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Written by: Tabitha S.

Spouse-ly Customer & MilSpouse

There’s something about January 1st that is inspiring and motivating.  All that didn’t get done last year suddenly seems to have the possibility of being accomplished this year.  Maybe last year sucked for you or maybe it was great or somewhere in between. In any event, we all have hopes, desires, and dreams for our lives—when better to set goals than the New Year?  But what about all of the years that you didn’t lose those 10 pounds, didn’t get that new job, or all of the other one million possible goals you set for yourself that weren’t accomplished? Let’s make this year different.  Let’s start this year off right.

So how exactly do you do that, you ask?  Good question! The key to accomplishing your goals is actually fairly simple: set achievable goals (mic drop—you’re welcome).  Setting unrealistic goals does nothing but set you up for failure and disappointment. Below are some useful guidelines on setting goals so that they are achievable, followed by three steps to creating concrete goals and notes on staying motivated during progress.

Guidelines: Here are four guidelines for setting achievable goals.  The first would be practicality. If you’re making minimum wage, it is not practical that you set a goal to save 1 million dollars this year.  Second, set goals that actually mean something to you. Don’t follow fads. If following a Paleo diet is actually something you feel would enhance your life, go right ahead, but don’t make commitments to something because you feel like you should.  Third, your goals should be healthy!  That is to say they should not put you or anyone else in any sort of harm.  Over-committing, for example, can lead to lost family time, stress, and burn out.  None of these things are healthy or life enhancing. Lastly, consider your ability to achieve these goals.  For example, I won’t be setting a goal to start my own home-staging business because I am simply not talented that way!  The ability just isn’t there. A goal to become educated in an area that I want to achieve more in would be more appropriate in such a case.

Getting Started: A great way to do this is to begin by brainstorming.  Get a piece of paper out and write down things you would like to accomplish.  Beginning with broad topics is completely acceptable. Maybe you want to be more financially stable, but aren’t exactly sure what that looks like, you just know you want it.  Write it down and move on to your next idea. Perhaps you are a little more specific, you don’t just want to be more financially stable, you know where you want to start (i.e. you want to accomplish that emergency fund that Dave Ramsey is always raving about).  Write it down! How about living that healthier lifestyle, gaining a new skill, or learning a new hobby? Write it down!

Narrow Your Goals Down:  While New Year’s resolutions can often be viewed as fads, the importance of setting goals for yourself is immensely helpful in actually achieving them.  Doing this gives you accountability and a sense of direction. After you get your broad topics written down, begin to think about how to achieve them. Using our financial security example above, you would write down what it would look like for you to achieve financial security.  Regarding living a healthier lifestyle, you would write down what it would mean for you to do that. Eating cleaner, exercising, and following up with any overdue doctor’s appointments would be examples of how you might achieve this goal. So now that you have your broad goals narrowed down into more specific ones, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Action Items:  Without incorporating this step, you may find yourself struggling to achieve these your goals.  Perhaps eating healthier is on your specific goals list, but truthfully, you don’t know what that looks like.  As a matter of fact, maybe you cringed at the thought of eating salads for breakfast, lunch, and dinner while you were writing the words, “healthier diet” on your list!  So the next important step is your Action Items List. This list tells you exactly what you need to do in order to achieve your specific goals. Think about what gets in your way of achieving these goals naturally and how you will head it off.  If you don’t really even know what it means to eat healthier, consider consulting a nutritionist. If you do know and maybe meal planning has been your nemesis in this, then meal planning to avoid eating McDonald’s for your work lunch break would be more helpful in reaching your goals.  Therefore, add meal planning to your Action Items list (Helllooooo Pinterest).  

Progress… Progress will look different for everyone and vary with your goals.  It is important to be able to measure progress in each of your goals so that you can keep yourself motivated when you begin to doubt yourself.  While we are on the topic of progress, if you find that you have hit a road block in your efforts or maybe you have made effort and fall off the wagon, press on!  Don’t throw your hands in the air in defeat. Instead, examine why you are not where you want to be with your efforts. Have you truly not been trying hard enough?  Ahem… that 10 pounds isn’t going anywhere while you sit on the couch eating junk food. Or has an unexpected life circumstance halted your progress in its tracks? Perhaps you had to use the emergency fund you had saved so hard for to travel for a family member’s funeral.  Don’t beat yourself up about this detour in your progression! In such an instance, there is no amount of effort on your part that could have made this situation different.  

Some final thoughts: Let your goals be a living, breathing thing.  For example, if you find that you have accomplished a goal sooner than expected, consider adding something new to your list or something that takes your original goal a step further.  For example, if you are rocking your new weight and clean eating goals, consider challenging yourself to a 5k if that is something you find enhancing to your original goals. On the opposite end, if you realize you have set goals unrealistically high, adjust them.  


So, what are some of your goals in 2020?

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