Life goals should be pretty lofty and usually take years to achieve, which is why staying committed and inspired can be so hard.
So, what can you do to stay committed? I have spent years exploring how to find and maintain happiness through life goal achievement — and then building systems to support those strategies — and I can’t wait to share with you what I’ve learned.
Setting Your Life Goals
Before you can work on getting committed to your life goals, you have to set them.
And the goals you set matter.
I’m sure you’ve learned all about S.M.A.R.T. goals, and that’s a great foundation for setting life goals. But your life goals need a few more rules:
- Goals should be big, scary, and — contrary to achievable S.M.A.R.T. goals — seemingly unattainable. You might ask, “Why on Earth would I set a goal that seems unattainable?” Because the truth is you are far more capable than you believe. I have found that setting my sights too low has actually inhibited my own achievement. When I set goals that are big, scary, and unattainable, guess what I find? That I have it in me. That I have what it takes. That I am pretty amazing and exceptionally capable.
- Goals should encompass the most important areas of your life. All too often, we live to accomplish that one thing. Maybe that’s a doctorate. Maybe it’s a published book or home ownership or finding your birth parents or your soulmate. Maybe it’s reaching the peak of Mount Everest. While these are all great goals, there’s one problem: happiness can only be achieved when you address all of the most important areas of your life — faith, family, health, wealth, intellect, and career. So, really, you should set six life goals: one in each area of life.
- Goals should be consistent. Your life goals should be big, and big goals take time to accomplish. If you change your aims too often (those with an entrepreneurial spirit are often guilty of this), you’ll lose your progress and never reach the finish line. Keep a goal until you achieve the goal.
How to Stay Committed to Your Life Goals
Now comes the part that most of us find the most challenging — sticking with our goals for the long haul and bringing them into reality. But, don’t worry, I’ve learned a lot about this and here is what I recommend you do with your goals:
1. Tell everybody about them.
Speaking your goals out loud is critically important to staying committed. You can make this a part of your morning routine. While you shower, simply state your goals as affirmations:
“My faith drives my words and behaviors. I think and reflect before I speak. I choose to lift up those around me. I give the best version of myself to my loved ones. I am successful. I have all the wealth I need. I choose to nourish my body and mind.”
Once you’ve mastered speaking your goals out loud when you’re alone, practice sharing them with those closest to you — and then with anybody and everybody. The more you share your goals, the more committed you become. Why? Perhaps it’s because now you have something to prove.
When you tell a friend or family member you have this incredibly lofty goal — like becoming a neurosurgeon or paying off your mortgage three years into it — the chances are high of them saying, “That’s impossible!” And all it takes is a single “That’s impossible!” to light the fire and give you the impetus to prove your capability, right?
Those who are truly on your team serve another important purpose: when you share your goals, they can hold you accountable and talk you up when you experience self-doubt. So, speak your goals out loud to yourself and those around you.
2. Celebrate your small wins.
I’ve written another article on the importance of making and celebrating progress toward your big, scary goals. I won’t repeat the research and information that’s there as it’s pretty lengthy, but celebrating baby steps — one meal in which your body was nourished or one completed assignment toward your degree — can help you stay committed over the course of time.
3. Write your goals out twice daily, every day
I’ve learned the most meaningful step I can take to achieving my goals is to write them down every morning and every night. It sounds redundant — and it is — but there is something about redundancy that creates results. Recommitting your goals every morning and then reviewing your progress every night creates a direct connection between the actions you took and the resulting outcomes.
Here’s what I do:
- Every morning I follow the prompts in the Happier Mind Journal, which I created just for this purpose, to refocus on my goals and establish a few action items I can commit to that specific day to make progress, however small. It takes me just five to ten minutes in the morning.
- When I shower and get ready for the day, I speak my goals out loud.
- As I go through my day, I share my goals openly with my friends, family, and colleagues and challenge them to set goals of their own so we can hold each other accountable.
- Before I crawl into bed at night, I use my journal to reflect. Did I do the action items I committed to doing? How do I feel as a result?
What I usually find is that when I can answer “yes” — I did the things I said I would do — I feel satisfied and accomplished at the end of the day. I sleep well, I have energy for tomorrow, and I’m at peace.
When I have to answer “no” — I did not do what I committed to doing today — I feel bad. I generally feel a sense of failure and a little overwhelmed by the magnitude of the goal. I sleep restlessly. It takes much more initiative for me to recommit the next morning.
After a week or two of exploring the cause-and-effect relationship between my actions and my outcomes, the probability that I will do what I said I would do increases because I want to avoid the consequences that result when I don’t — which has been clearly demonstrated through the journaling process.
Are You Ready to Achieve Your Life Goals?
Give this practice and process a try and see what you learn about yourself, your goals, and how your actions make you feel. Feel free to share your goals and/or your thoughts in the comments below.