Aim at the sun, and you may not reach it, but your arrow will fly far higher than if aimed at an object on a level with yourself.” — J. Howes
Think of your goals as processes
It’s easy to look at your goals just for the end result. You want to run a marathon or finish your degree, but focussing too hard on that end goal can mean you don’t fully experience what’s going on your right now. You miss the little things that make up your every day because you’re convinced that “I’ll take a break when I’m done” or “I’ll be happy once I’m there”. But even once you reach the destination, the cycle immediately repeats with a new goal in mind. You drop the habits you built in favour of chasing a new goal. Living like this puts you in a cycle of chasing, chasing, chasing, never stopping to smell the roses, enjoy the little things or celebrate how far you’ve come.
Instead of setting your goal to run a 5k in 25 minutes by the end of April, set your goal to simply become a runner. In that way, you’re promising to commit to the process, not the result. Falling in love with the process helps you to keep at it every day, not knocking yourself down because you didn’t hit a certain time or distance.
Recently, someone told me to ‘become a person who prides themselves on being a learner, not someone who is good at things’. This mindset change makes tripping up okay, failure becomes just a necessary and beneficial part of the process. Of course, challenging yourself with times and distances can be fun ways to keep your love for a hobby going. So by all means, set yourself challenges. But don’t define your success in numbers.
Think of your goals as a theme
Setting an overall theme, whether it be for the year, month or season can be a good way to simplify your goals and make bigger changes through smaller, more conscious, consistent actions.
Every year, I like to pick out a single word to concentrate on. This year it’s simply: “grow”. I’m starting a new vein in my career, something I will need to nurture into growth, to personal development, throwing myself into more situations to expand, venturing outside of my comfort zone and continuing to learn everything I can about the world. When faced with a decision, I simply ask myself “does this help me grow?”, if the answer is yes, it’s a no-brainer.
Some examples for your one word may be: Grow. Focus. Travel. Expand. Love. Faith. Balance. Hone. Experiment. Explore. Learn. Befriend. Care. Build.
If you’re struggling to pick a theme, list all the goals you’d like to achieve and see if you can find a common vein running through all of them. If you find yourself with too many contradicting ideas, space them out and focus on each of them one by one.
Think of your goals as a character
Your goals, what you do and what you dedicate your time to are a big part of who you are. No doubt you’ve heard the “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle choice” argument? This is the same idea. Decide who you’d like to be and align your actions with being that person, not aiming to be them, but being them, every day. The best way to achieve your goals is to become the person who achieves them. And the best way to become that person is to simply start being them.
Like using a theme, this is something to stop and ask yourself when you’re faced with a decision. “Does this align with who I want to be?”. It’s a great way to kick bad habits and keep yourself from creating new ones, driving your energy towards positive tasks and focuses to help you grow.
These are just a few of the ideas for how to set goals in life that I’ve been using to get my goals back on track, I’d love to hear your suggestions too! Goals can sometimes seem overwhelming and no matter how ambitious a person you are, it’s still an intimidating concept. But it needn’t be. When you learn to treat failure as just another stepping stone, goals and learning become fun, creative, curious and experimental.
Go for it. Love, Ella-Rose xx