I’m an organized person, it’s true. I like lists (and checking off those lists. I like digital journaling where I can add pictures, links, and my thoughts without having to do a separate scrapbook. I like having a single place for my notebooks. I like reducing clutter and putting (and keeping) things in their places. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that I like goals. Reading goals, personal goals, health goals. They help me organize my life. Plus, there’s so much I have to work on personally, that if I didn’t have goals, I’d never improve as a person (I’d feel overwhelmed in the sheer amount of stuff I have to do to be a better person).
Maybe you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sort of person, which is totally okay. Maybe the idea of goals and lists makes you feel constrained and controlled. I understand (intellectually) that a spontaneous personality might be reluctant to impose even this much on order on their lives, so let me put it another way…
Goals are about motivation. If you have depression or anxiety or [add your issue here], then you have those times where you don’t feel motivated. Depression, as I can attest, can suck the energy out of you. When that happens, goals can keep you going. What’s worse than be depressed is feeling as if your life is in shambles. Goals point you to that place you want to be, and we all have a place we want to be whether it’s being financially solvent, academically accomplished, eternally minded, or happy.
How to Make Goals
If you’ve never made goals before, it can seem overwhelming. I learned the value and art of goal-making (and fulfilling) while in Young Women, a teenage LDS Church program. It has been immensely valuable in my young adult and adult life because it has taught me how to set and see goals through.
- Identify something you want in life. It could be short-term (buying a favorite book) or long-term (planning for retirement). Maybe you just want to improve yourself in some way: being more healthy, gaining more knowledge on a certain subject, improving your character (patience is one of my weaker points). When I decided to find happiness through healthy habits, I blogged about it, identifying those things I needed to improve on. Some things I was good at (running); some not so much (sleeping).
- List ways that will get you to that goal. They don’t have to be organized. Just throw out ideas. Improve your eating habits, exercise more, sleep a full night. I just wrote anything down when it came to health. You can pare down the list later.
- Start small. Sometimes a long-term goal—such as retirement—can be broken into much smaller goals. Listing one big goal can be overwhelming. But breaking into smaller goals such as opening an IRA, saving so much money a month, and starting a retirement account can make it more manageable. With my healthy habits goal, I broke down the categories I needed to improve on into small, doable pieces: sleeping, eating, and exercising.
- Make a plan. Use what you’ve discovered thus far to form a plan starting with a single small goal and a few ways to attain it, and then go from there. If you want to save money, start with a budget. Then list your assets and see if there’s anything you don’t use or want that you can sell. Cut out extraneous, unnecessary charges (such as eating out every day). Find a savings account with a good rate of return. Look for a better job. With healthy habits, I had three major categories (sleeping, eating, exercising) with ways to accomplish healthiness in each category.
- Begin. Take that first step: make a budget, start reading a book about origami (if you want to learn origami), incorporate more vegetables into your diet. When I decided to find happiness through healthy habits, I started at the top of the category of sleeping in the sub-category of getting to sleep earlier and began. That night.
- Update yourself or others as to your progress. Writing things down helps me to wade through my thoughts and experiences and see how things are really going. I’ve often updated this blog and my journal as to my progress with health goals.
- Don’t quit. Sometimes you backslide. That’s okay. Just keep on going. Tenacity will see you through.
- Celebrate you accomplishments. Celebrate when you reach your goals or even your sub-goals. Let people know. They’ll celebrate with you. I’ll celebrate with you.
When I set goals, usually at the beginning of each year, I try not to do a whole comprehensive list of everything I want to change about myself (because that’s a lot). I pick a few things especially important to me and not measurable purely on numbers. I don’t have a goal to lose weight; I have one to live a more healthy lifestyle. The latter is much better health-wise and self-esteem-wise. I have reading goals that are more specific than “read everything I’ve ever wanted to read.” Instead, I opt for “read about a country” or “read one classic a month” or “read the books on this bookshelf.”
Start small with one goal, something that means something to you, and then never give up. Having some structure to your life, something you’re striving for when life gets hard, helps you to keep oriented on what’s really important and stay happy despite the tough times.