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How to Write Effective Goals (and Keep Them)


For me, goal making begins in the fall. The way my job works the fall is the start of a new season or year. However, I know for many that the dawning of a new calendar year is also the time to reevaluate priorities and create goals or resolutions. Therefore, this is a repost from the fall. My hope is that this post will serve as tool to help you in your goal making process.

In my last post we discussed the benefits of goal making. Personally, I believe everyone should make goals.

Today, I want to continue the conversation on goals by focusing on how to make them practically. The process of making goals can be a daunting one if you have never done it, but with a few simple tips I think it can be a very exciting and enjoyable experience.

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I just finished writing my goals for this next year. (My year runs similar to a school year starting in September and ending in August.) Here is what I think through when creating my goals for the upcoming year…

Be Realistic

There is nothing wrong with having big dreams, but our goals need to be realistic. For example, let’s say you want to write a symphony. For most people it’s not a realistic goal to write one this next year. However, you can make goals that lead up to accomplishing that dream. One year your goal might be to learn a few instruments and read biographies of famous composers. Then the next year you might take a few classes and be mentored by a composer. Eventually, by reaching these “smaller” goals, you will have the opportunity to accomplish your dream of writing a symphony. Remember, goals need to be challenging, but also attainable.

Keep it Simple

We live in a microwave culture. We want things fast and right now. The idea of waiting and practicing patience has become outdated. When it comes to goal making, the mistake most people make is trying to do achieve all their goals this next year. When you try to do everything, you end up accomplishing nothing. Goal making requires the discipline of saying “no” especially to yourself. Instead of having 15 goals, weed them down to the 5 most important ones. Then you can save the other 10 for next year. Better to complete 5 goals than have 15 halfway done.

Create Measurables

Your goals need to be objective, not subjective. Black and white, not gray. At the end of the year, you should know whether or not that goal was accomplished. For example, let’s say you have a goal that is “I want to live a healthy lifestyle.” That’s too vague. Instead your goals could be “I want to eat vegetables and fruit for at least one meal a day” or “I want to exercise 3 times a week.” Now, you can easily determine if you met your goals.

Some goals, especially when they pertain to relationships, might need to be more subjective. For instance, I have a goal every year to grow in my relationship with the Lord. That’s a hard goal to determine if I “accomplished” it and truthfully the goal is not about accomplishment. My relationship with the Lord is not a task to be checked off. It’s on going and I will never “complete” it. With a goal like this, I can create measurables that will give me the opportunity to grow in my relationship with the Lord. Some of those might be reading scripture or praying daily, attending church weekly, or participating in a bible study. Those things in themselves don’t make my relationship with the Lord grow, but they provide the avenue for me to grow.

Weekly Review

This step is the most crucial to accomplishing goals. For years, I would get frustrated and be disappointed with myself for not reaching those goals. The main reason is that I would forget about them the busyness of life kicks in and my goals would slip to the back burner. Then I read Michael Hyatt’s book “Creating Your Personal Life Plan.” He suggests weekly reviewing your goals. This one step changed everything. Now, each week I take 15 minutes to look through my goals and evaluate how I did. This provides accountability and also keeps my goals at the forefront of my mind.

If you are ready to write some goals, here are 8 easy steps to help you out.

  1. Pray
  2. Block off a few hours of uninterrupted time
  3. Make a list of your priorities (faith, marriage, family, friends, work, etc.)
  4. Brainstorm goals for each category (Don’t filter them just yet. Just write down anything that comes to your mind.)
  5. Pick 1 or 2 goals for each category
  6. Create measurables for how you are going to accomplish each goal (I would suggest adding these measurables to your calendar or task system.)
  7. Share your goals with a friend for accountability
  8. Review your goals weekly (I like doing this on Sunday nights)

Finally, once you have your goals, I would encourage you to hold loosely to them. One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Make plans and then be flexible to let the Holy Spirit guide you.

What are some of your goals for this next year?

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About the Author:

I have a passion to equip or prepare young leaders for maximum impact in their spheres of influence. Former Pine Cove camp director and currently a general manager for Hawaiian Falls. I am originally from South Louisiana but now live in East Texas with my beautiful wife, Robyn.