As we start the new year, it is a good time to reflect back on how the past 12 months went, and gear up for the next 12 months. I like to spend a few hours in the beginning of the year doing a reflection of the past year, and brainstorming goals for the new year. Here’s a reflection of my 2022 year.
Setting your goals can be a daunting task. Whether you have already set your goals for the year or have yet to do so, this guide will provide you with the tools and resources you need to set goals that truly matter to you and help you to achieve them. It doesn’t matter whether you are starting to set your goals in January, or in the middle of the year. The best time to set your goals is now.
Why is setting goals important?
Goal setting is important because it provides a clear direction, a plan to follow, and a means to measure progress. It allows individuals to focus their energy and efforts on what is truly important to them, rather than getting bogged down by the many distractions in life.
Goals are an essential part of personal and professional development as they provide direction and purpose to our lives. Having a written goal provides a clear destination to work toward and a roadmap to follow.
Framework for setting goals
Here are some steps you can follow to setup actionable goals that you feel motivated to follow -
Step 1: Start with your vision
There is one quality which one must possess to win, that is a definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.- Napoleon Hill
Here are some prompts to help you set your goals -
- Envision your legacy: What impact do you want to make and how do you want to be remembered?
- Create a 5-year vision: Imagine where you want to be in five years and what you want to have accomplished.
- Start with your dream: Think about what you would love to achieve, even if it seems unrealistic.
- Reflect on your past: Think about what you've been wanting to achieve over the last few years.
- Consider what you admire in others: What are the qualities or accomplishments that you admire in other people that you would like to adopt?
- Determine what you want to do less of: Are there any activities or habits that you want to reduce or eliminate?
Write down everything that comes to your mind even if it seems crazy. Your wildest dreams may be unrealistic, but this process will help you steer yourself towards achieving them.
For instance, for me, my dream is to write a book that is important to developers in my community.
Step 2: Break down vision into achievable goals
Your desire to achieve this goal must be so intense that the idea of accomplishing your goal brings you happiness and excitement - Brian Tracy, Goals!
Once you have written down what you want to achieve, it is now time to create goals that will help you get there. Here are some strategies for creating achievable goals -
Create goals from your vision: Working backwards from your vision, think about what goals will help you get there? For example, if your dream is to run a marathon, what goals can help you get there? An example of a goal that would help you achieve this vision would be to run 5 miles every day. For me, that goal would be to write a few words every day. Write down all your goals on a piece of a paper or a digital notepad.
Prioritize your goals: If you have a lot of goals at this stage, it helps to pick your topmost goals. When prioritizing, I like to think about the “fire level” I have for each goal. I define “Fire level” as the feeling you get when you think about how badly do you want to achieve your goal? I use 🔥 to denote “HELL YEAH” and 💕 for “would be nice”. In the book Goal!, author Brian Tracy recommends thinking about your “why” behind the goal and write it down next to the goal. Since we have finite time and it is possible you won’t be able to achieve all your goals in one year, knowing your “Why” will help you determine how much fire you have in you to achieve this goal. Knowing how strongly you want your goal will also help you evaluate if this goal is worth pursuing when it is time to re-evaluate goals.
Bring goals under your control: You have better chances of achieving your goal if you have control over the outcome. For example - if I set a goal of becoming a best-selling author, I am setting a goal that is not under my control. I can try to write the best book I can, which is under my control, but how the audience receives it, is not under my control. So to bring this goal under my control, I can reframe my goal to be “write a well-researched book on topics that my audience is interested in”. Now this is under my control, and it makes it achievable for me since I can do research to ensure I am writing a well-informed book.
Identify the areas that require improvement: For each of your goals, evaluate why you have not achieved your goal yet. In the book Goals!, author Brian Tracy recommends identifying any obstacles or barriers that are preventing you from reaching your goal. Be specific and thorough in considering all possible factors that may be hindering your progress. What are you missing right now to achieve your goal? Where are you good? Where do you need to improve? These are the gaps you need to work on to achieve your goal. Write these down as tasks.
Define success: One of the key questions to ask yourself when measuring progress is- "How do I know I achieved this goal?" Having a clear understanding of what success looks like will help you know when you've reached your goal. In the book Atomic Habits, author James Clear suggests thinking of your goals in terms of quantifiable metrics, such as numbers, percentages. This makes it easy to track progress towards your goals. For example for me, I will know I am making progress towards achieving my goal if I start writing chapters and have completed a certain number of chapters in a year. So a measure of progress for me is the number of chapters I finish by the end of the year.
Step 3: Prepare for failures
As we all know, not everyone who starts a new year’s resolution sticks to it by the end of the year. How long do you think it takes most people to drop their new year’s resolutions? 23% of people quit by the end of the first week, 64% after the first month (according to a study with Australian and UK citizens), and 81% before the end of the second year. Why do you think that happens? It’s because people lose motivation when things get tough.
When we haven’t prepared ourselves for the adverse situations, it becomes hard to stay on track and be motivated to overcome hardships when progressing towards our goal. Instead, when we prepare for failures, we prepared ourselves ahead of time to tackle the situation.
Hence, to ensure success of your goal, it is important to prepare yourself by thinking about the adverse situations. Some questions that can help your prepare yourself-
- What will stop you from starting this goal?
- What are some things that can go wrong when you are making progress?
- What can you do when you encounter failure?
- How can you prevent yourself from burning out?
- How can you get back on track to keep your momentum going?
Write these down next to your goals, so that when you see you are not making progress, you can use these to get back in the momentum.
For example, it will be my imposter syndrome and the habit of procrastination that will stop me from even starting. When I do start, I may feel bored, unmotivated or tired at the end of the day to write anything. I may run out of ideas while writing or feel burnt out. If I prepare myself for these things in advance, I can get a better handle on things when they go south.
Step 4: Make it a habit
Once you know your goals, its time to put them into action. Do something everyday that brings you closer to achieving them, even if it is for a few minutes. To make it easier to be consistent towards your goals, it helps to establish a system that helps you achieve these habits everyday. In Atomic Habits, author James Clear discusses the importance of setting a habit system and some tips from Atomic Habits that can help you establish your habit system -
Find your “clutter”: Clutter is any time that is not directly progressing you towards your goal, adding to the joy of your life, or helping you relax. Take an inventory of the time you are spending every day on each clutter activity. By removing your clutter, you can bring intention into your schedule and clear up time to put your goals on your calendar in the form of daily habits.
Block time in your calendar for a habit: It becomes a lot easier to achieve your goal, when the habit that will help you achieve that goal is scheduled in your calendar. It is a lot easier to forget about a goal if it is not accounted for in your day-to-day life. Use your calendar or however you schedule your time to appoint time to achieve goals.
Remove friction: Instead of relying on motivation, create a system that makes it easy to follow through on your good habits and hard to slip back into bad habits. Think about how you can help your future self be in the right mindset to achieve the goal. Remove all distractions. For example, if you are going to workout, make it easy for your future self to get to the gym by keeping your workout clothes next to your bed so you can put them on first thing in the morning, and load up your pump-up playlist on your phone so you can play as you go.
Figure out baby steps: Often, a goal feels overwhelming to achieve because it feels like a giant elephant we need to eat. But, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Similarly, in order to build lasting habits, small, incremental changes are incredibly important. Think about what is the smallest thing you can do to make a baby step towards your goal today? If you are thinking of getting in shape and are struggling to go to gym, put on your favorite workout clothes and go for a walk. Bring out your yoga mat and do an easy yoga practice. The practice of finishing a small task towards your goal can release dopamine, which makes us feel motivated, joyful and successful. Our mind wants to achieve that feeling again, and hence getting into the habit of achieving smaller tasks towards our goals becomes easier.
For me, this baby step is getting a few words on the page. I will be a lot closer to finishing my book if I put in 200 words every day. This will help me make incremental progress towards my goal by the end of the year.
Be consistent: Consistency is key to building lasting habits. By sticking to your habits even when you don't feel like it, you'll be able to make it a part of your identity and make it stick.
Step 5: Find people who support you - your hype squad.
Having a group of people who you can reach out to when you are feeling low, unmotivated, doubtful or lost is really important and often overlooked. We undervalue how much we are affected by our surroundings, family and co-workers. Think about some people who affect you day-to-day - your friends, family, co-workers, social circle, and folks who you don’t interact with day-to-day but aspire to be like. I like to think of this group of folks as my hype squad - these are the folks I reach out to when I am in doubt, need advice, want to feel motivated, want them to hype me up or just generally looking to get good vibes when I share my accomplishments. Here are some roles that you should look to fill -
- Who is someone who can help you reach your goals? Perhaps this is someone who has already achieved this goal themselves. This person can be your mentor.
- Who is someone who can be your cheer-leader when you feel down? This person can help lift up your spirits when you are feeling doubtful of your skills.
- Who can be my accountability buddy? This person can help you stay motivated and on track by checking in with you regularly and helping you stay accountable.
- Who should you surround myself with so you can stay inspired and motivated? These can be experts in the industry, or someone who is excelling in this field. This person will inspire you, motivate you and keep you focussed on your goal.
- Who in your household can help you achieve your goal? We often overlook the importance of family and housemates. Think of how your family can support you in achieving your goal.
For example - for my book, my hype squad could include people who have written a book before, and can therefore offer me advice.
Staying accountable and tracking your goals becomes easier when you are part of a supportive and motivated community. For this reason, I created this Discord community. We help each other stay on track by keeping each other accountable, checking in regularly, and hype each other up. I strongly suggest you become a member of this community.
Step 6: Measure progress and re-evaluate goals.
Forming habits is a continuous process that requires constant reflection and adjustments in order to improve. Tracking progress, staying motivated and making necessary changes will aid in this process.
Reflect and adjust: Measuring progress towards your goals is an important step in achieving them. Reflect on your progress regularly and be honest with yourself. If you are not making enough progress, try to understand the reasons behind it. Is it that the “Why” of your goal is not strong enough and you are not motivated to achieve this goal. Is it possible that your schedule is too busy and you don’t have time for this goal?
Reward yourself: To make the journey toward achieving your goal more exciting, reward yourself for reaching milestones, this can help keep you motivated and give you a sense of accomplishment. Celebrating your progress by setting up rewards for yourself can be a great way to stay motivated throughout the process.
Have a check-in day: In order to make sure your goals are working for you, setup a check-in day. During this time, you can reflect on your progress, evaluate if the goal still makes sense for you, check if your priorities are the same and see if there are any obstacles that are preventing you from achieving the goal. This could mean changing some things around your goal, stopping or pivoting if you're not making progress, or even breaking your long-term goals into smaller, more manageable chunks. This is also a good time to check in with your hype-squad. This check-in day could be quarterly or monthly.
Bonus: My personal tools
Here are my personal tools that I use to set goals -
- Bullet Journal Goals spread - I mentioned writing down your goals on a piece of paper. I use my bullet journal to write my goals for the year. This is the spread from my 2023 bullet journal
Notion template: I use the framework I described in this blog to break down my goal into smaller tasks, habits, my “why”, the fire level, potential failures and my hype squad. I put this in a digital format that I can keep on me at all times. This is the notion template I use. This is inspired by Ali Abdaal.
Discord: This is my accountability community to help you stay on your goals. This is a goals cohort, and we check-in with each other monthly. I am excited to invite the community to join my Discord channel, where we will come together and support each other as we work towards our goals. Together, we will be a powerful force of accountability and motivation, pushing each other to be our best selves. Whether you're working on personal development, career goals, or just looking for a supportive community, my Discord channel is the perfect place to connect with others who are on a similar journey. By joining forces, we will be able to achieve more than we ever thought possible.
Let's make our dreams a reality!
This is OUR YEAR.
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