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Better Goals

No. 1 Goal for the New Year: Set Better Goals

You know how important it is to set goals for yourself. You also know how difficult it can be to meet those goals.

It might be time to change the way you think. You have to be willing to overhaul your thinking if you want to flip your life’s script.

The problem is, most of us create our goals and establish them in very general terms. We come up with goals like “Make more money” or “Get healthy” without understanding that a general, global sort of goal is really overwhelming.

Regardless of what you’re trying to achieve, the point is to reconfigure it into a habit goal.

A habit goal is more specific than a general goal. It’s less abstract, more practical. A habit goal is an achievable, easily understood change in habit that moves you along the path to the big-picture goal you’re chasing.

Let’s say you want to learn to speak Spanish. You could make that a general goal: “Learn Spanish.” But where do you start? How do you evaluate your progress? What if, instead, you say it this way: “Do all the Spanish flashcards at least once a day.” Bingo! That’s an achievable goal. And it’s expressed in a way that makes doing it regularly a part of working toward making it a habit.

Habit goals are about repeating an activity on a regular basis. Instead of a fitness goal like “Pay More Attention to My Appearance,” you could try “Wash My Hair Every Wednesday and Saturday.” Boom! Instead of saying “Memorize the 12 Cranial Nerves,” commit to “Review Cranial Nerves on Page 143 Every Day at 5 p.m.”

Also, don’t get caught up in taking a general goal and putting a deadline on it. That’s not a habit goal. If your general goal is “Learn to salsa dance,” changing it to “Learn to salsa dance by Memorial Day” doesn’t do anything but make you feel more guilty and anxious when you realize Memorial Day is approaching. The trick is to replace goal deadlines with goal schedules: “Practice salsa dance moves six days a week for two months in a row.” Even better, assign a specific time to the habit goal. “Practice salsa moves six days a week from 4:30 to 5 p.m. for two months in a row.”

We’re not asking you to get rid of your old goals and come up with a whole bunch of new ones. We’re asking you to think about your goals and reconfigure the way you express them. We’re asking you to look for ways that you can break goals up into smaller, easier chunks. Start taking it day by day, instead of placing the enormous pressure of a general goal on your shoulders.

Sample Habit Goals

General goal (OLD) 

Habit goal (NEW)

Lose weight

Walk every day before dinner; 50 steps the first day plus 50 more every new day

Get healthy

Do a workout in the morning for 100 days in a row

Get better grades

Review class notes for 15 minutes before every class session

For more detail on habit goals, and the best way to get started (hint: try a new goal for 30 days and then evaluate your progress), take a look here.

Thanks and a tip o’ the hat to College Info Geek.