- There are countless options of what to do next.
- There are countless ways to achieve a goal once we've set it.
- There are countless ways to judge whether we've reached our goals.
Why is goal setting important? Why can't we just drift about day-to-day doing what comes naturally at any given point?...Because humans are inherently goal-driven, and if you're drifting about without a goal that you can name, you may likely feel guilty, empty, or lazy.
And goals don't have to be monumental. They don't have to be pie-in-the-sky, dream-big kind of goals. They certainly can be, and I would argue that most successful people do, indeed, dream big. However, setting and reaching goals involves small, ordinary everyday accomplishments too. Here are four steps to mindfully setting goals that matter.
1. Define your values. Do this first, because when you do, your goals are sure to matter to you. Values are, according to the dictionary definition, "a person's principles or standards of behavior; one's judgment of what is important in life."
There are lots of ways to define your values, but the best way I've found is to make a list of at least 20 or so values (some examples are shown here), then rank your top ten from most to least important to you. The list shown here is a portion of a worksheet I often use with clients wanting to set meaningful goals.
Once you've identified your top ten, narrow down your list to your top five. Now rank your top five and ask yourself which one you're willing to give up first, and which ones are absolute essentials.
Take time to reflect on what you've accomplished through this task.
Now, take time to reflect again on the accomplishments you've already made.
3. Make a plan. And be sure you are capable of accomplishing it. Work your way back in time towards now, and identify what actions do you need to take now to reach your 5 year goal? What is likely to get in your way, and hold you back?
When making your plan, consider these important parts. What small daily or monthly tasks will help you reach your goal over time? What are the outcomes that you can measure to tell whether you've succeeded?
Now acknowledge this work you've done to make a plan.
And again, as you adjust your goals and plans, take time to reflect on what you've already accomplished. Praise yourself. How often do we say to ourselves, "I really did well today," or "I worked hard on this project," or "Even though I haven't reached my goal, I'm still a capable and worthwhile person and will keep trying." For most of us, not often enough.