It doesn’t matter if you are trying to lose fifty pounds or make fifty thousand dollars. A goal is a goal.
The specific actions you take to achieve a goal are going to vary, of course. And some goals are harder to achieve than others. But the basic principles of goal setting are the same no matter what area of life you are trying to improve.
People love to set goals. Every time a new year rolls around, millions of people around the world set new goals for themselves. Some people even make a quarterly habit of establishing new goals.
But while setting goals is fairly common, actually working towards and achieving them is a lot more rare. So if you are serious about improving your health, wealth, or happiness through strategic goal setting, you need a plan for knowing when you’ve actually achieved your goals.
And that’s exactly what this post is going to provide.
What Makes a Good Goal?
Before you figure out how to know when you have achieved your goals, it’s worth examining your goals to make sure they are actually worth working towards.
A fairly common practice is setting SMART goals. That is, goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.
- Specific goals are clear and focused. You know exactly what you want to do and why you want to do it.
- Measurable goals can be quantified so that you can clearly say “yes” or “no” when it comes time to assess your progress. Can you put an exact number on your goal (“I want to earn an extra $200 a month for 6 months”)? If not, you at least need to establish standards that you can use to hold yourself accountable.
- Achievable goals are realistically within your scope. Running a marathon next month probably isn’t very realistic (or healthy) if you are 70 pounds overweight and have lived a sedentary lifestyle for the past decade. But walking a 5k might be.
- Relevant goals are important to you. You are the best person to achieve them and now is the best time to do it. Furthermore, relevant goals won’t be hindered by other responsibilities that you have to attend to.
- Time Bound goals have a due date. You want to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks. You want to replace your full-time job with freelancing within a year. If your goal doesn’t have a due date, you will struggle to find motivation to make progress towards it.
Whether you already have a long list of goals or you are making a fresh set from scratch, walk each one through the SMART goal standards to see that you are setting strong goals for yourself.
What Mindset Do I Need To Reach My Goals?
Setting goals isn’t enough. You’ve got to work towards them too. But if you don’t approach your goals with the right mindset, then you will lose steam before you ever see them through to the end.
Here is the mindset you need: Focus on your transformed self, not your numbers.
We told you earlier to quantify your goals. But we don’t want you to become fixated on the numbers. Instead, focus on the person you are transforming into.
For example, imagine you set a goal to wake up at 5:00 AM every day for 60 days straight. Of course you need to track your progress on a calendar or chart. But don’t constantly tell yourself “I’ve woken up early for X weeks in a row!”. If you do, then once you achieve your 60 day goal, you might be tempted to backslide.
Instead, every day, tell yourself “I’m becoming a morning person.” This way, your mindset is focused on your inner growth rather than external numbers.
How Will I Know I Have Achieved My Goals?
Now that you have set strong goals and adopted a goal-centered mindset, it’s time to tackle the question of how you will know when you have achieved your goals.
If you followed our advice, then you gave each of your goals a due date. When the time comes around, then you have to assess your progress based on the standards you set. It’s just that simple.
If you said you were going to make your first $1000 freelancing by January 1st, then look at your earnings report. If you said you were going to lose 5 pounds in a month, it’s time to step on a scale.
Sometimes, your goals aren’t as easily measurable as that, of course. Maybe you set a goal to complain less and be thankful more. In cases like this, a good way to know if you’ve achieved your goal is to seek input from other people. Especially if you have a mentor, an external point of view may be able to look at your progress more truthfully than you can yourself.
But What If I Didn’t Achieve My Goal?
What you absolutely shouldn’t do is beat yourself up. That’s not going to get you anywhere.
No one gets 100% every single time.
Instead of getting down on yourself, you should do two things:
First, celebrate small wins. So maybe you didn’t make it to new 50 clients by the end of the year. Did you make it to 30? 20? That is still progress. Even if you didn’t make any measurable movement towards your goals, did you learn anything along the way? Often times, we learn so much more from our failures than we do from our successes.
Next, ask yourself why? Take a good look at your goals and the actions you took towards them. Can you figure out why you didn’t meet the goal? Maybe your goal wasn’t as realistic as you thought it was. Or maybe you stretched yourself too thin. Or maybe you just didn’t seek out the support you really needed to make the goal happen. Whatever the case, if you can determine why you didn’t meet your goal, then you can set a new due date and correct your course to get back on track.