Understanding the importance of setting goals
When we are busy navigating daily life, it can be easy to forget about our large, long-term goals. You may feel adrift in the world – that you are not moving toward anything important to you, or living in accordance with your values. This can create a sense that life is passing you by, or that you have no sense of agency. At various times in life, you may decide to make a major change or work towards a significant goal. This process can be challenging, yet deeply rewarding.
Setting goals can help determine how best to spend your time. By identifying what is truly important to you, you will know where to concentrate your attention and energy. You will also be better equipped to spot the distractions that lead you astray. Clarifying your purpose can help reduce procrastination and eliminate behaviours that are in conflict with your goals.
How to set goals
Goal-setting requires a few steps. Before you know how best to spend your time, you must clarify your deepest values. The first step when setting goals is to contemplate your overall objective – this might in your entire lifetime, or perhaps a particular timeframe in the future, for example one, five or twenty years. Setting long-term goals can provide an overall direction that informs your day-to-day decisions about how your time is spent.
To begin contemplating the important areas in your life, try to think about setting goals in some of the following categories:
Once you have considered and decided on your long-term goals, set yourself smaller goals that must be achieved if you are to reach your lifetime goals.
One way to make goals more tangible is to use the SMART mnemonic:
- Specific – focused on a particular desired outcome
- Measurable – quantifying your goal means you can determine the point at which you have achieved it
- Achievable – goals shouldn’t be unrealistic – aim instead for challenging, but possible
- Relevant – choose goals that are directly related to your personal values and interests
- Time-bound – the demands of daily life sometimes get in the way of our goals, so including a time-frame can help keep us on track
Goals and habits
Conversely, it is possible to become too goal-oriented, to the point where we no longer enjoy the journey. When we are excessively outcome-focussed, the reality of achieving our goal is unlikely to meet our expectations. In addition to goal-setting, it is important to focus on habits. Major achievements are made up of many smaller tasks. By focusing on these tasks and habit formation, you can make positive strides without being solely focused on outcomes. Goals can perhaps best be viewed as a larger framework for considering the desired habits and direction in which we hope to move.
Mission accomplished – what now?
Take the time to acknowledge and enjoy your achievement when a goal is reached. Consider the implications of the goal being met, and assess the progress you’ve made, including toward other goals. If necessary, adjust your other goals based on your experience with this goal. Modify targets, difficulty or timeframe based on whether the achieved goal was easier or harder, or completed faster or slower, than anticipated.
How Seed Psychology can help
If you are finding it difficult to motivate yourself towards setting or achieving goals – or are unsure what you want out of life – we may be able to help. We will help you understand your current situation, your desired circumstances, and assist you in planning a pathway between them. Our psychologists can also help with problem-solving, habit formation, cultivating motivation and increasing psychological flexibility to better cope with setbacks. The highly skilled and experienced psychologists at Seed Psychology can help you to clarify your values and goals, as well as the steps required to achieve them, to increase your overall life satisfaction.
Contact us now to make an appointment.