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5 Tips for Setting a Goal and Sticking to It

Do you have a never-ending mental to-do list weighing you down? Scores of people dream of writing a novel or launching a business, but relatively few do. What’s holding you back? 

Perhaps you need to take your dreams out of the ephemeral realm of “someday” and make them concrete by creating a plan for reaching them. Here are five tips for setting a goal and sticking to it. 

1. Put It in Writing 

Nearly everyone has a bucket list — have you tried writing yours down? If not, spend some time brainstorming what matters to you. What do you hope to accomplish? You can use a bullet list in your journal to take all those “someday” dreams out of your head and put them in black and white. If you’re in a partnership, you and your beau can do this activity together and select a mutual aim.

When making your list, focus on the positive aspects of what you want to accomplish, avoiding the negative. For example, you might say, “eat healthier and take care of my body” instead of “stop eating french fries.” Let’s face it — the prospect of a lifetime without such indulgent fatty treats might deter you from your objective, keeping you mired in the mental trap of “I should, but I don’t want to.” 

However, thinking of each meal as an opportunity to improve your health returns you to the driver’s seat, restoring your sense of agency over your life’s direction. Think of goal-setting as building yourself up instead of putting yourself on any kind of restriction. 

2. Break It Down

Let’s say you want to write a novel. Such a weighty goal can quickly overwhelm you if you don’t break it down into smaller steps. 

Instead, why not set a daily or weekly goal? You might choose to write one page or paragraph per day. While that might not seem like much, it’s one more than you would have written if you instead chose to use your time sitting on the couch, watching Netflix. 

Daily goals might work best for you if you tend to procrastinate. However, those with tightly packed schedules might do best to set a weekly goal, tackling it early when you have the time while also giving yourself a bit of grace to let yourself breathe. 

3. Make It Convenient 

You probably have a world of technology to let you pen a page or plan your marketing strategy while you commute. Do you make the best use of your available tools? 

You can even make better use of your downtime. Apps such as Happify let you improve your mental health while you commute or wait in line. It’s far more efficient than scrolling social media, making yourself feel guilty about what others are doing while reading your feed. 

4. Appoint Accountability Partners 

Other people can help keep you on track by providing gentle reminders. Even a simple “how’s the book coming?” can remind you of your goal. 

However, select people with care, choosing those who aren’t afraid to be truthful. You want the friend who tells you it’s unhealthy to smoke, not the one who’ll offer you a butt on your work break. These folks will help you differentiate between a needed break and an excuse. Does your body legitimately need the rest, or are you looking for a reason to skip the gym and hit happy hour?

5. Celebrate Your Achievement 

The test of your mental toughness is not letting that “why try when it does no good” attitude spill over into everything else in your life. To keep your momentum high, plan regular celebrations of your accomplishments. 

Include these when you complete the bigger goal and at regular intervals along the way. Creating a sense that your hard work indeed pays off will encourage you to keep going when your inspiration wanes. 

You might be one of many people with a mental list of dreams you never seem to accomplish. If you want to make it happen, you can, but you must get your aspirations out of your head and into reality. 

Follow the steps above for setting a goal and sticking to it. It doesn’t matter if you want to lose weight or pen the next great American novel — the power is yours if you harness it.

Photo by John Arano on Unsplash



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