your step-by-step guide to goal setting

5 steps to create & crush your goals this year

I’m writing this post as people are throwing the words “detox,” “change,” “New Year’s resolutions,” “success,” and “failure” around. As 2018 approaches, people begin to think about all the things they haven’t done, the goals they haven’t accomplished, the dreams they haven’t achieved.

We’re all left asking: “Where did 2017 go?”

To be perfectly clear, this is not a “how to set New Year’s resolutions you’ll actually keep” post. Google that and you’ll find endless articles on that. I have a strong belief that you can enact change any time you want, not just on an arbitrary date of 1/1.

If you also take a look at those same articles, you’ll find them hand-in-hand with stats that say “XX% of resolutions fail within XX days.” So why do something that sets you up for failure?

This post is about setting meaningful and measurable goals that drive you and help direct your life. It breaks down, step-by-step, how to set goals that ignite a passion within you.

So let’s get started. Block out a good amount of time for this — no distractions!

Step 1: Reflect

One of the biggest tools I use for goal-setting is my Passion Planner. Not saying you have to go out and buy one, but it lays out reflections at the end of every month and every year, serving as a workbook of sorts. It also has a goal-setting map at the beginning, which I’ll get into later.

Whatever you choose to use (even if it’s just a blank piece of paper or an empty Google Doc), the first step is to think hard about what you’ve done this year, where you currently are, and how you measure up with where you wanted to be. If you didn’t have goals for 2017, that’s OK! Just reflect.

Some questions to ask:

  • What goals did I set for 2017? Did I accomplish them? How did I measure them?
  • What was the best thing that happened each month? The worst?
  • What lessons did I learn from last year?
  • How have I changed from 2016 to 2017?
  • What were my accomplishments?
  • What am I most proud of?
  • Am I happy with how I spent my time? If yes, why? If no, why not?
  • Bonus: If you want to be happier, what is the work you can’t not do?

Step 2: Brainstorm

OK, so now you’ve reflected on everything 2017-related, let’s look forward. It’s time to ask yourself where you want to be.

So ask yourself:

  • Where do I want to be in 5 years?
  • What would I do if money was not an issue?
  • What do I want my legacy to be (how do I want to be remembered)?

I love mind-mapping for brainstorming; I also recently read a book called Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life and it talks about making 3 alternate scenarios for your life, along with a 5-year timeline.

Let your imagination run free. There is no dream too large, no goal too lofty. Plot out everything you enjoy, everything you hate, everything you want to be, everything you want to accomplish. It can be random, it can be weird, it can be obscene. Just write it down. All of it.

Bonus: Map out your goals all the way to 2023. For a more thoughtful life, you should be planning for 2019, not 2018. 1 year is too short a life-view to map out.

Step 3: Plan

Time to connect the dots! If you take a macro view at your mind map, you may be able to see ways you can connect different aspects of your life. If you’re trying to move toward a career change, think about how doing the things you love can make you money.

If you have clear goals, think up each step (what you’re going to do each day, each week, each month) to get there.

Tip: Still trying to set clear goals? Follow the SMART acronym: Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. You can use this worksheet from SparkPeople to try it!

These steps help you actually accomplish your goals. Tracking these steps keeps you accountable. Consistency is key!

For Example: Anyone can set a goal of “I want to be able to do a handstand by the end of the year,” but unless you practice it consistently, you won’t ever get there. (Take this from personal experience — this is something I’ve always wanted to accomplish, 10 years after my last gymnastics practice).

Step 4: Write Them Down

So, you’ve got your goals finalized? OK, this part is important: write them down in a visible spot. Whether that’s on a whiteboard, on your bathroom mirror, on a post-it note that goes on the wall, in your planner… just write it down so you will see it every single day.

Not only does that serve as a great reminder, but studies show that if you write down your goals regularly, you’re 42% more likely to achieve them.

Step 5: Adjust

Sometimes you’ll be a couple of months in and realize that no, this is not realistic at all. Or you’ll realize that wow, this is way too easy.

Your goals should serve to push and challenge you, not inflate or deflate your ego. If you find it’s the latter, adjust until you find that sweet spot.

Other helpful links: