We are taught that setting goals helps us progress in life, but are rarely told how to set them. Goals are nuanced, and our circumstances impact the types of goals that we can create. Two people may have the same goal of ‘being a CEO’, but depending on their identity, and taking intersectionality into account, one person may be far more likely to achieve the goal. This doesn’t mean that the person less likely shouldn’t try, but it does mean that their path to progress will look different. If you feel like your path to progress is covered in obstacles, it’s time to start thinking about how to set your goals for success.
First, think about your long-term goal. Write it out, envision it, try to think about what your life would be like if you achieved it. Think of the ways your life would be different if you completed this goal.
Next, ask yourself why you want to reach this goal. On the same piece of paper, under the goal, write out your motivators for doing it. Is it to create a better life for your family? To be more confident in yourself? There are endless reasons for us to want to achieve, but our intrinsic motivation is essential to starting. These motivators will help you keep moving towards these goals, even when you feel worn out.
After you understand your motivators, think about the path to achievement. Set a realistic timeline for yourself. Will it take two weeks? Two years? Give yourself a range of time. When we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and do not reach them, it can negatively impact our self-esteem and resilience.
Once the timeline is made, write out all of the little achievements and steps it will take to get there. Make these small steps as simple as possible. Soon after, you will begin achieving them, and this achievement will motivate you to continue towards your larger goal.
Writing all of this down in one place is a good way to organize yourself. When you feel unmotivated or exhausted, revisit the reasons you are doing this work, and start going after your shorter-term goals. There is power in momentum, and the more you feel like you’ve achieved, the more you will want to continue achieving.
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Written by Jessy Pucker, LMSW