“Having an aim is the key to achieving your best.” – Henry J. Kaiser
It’s normal to wonder what you want to accomplish with your life. Sometimes such thoughts occur only intermittently, typically at milestone events such as high school graduation, entering college, getting a first job, meeting someone who becomes a romantic interest. Other times, though, you might dismiss any focus on future goals due to a more immediate concentration on what’s happening now. Still, life goals are important, for nothing worthwhile can be achieved without having a plan and working to succeed. These 10 tips on reaching your life goals may be helpful to do just that.
View goals as growth and aim high.
Having a goal is part of the growth process in becoming an adult. What’s often underappreciated, however, is what it takes to achieve those goals. It is more than merely thinking of the goal, working on it and then succeeding. One point that’s both straightforward and can make the achievement of even the loftiest goal a bit less formidable is to aim high. There can be immense satisfaction in knowing that the process of goal attainment helps you grow. Another crucial aspect of successfully achieving important life goals is to put into place specific plans to help you realize the goals.
Include stretch goals.
Why is aiming high recommended? For one thing, it always helps to have stretch goals. Like it sounds, a stretch goal is one that you know is beyond your current reach, yet it is highly desirable. A stretch goal will require you to put in a great deal of thought, time and effort to be successful. It’s not something easily attainable or a goal that you can do with barely any thought or effort. While some successes you have are accomplishments, most aren’t all that memorable. Stretch goals involve challenges, going beyond your comfort zone, entertaining the possibility that you may be in a little over your head – for now. On the other hand, when organizations set stretch goals for employees, it may serve to undermine organizational performance.
Always have several goals.
In line with regarding goals as growth is the recommendation to always maintain a list of several goals. These can consist of starter goals, which can be goals you’re just investigating or want to try to see if they hold your interest, intermediate goals, such as a stepped approach to landing a coveted career, or long-term goals that may include where you want to one day retire, how many children to have, whether a one-on-one relationship is what you want. The reason to have several goals is so that you always have something to work toward that you consider valuable and worthwhile. The more a goal interests you, even if it’s considerably far off, the more motivated you’ll be to put in the time and effort required to see it through.
Give careful consideration to goals when planning.
To be truly memorable, and worthy of intense concentration and effort, your goal should cause you to think long and hard about how to approach it, when, where and how to revise or adapt it to changing circumstances, and what to take away from it one you either succeed, stumble, or discard it. For there is always a lesson or two to learn. Those who are most successful in achieving their stretch goals are the ones who’ve taken the time to master the lessons they learned during mistakes.
When putting your goals into a list, make sure to include a rough timetable for completion. It’s also wise to space out more complex, difficult or time-consuming goals so that you’re not trying to work on more than one of these at once. That’s scattering your focus and depleting your physical, emotional and psychological resources. Besides, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Sure, you can chip away at some of the easier goals to get some successes to your credit, while still putting in appropriate time, effort and attention before or after the no-brainer goals working on your high-value goals.
Be realistic, yet adventurous in goal-setting.
Does aiming high include taking risks? You bet. When a goal is stimulating, gets you excited and eager to begin, it’s also likely to contain an element of risk. You might not achieve it, at least not at first try. On the other hand, the journey toward life goal completion is an adventure, as it should be. Do be realistic about the goals you set, while still seeing yourself successful in some seemingly unattainable goals you’d like to master. Besides, research shows that goals that retain your interest can both improve your work and help reduce burnout.
Take note of past goal successes.
No matter what your goal, you’ve likely had some experience already in something similar. If not in totality, at least directionally, by aspiration, training, skill or talent. Such successes are the reservoir you can draw from for inspiration, motivation, and lessons learned. They can and will serve you well in any goal you want to pursue in life. You succeeded because you had a plan, persevered despite obstacles, found the lesson in mistakes, and were flexible enough to quickly adapt to changing circumstances.
Be flexible in goal implementation and be sure to monitor progress.
Recognizing that you might not fully realize a goal the first time you attempt it, keep in mind that flexibility in how you proceed with goals is crucial to ultimate success. What appears to be a rock solid plan may turn out to be less than ideal. Revision is not only advisable, but necessary. If you’re locked in and refuse to adapt and adjust, you will not only increase your frustration and stress, but you’re also much more likely to abandon the goal altogether. It’s also good strategy to monitor your progress toward goal achievement, as such regular check-ups increase both motivation and likelihood of success.
Allow room for error.
You can’t know everything, nor can you anticipate every possible circumstance before working on your goals. Succeeding in important life goals involves acknowledging, allowing and even accepting that you’ll make errors, mistakes, fall short on some aspects, perhaps undershoot the mark. Seniors with cognitive impairment may find themselves making more errors and mistakes than they did when younger, yet they’re still able to work toward life goals and gain a measure of fulfillment from both the pursuit and completion of goals they deem worthwhile. Practice patience, both if you are older and have trouble with concentration, focus and follow-through, or if you are the adult child, sibling, co-worker, friend or neighbor of someone who’s having a tough time succeeding with their goals.
Recognize some goals may feel uncomfortable – and that’s good.
Perhaps the best advice on reaching your life goals is to go for goals that are a little disconcerting. That is, they give you a twinge of uncertainty, even feel a bit uncomfortable. Why is that good? You want to strive to achieve goals that are yet beyond your reach. If they’re too easy, or too quickly achieved, you may not gain as much satisfaction, wisdom or advancement from their completion. That’s not to say that quickly-accomplished goals shouldn’t be on your list, just that the ones you really need to work for may be more meaningful to your life goals.
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This article was originally published on Psych Central.
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