Goals are always a topic of conversation – whether we like it or not. What are your career goals? Any educational goals for yourself? Your children? What is your five-year plan? How are your fitness goals coming along? Got any personal goals for next year?
Goals. Goals. Goals. As a society, we really like them. I get it – goals move us forward, give us purpose, and motivate us to evolve into an even better version of ourselves. But as mothers, we are always being bombarded with different goals we should be thinking about, from our bodies, to our babies, career, and more.
Does all this talk feel a bit overwhelming? Of course. And even for someone who considers herself relatively organized and practical, goal setting can be really intimidating for me too. Just take a look at a months-old note I happened to find on my iPad one day.
It read, in its entirety, like this:
Goals for 2014
Just laying my eyes on this note made me cringe, and a feeling of embarrassment washed over me, even as I sat alone on my couch. I couldn’t even formulate a goal into words. How in the world would I ever be able to stick to one? Like many people, I liked the idea of having goals, but I had no idea how to write them down in an effective way (and stick to them). I tended to write my goals in vague terms – or, as seen above, not write them at all – which didn’t result in a very high success rate.
After much reflection on how I was approaching goal setting, I found that if I use some really simple guidelines when I’m writing my goals, I not only end up writing them in an effective way, but I end up sticking to them as well. Since changing how I approach goal setting, I’ve felt more motivated than ever to accomplish many things in life – big and small!
Here are my four simple guidelines for making and achieving goals:
1. Be specific – and always include numbers.
When writing goals for yourself, be as clear and precise as possible. You want to be able to check your efforts off a to-do list with conviction. You want to know you are objectively moving toward conquering your goal. One way to do this is to make sure you have numbers in your goal. Here’s an example of what not to do, followed by what to do.
Ineffective: I will read more.
Effective: I will read for twenty minutes three times a week.
I like to look at different aspects of my life (health, work, personal growth, parenting, marriage, etc.) and choose two to three areas on which to focus and then come up with a goal for each area. This will make your efforts feel more balanced. Take a few minutes to yourself and jot down all the various areas of your life and circle whatever feels most in need of attention.
3. Be realistic – don’t make it all or nothing.
I used to set goals for myself that left no room for “life” to happen. For example, a goal of: I want to exercise every day might sound like a fantastic goal – but every day? As moms, we know that some days it just doesn’t happen. Therefore, stay away from making any goal a seven-days-a-week goal. Allow yourself a little wiggle room for those unforeseeable circumstances that inevitably happen. Instead, stick to something more realistic, such as three to four days a week. If you surpass your goal – great! If you don’t, you’ll still feel like you’ve had a productive and accomplished week.
4. Track your progress with check marks.
Check marks are magical. I track my progress with them (or stars too if I’m tracking multiple things at one time) on my paper agenda book I carry around with me, but there are many places you can do this: a desk calendar, your phone calendar, or in a simple notebook – whatever works for you! There is something powerful about looking back at a month and seeing just how many times you worked out, or read, or whatever your goal might be. On those tough days when you just can’t see your progress because you’re knee-deep in life, pull out your calendar or notebook and gaze at all the hard work you have been putting in. It’ll provide the motivation and reassurance that you are on the right track.
Look, setting a goal shouldn’t end in embarrassment, shame, or anxiety. Women have a lot of pressure on their shoulders – we don’t need another thing to worry about. Try out one or all of the pointers I’ve listed above. Trust me when I say, there is a way to make goals that will motivate, uplift, and inspire you.
Above all, give yourself some grace. Six years ago when I read that unfinished “list” of goals for the new year, goals were a source of anxiety for me. If I wasn’t committing to changing my life entirely, then I didn’t see the use in them. I had it all wrong. Goals aren’t about becoming a different person; they are about evolving and growing, feeling pride in yourself, but also loving the person you are right now.
So try it out: write down a goal! Believe in yourself. Move yourself forward. You are so worth it.