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4 Steps Toward Successful Goal Setting

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When was the last time you set a goal, and how did you achieve it? Or did you achieve it?

The idea of goal setting can be heard when considering weight loss, running a number of miles, reading a number of books, achieving certain grades... actually, the list is endless. But I've seldom heard the phrase "create an action plan" to match that goal.

I often compare this situation to getting into my car to come visit you. I guess I could drive around all day and hope I end up in front of your home. But, I don't know your address, much less your state or if you even live on the same continent as I! Even my navigation system won't help me if I don't have your address. So I need directions, maybe some landmarks. I need specific steps to take if I want to have any hope of reaching you in a reasonable amount of time. And that's where an action plan comes in.

If you are thinking of short-term goals, you might want to consider something that is 3-12 months from the present time, and very specific. For a long-term goal, it might be 2-3 years from now, and may be broader than what you chose when thinking of the short term. Consider the short-term goal of training to run your first half-marathon, as opposed to the long-range of training to qualify as a runner in the Olympics.

For either of these goals, you might let others set your course of action by joining a training organization. But, even that, would not consider all elements that are involved. Someone can watch you run and keep track of your time improvements, and, while they may recommend beneficial nutrition and sleep habits, it would still be up to you to apply those suggestions.

Now is a good time for you to set a goal and establish an action plan for it.

  • After setting that goal, list the specific steps you will need to implement or accomplish, state how you will know that milestone has been reached, and set a target date for each step.
  • Who or what can you use as a resource? Are there books that reveal best practices? Are there others who have been successful in this area and, if so, can you contact them for advice? Is there an organization that provides coaching that would be of use to you?
  • Would it help you to have rewards or reminders along the way? Would it be helpful to share your goal with someone close to you, or to create a vision board? What about posting motivational or inspirational quotes or pictures around your home, your room, or in your wallet? Do you need to plan "breaks" along the way to avoid.
  • What is your process going to be if you find yourself getting distracted by something else, or "falling off the wagon" completely for a bit of time? Or what if success takes longer than previously expected? How will you get yourself back on track? Or stay motivated?

Now that you've written your action plan, and considered who and what can serve as your support, remember that this action plan, and the goal itself, can be fluid. Should new information come into light, should progress come slower, or faster, than expected, both the goal and action plan can be modified.

Just remember, you are the only one who can decide what's right for you, and worth your time and energy when working toward an accomplishment.

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