How can SMART goalsetting kick-start your new life?

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Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Achieving great things seems possible when you’re young. But over time, you find yourself drifting aimlessly, without clear goals. As the years pass, you ask yourself: Is this all there is? To get over these doldrums, see how SMART goalsetting can kick-start your new life. Because it’s never too late to find greater meaning and purpose. 

Goalsetting can kick-start your life

Do you want to find that something that makes you jump out of bed in the morning? Do you want to regain the inspiration you felt when you were younger? Transform your life by setting fulfilling and challenging goals. Later in this article, you’ll learn how to set SMART goals. 

However, if it were that easy, you’d have done it already. So what stops you from redesigning your life to make it more satisfying?

1 The consumer trap

One big issue is the consumer trap. Think back to what motivated your early life choices. Probably like most of us, getting as much “stuff” as possible – car, house, partner, furniture, tech gear and so on.

After a while, though, it all slides into tedium. The initial thrill of acquiring stuff evaporates. And even if you buy more, the good feelings don’t last. You’re left bored, dissatisfied and unmotivated. 

Often you blame these feelings on everyone and everything else – apart from yourself, of course. You think if you ditch your job, partner or friends, that life will improve. You dream about winning the lottery, travelling, or buying better stuff.

But even after you do all this, you still feel much the same.

If you change who you associate with, you find yourself gravitating back to the same types of people. Your old dissatisfactions and habits simply transfer into a new sphere. And you seem to repeat the same mistakes all over again.

That’s when it all starts to seem too hard. You give up hoping anything can change. Setting SMART goals doesn’t even seem to be relevant.

So what’s going on? 

2 You don’t realise the answers are inside you

The second issue is that you think the answers are outside yourself. Hence you keep chasing after more and better stuff. Even mindless tourism just becomes another consumer habit.

And these things don’t always reflect what you believe is most important in life.

You don’t realise you hold the key to your own happiness and contentment. That it’s the values you hold, and the priorities that you set, that determine your goals in life.

If you haven’t worked these out, you’re aimless. You float along, hoping something dramatic or interesting will happen.

It’s like the princess pining for the prince who’ll transform her life. But that only happens in fairy tales.

3 Avoiding responsibility

Unfortunately, you’re avoiding the hard work involved in changing your life.

You’re the only one who can transform your life. The responsibility is yours alone.  

And though that may seem scary, you can learn to identify your values and set fulfilling goals.

If you do this, you’ll develop a greater sense of satisfaction that will grow each day.

You have so many resources at your disposal. And so much information on the internet and in libraries.

Once you’re identified your values and what’s most important to you, you’ll see your SMART goals so much more clearly. And they’ll naturally reflect the actions that will make your life as fulfilling as it can be.  

What’s holding you back?

Perhaps you’re already convinced that goalsetting can kick-start your new life.

But it just never seems to be the right time. Perhaps you lack the confidence to begin goalsetting. Or you think it’s all psychobabble, and won’t work anyway. Maybe you don’t have the energy to work out what your values are.

And it’s true – it is a bit tiring trying to work it all out. It is easier to resign yourself to your lot in life. That this is all there is.

So you keep dragging yourself through the days. You avoid the mental effort needed to define what you want to achieve in life, no matter how modest.

But just stop and think for a moment.

The sheer mental energy you need to keep yourself afloat could be spent much more effectively. You could use that energy in developing your life goals.

So if you hunger to create a better life, give goalsetting a go. See it as an adventure, something that may open new horizons for you.

And it doesn’t matter how modest or limited your goals are. You don’t have to reach for the stars. Just go for small, consistent changes that will put you on the road to a more satisfying life.

So what will start you goalsetting?

1 Stop negative self-talk

Firstly it’s helpful to to combat your internal critic, and get on top of negative self-talk.

Curbing the tendency of your brain to criticise everything you do will give you greater confidence.

2 Nurture helpful personal qualities

Nurturing some personal qualities will also help the goalsetting process along.

a) Open-mindedness

Open-mindedness in particular is vital when setting SMART goals. 

Part of succeeding is trying new ideas. So give goalsetting the benefit of the doubt, and do it anyway.

Sometimes you can set goals, and not know how to achieve them. Or you may branch out in a new direction you know nothing about.

Being open-minded will help solve these problems, and to smooth out the bumps in the road.

You’ll accept without distress that things often turn out differently to expectations. And you’ll realise that problems are par for the course.

If you’re sceptical about goal setting, that’s OK. It’s good to be a bit sceptical.

Notice and accept your doubts about how useful it will be for you. Let the sceptical thoughts sit there in your mind, to see what happens as the process unfolds.

Then choose to still define your values and set meaningful goals.

b) Tolerance of uncertainty

Another quality to nurture is the tolerance of uncertainty. This is allied to open-mindedness.

Tolerating uncertainty means you don’t have to have the exact answers right away. You can even accept that sometimes there are no answers. And you can put up with not knowing for certain what’s going to happen.

So you don’t panic when things veer off course. You have the faith that it’ll all work out in the end.

If this is hard for you, you’ll benefit from learning both mindfulness skills, and how to reduce worry by problem solving.

And you can learn ways in which we sabotage ourselves when setting goals

c) Flexibility

Tolerance of uncertainty and flexibility are also related. If you’re flexible, you can tolerate uncertainty when things change. You can adapt your goals to changing circumstances. And you don’t view them as written in concrete for ever and a day.

If a goal doesn’t suit you any more, you don’t hesitate to rewrite it. Or if it’s too hard, you put in a few more steps to achieve it. You make what you’re doing work for you, not against you.

d) Being realistic

Part of SMART goalsetting is being realistic and not getting impatient. If you reach too high, you’ll be discouraged. But if you aim too low, you’ll be bored.

So pitching goals at the right level is key to success. People function best when goals are motivating, but not overwhelming. So be flexible and open-minded, and tolerate the uncertainty of not knowing if you’ve got the level right!

e) Creativity

Goalsetting to kick-start your life also requires you to dream about what you’d like to achieve. Don’t limit yourself to the mundane, or only do what others have told that you you’re capable of. They may not know what you can do if you persist and put your mind to it. 

So try setting some broader, long-term goals like learning to sketch, painting a room, playing an instrument, or taking a walking holiday.

Each of these would need dedicated time and commitment. When you’re ready to start, you can make them more specific by putting them into the SMART format.

So what are SMART GOALS?

What are SMART goals, and how can you make them reflect your values? Because if your goals aren’t in alignment with your values, they’re not likely to be meaningful or significant to you. 

As an example, say you’ve identified that your most important value is connection with others. So you want to set some goals around relationships with others. Now, you could set all sorts of goals in this area. One example could be, “I want to make lots of great friends.”

The problem is, that although this is a meaningful goal for you, it’s not in a workable form. So your chances of success are lower than they could be.   

Instead, we’re going to convert it into a SMART goal. Each letter stands for a particular feature that useful goals possess. SMART goals are:

Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Realistic (or relevant)
Time-based (done in a certain time frame).

Your first version of your goal to make friends unfortunately is vague. You haven’t specified how you’ll make these friends, or how you’ll measure what “lots” means.

The goal also sounds rather unrealistic, and therefore not very achievable. Lastly, it doesn’t have a particular time frame in which you’re going to carry it out. 

However, it’s easy to rewrite it as a SMART goal.

One version could be: “In the next six months, I will find three new friends who like going to the movies.” 

That’s certainly a specific goal. You know exactly what you want to achieve in the time frame of 6 months. You can measure if you’ve found 3 friends or not. Although it may seem like something that will be hard to do, it is realistic and relevant to you. You’re not looking for the most fantastically interesting people on the planet. You simply want to find some people who have a common interest in movies and whose company you enjoy.

In addition, it’s achievable.

In the next phase, you may need to add a secondary goal, which explains how you will meet these people. For example, “I will meet them in three community leisure groups that I will join.”  

Planning how you will achieve your goal will make it less likely you’ll be thrown off course. For example: 

Where else could you go to find new people?
What social skills do you need to brush up on?
What steps will you follow to gradually get to know someone?
How will you handle rejection?
How will you respond when someone accepts your suggestion to go out to the movies?

Good planning therefore helps when putting your SMART goals into practice.

It helps break up bigger goals into a range of smaller goals that are more manageable. Taking one small step at a time makes it easier to start. 

So what have you got to lose?

Don’t just accept the same old same old humdrum life. Take the first steps to change. 

Begin today and see how SMART goalsetting can kick-start your new life.

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