Here is a step-by-step guide on how to set and reach goals in life and in business.
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Figure Out What You (Really) Want
This process might be split up into several steps—but this first one is important.
Achieving big goals requires big sacrifice. It requires time and energy and a ton of hard work. That’s time and energy that could be spent on other, valuable things. Like beating your cousin’s high score on Candy Crush. (Just kidding. Sort of.)
If you’re setting goals that don’t really, truly matter to you in the depths of your soul, you won’t muster up what it takes to make them happen. The distractions will win every time.
Searching your heart to figure out what you really want your life and business to look like is an overwhelming process to be sure. In fact, if it’s not scary, you’re likely doing it wrong.
But knowing what you truly want, at the core of who you are, is the beginning and end of setting goals that turn into actions.
Find Your Why
It’s not that exercising, volunteering, or saving money are inherently bad goals. They’re not—if you’re pursuing them for the right reasons. Any goal can be valuable and worth pursuing if it aligns with who you are and what you want out of life.
If you can connect your goal to a purpose that truly matters to you, you’re more likely to do the work to make it happen.
Write Out Your Goals
Committing pen to paper is what turns dreams into plans. Make a date with yourself and just write down everything that you want in your heart of hearts to achieve.
It may help you to organize these goals by timeline, into long term and short term goals. What do you want to achieve in the next six months? Two years? Ten years?
The sky’s the limit, and the exact deadlines are up to you. But choose both big, life goals and incremental milestones you want to reach along the way.
Set a few goals for yourself that feel like a big stretch, but then also grow your confidence with a few more easily (and quickly) achievable ambitions.
Determine Your Action Steps
If writing out your goals is the equivalent of deciding where you’re going, then your actions steps are plotting the course for how you’ll get there.
Unless you happen to be named Samantha Stephens, you’re not going to achieve your goals with a simple wiggle of the nose. You’ll have to do the work to get what you want.
What exactly should you do to achieve your goals? Well, first, take a breath. This process doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
As the saying goes, “The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”
Simply break your goal down into bite sized daily, weekly, and monthly tasks that will lead you along the way to achieving your ambitions. Add those tasks to your to do list and check them off one by one.
Little by little, the baby steps of checking off these minuscule tasks will translate to giant leaps toward achieving your dreams.
Know What to Cut
You’re busy. You’re exhausted. Every hour of every day is filled with some kind of task or appointment. That means as you add baby steps to work toward your newfound goal, something’s gotta give.
As important as determining the steps to take to achieve your goal, you should give equal weight to determining what parts of your life or business you’ll let go of in order to make room.
Take several minutes and write down everything—yes, everything—you do in an average day. Be painstakingly detailed. How much time do you spend sleeping? Eating? Showering? Or Playing Trivia Crack?
When you add up all the “have to’s” of your life, how much time is left? Anything?
What will you say “no” to in order to make time for action steps toward your goal?
If you try to cut sleep or recreation time to an unhealthy level, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Be realistic about what you’re capable of.
Schedule For Success
Once you’ve opened up time for your action steps, schedule them. Quite literally, create time in your calendar to work toward your goals the same way you would schedule a meeting or a doctor’s appointment.
Blocking out that time as a first priority will make you less likely to let other distractions bleed the time you’ve dedicated toward your goals.
Life happens. Things get busy, and priorities change. So it’s important to check in with yourself often to recognize how you’re proceeding towards your goals, and even how your goals may have changed—either just slightly or even dramatically.
Ideally, you should check in with yourself monthly for a “progress report.” Review how you’ve done at completing your action steps, and determine what, if any, changes you need to make in the coming month to make room for continued progress.
Then, every six months or so, you’ll want to start from the top again. Reflect on how your life has changed, and how your priorities may have shifted.
Ask yourself, are your goals exactly the same as they were six months ago? How do you want to change directions? How should you adjust your action steps to reflect your new endgame?
Remember, there is no shame in changing your mind or deciding based on new information that where you were headed no longer aligns with what you want.
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Meredith Wood is the Editor-in-Chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business. Prior to Fundera, Meredith was the CCO at Funding Gates. Meredith is a resident Finance Advisor on American Express OPEN Forum and an avid business writer. Her advice consistently appears on such sites as Yahoo!, Fox Business, Amex OPEN, AllBusiness, and many more. Meredith is also the Senior Financial and B2B Correspondent for AlleyWire.