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defining goals to achieve a life you love

April 29, 2021

Everyone knows that goal-setting is an important part of achieving success. But what if you don’t know what you want? How can you set goals for yourself if you haven’t found something worth pursuing?

Below are five steps for identifying and achieving both long- and short-term goals.

1. Engage in some self-reflection.

Setting goals when you don’t know what you want may seem like an impossible feat. With a little self-reflection, you can begin to understand what shapes you as a person and what has helped you accomplish everything you’ve gotten out of life so far.

Start by asking yourself the below questions:

  • What motivates you?
  • What inspires you?
  • What gives you purpose?
  • What are some ways you can improve yourself?
  • What kind of impact do you hope to have on the world?
  • What has helped get you to where you are now?
  • Where do you hope to be in 5, 10, or 20 years?

2. Identify your values based on your responses.

When you review your answers to the above questions, you should be able to identify common themes. For example, perhaps you are motivated by having comfort and security in your own life, and offering comfort and security to others also gives you purpose.

These themes reflect the values that are most important to you. These are the things that make you truly happy, the things that make you feel fulfilled. Your values may include things like individuality, freedom, innovation, creativity, justice, accountability, or teamwork.

Every individual has their own unique set of values that represent what they stand for and how they want to be remembered. Taking the time to identify your values will set the direction for your future goals.

3. Use your values to identify and prioritize your goals.

Setting value-based goals gives your life a sense of purpose. Instead of focusing solely on outcome-based goals such as losing 50 pounds, value-based goals make the journey more worthwhile and make the end result feel even more rewarding.

Review the list of values you just came up with and consider goals that align with them. If one of your values is creativity, your goal may be to find a job in graphic design. If you value freedom, your goal may be to become a freelancer so you can choose your own clients and set your own schedule.

After you’ve determined some of your future goals, rewrite them in order of priority. Focus on the goals that are most important to you first. You may also wish to prioritize the goals that can be achieved in a shorter time period. This will prevent you from getting overwhelmed by trying to accomplish too much, too soon.

4. Break down your larger goals into smaller, more reasonable milestones.

Now that you have a list of goals, you may notice that some are loftier than others. There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, but you don’t want to lose faith in yourself if your goals seem too far out of reach. Break them down into smaller chunks to make them more manageable.

Celebrating small victories on your path to achieving a larger goal will also keep you motivated, make you feel more confident in yourself, and will give you a sense of personal satisfaction.

5. Write a detailed plan for achieving your goals, and stick with it.

You put a lot of work into identifying your goals. You don’t want all of that to go to waste because you didn’t plan carefully enough for how you would achieve them.

To increase your chances for success, experts recommend the SMART method. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Let’s say that one of your goals is to save more money. While it’s a good goal that many people have, simply saying “I want to save more money” is rather vague. Your goal, instead, could look something like this:

  • I want to save $5,000 by the end of the year by putting $100 from every paycheck into a savings account.
  • I want to save an extra $200 per month. I will do this by making lunch at home three days a week instead of going out to eat.
  • Within the next year, I want to save $2,000 for a down payment for a new car. To do this, I will paint my own nails instead of getting them done at the salon every Saturday.

Adding more detail about the exact goal you want to achieve and how you will achieve it makes it more specific and measurable, increasing your chances for success.


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