Tips for Setting Successful Goals

When New Year’s Day rolls around, many people take time to step back and evaluate how their lives are going. Whether personal or professional, some choose to set goals that allow them to improve in some way.

By setting goals that are attainable, you give yourself a chance to look back the following Dec. 31 and marvel at your accomplishments during the year. Here are some tips for setting goals that can help you take a meaningful step toward self-improvement.

Set a SMART Goal

If you set a goal for yourself that doesn’t seem realistic, you might end up feeling less motivated to complete it. By setting a SMART goal, you can give yourself goals that help you move in the direction that’s right for you. SMART stands for:

  • Specific: Your goal needs to be clear. What exactly do you want to achieve, how are you going to achieve it, and why do you want to achieve it? Setting a goal that’s vague and not specific is usually not a way to succeed.
  • Measurable: Make a goal that allows you to see your progress. How will you know when you’ve reached your goal? If it’s something measurable, then you can measure your progress as you take courses.
  • Attainable: Setting a goal that’s reachable is key to your success. If your goal isn’t realistic, you’re not going to feel motivated to do it. Can you climb Mount Everest two months from now if you’ve never climbed a mountain before? You must give yourself something you can achieve – something you know you can accomplish if you plan well and work hard enough.
  • Relevant: Does your goal seem worthwhile, and will your time be best spent trying to reach it? You also need to make sure it fits with your current life situation. If you’re aiming for a certain position at work, does it align with your qualifications?
  • Timely: Give yourself a time limit. If you want to get a degree in two years, then set that limit and stick to it. If you have a time goal, you know when you need to get things done and how quickly to complete them. You also will be able to use the deadline you set to measure success.

Visualize Yourself Reaching Your Goals

Visualization is an important part of breaking through obstacles. It’s a strategy often used to good effect by actors and college and pro athletes. If you’re serious about attaining a goal, then work on picturing yourself after the goal is reached.

In your visualization, what does your life look like? What do you look like? According to an Entrepreneur article, this technique was successfully used by people like Muhammad Ali, Jim Carrey and Michael Jordan.

In a study published by the National Institutes of Health, researchers found that mental exercises are almost as useful as physical exercise, and doing both resulted in greater success. Combine visualization with meditation to help you focus on your goals.

Some tips to remember when visualizing are:

  • Spend around 10-15 minutes each day visualizing your goals. Are you working on getting a new degree? Visualize what it will be like when you walk across that stage and get your degree. Will your family and friends be there to cheer you on? How happy will you feel?
  • Make your visualization detailed and vivid. Don’t just picture one or two things – picture a full scenario that includes a beginning, middle and end.
  • Integrate visualizing into your daily routine. If it becomes part of your day to visualize, then you won’t forget about it.

Practice Positive Self-Talk

Don’t think negatively – negative thoughts can impede you from reaching goals. If you tell yourself, “I can’t do this,” or, “This is too hard,” you’re only hurting your progress toward your goal. Instead, work on integrating positive phrases into your mind.

A Psychology Today article offers some tips on practicing successful self-talk:

  • Ignore negativity. We’re all bound to have negative thoughts from time to time, but don’t dwell on them. Instead, move your attention to something positive.
  • Create a phrase that motivates you, and use it as your inner cheerleader.
  • Find a focus and stick to it. It’s easy to get distracted from your goals, but talk your way back into your focus.

With the right strategies in mind, you can set goals that will help you get to where you want to be in life. Many set goals of going back to school, and if you’re one of those, consider choosing a program that aligns with your career choices, like an accelerated 1-year MBA program from Jacksonville University.


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