Certified Resume Writer, Career Coach, and Business Owner
We’ve all heard how important it is to set professional and personal goals. Developing and establishing goals keeps us motivated and moving forward in life. But not all goals are created equal. If you’re chasing goals that are too lofty, you’ll end up disappointed when you cannot reach them. Setting goals that are achievable and measurable is the key to success.
Why is it important to set realistic goals? This article will answer that question and explain how you can create realistic goals to improve your life. Ready to get started? Let’s go!
Why Setting Realistic Goals is Important?
Let’s start by discussing why it is important to set realistic goals instead of goals that are too ambitious or broad. Your goals must be realistic to avoid frustration down the road. Think about it this way. If you set attainable goals, you’ll naturally build confidence and improve your self-esteem each time you hit a milestone. As a result, you’ll feel happy and want to keep progressing.
You’ll also reach a realistic goal much quicker than you will a goal that is too grand and far-fetched. Why? Because having a goal that you can break into smaller, achievable tasks with deadlines will enable you to see your progress and believe that you can accomplish what you’ve set out to do. With each completed task, you’ll be excited to move forward quickly instead of feeling bored and stuck.
How to Set Realistic Goals
Say you already know why it’s important to set realistic goals. You’re tired of people telling you what you already know and claiming that it’s easy. The information you need isn’t the what, it’s the how. Fortunately, there are proven steps you can take to ensure that you’re establishing goals that will drive you forward both personally and professionally.
Explore Yourself and Dig Deep
Before you can set any goals, you need to pause and reflect for a bit. Yes, this means scheduling some alone time to think about what you want to achieve both at work and personally. For example, where do you see yourself in five years? Don’t stress if your priorities and desires differ from your colleagues or family members. Determine what matters to you; from this, the goals you want to reach will start to take shape.
Start with SMART Goal Techniques
After you’ve decided what your goals are, follow the well-established and popular SMART goal framework. Doing so will dramatically increase your chances of success. Below is an explanation of the SMART acronym so you can incorporate its techniques into your goal-setting process:
- Specific: Keep your goals targeted and narrow in scope.
- Measurable: Devise ways to monitor and measure your progress.
- Achievable: Ensure that your objectives are reasonable and doable.
- Relevant: Strive to align your goals with your priorities and values.
- Time-Limited: Establish deadlines to create urgency and accountability.
Write Down Your Goals
Just thinking about what you want to achieve isn’t enough. Recording your goals in some way – whether by hand on paper, in the Notes app on your smartphone, or on the computer – will further define them and make them a reality. Moreover, in the future, you can easily revisit the goals you’ve created and remind yourself of everything you’re trying to do.
Make a Check-In Schedule
Now that you’ve figured out your goals and confirmed that they are SMART, it’s time to create a check-in schedule. Why is this necessary? So you stay on track and don’t let your goals fall by the wayside. Put weekly or monthly check-ins on your calendar and stick to them. Take the time to celebrate your wins, adjust your plans, and reflect on how you’re doing.
10 Crucial Benefits of Setting Realistic Goals
There are many advantages that come from developing and pursuing realistic goals. Ten of the top benefits of SMART goal setting are listed below.
Benefit #1: It Builds Self Confidence
As you meet the milestones that lead to your larger goals, you’ll experience bursts of satisfaction that, over time, will boost your self-esteem and confidence.
Benefit #2: It Motivates You to Succeed
Let’s say you set a goal for yourself of writing a book and then break it down into more manageable chapter micro goals. Every time you finish a chapter, you’ll feel motivated to continue because you’re one step closer to writing the entire book.
Benefit #3: It Makes You Feel Good
When you accomplish the milestones that make up your goal, your body will release dopamine, also known as the body’s pleasure chemical. You’ll literally feel good as you make progress, which will encourage you to continue on your path to success.
Benefit #4: It Keeps You Focused
Without goals, you’ll likely feel scattered and aimless. On the flip side, having realistic goals will give you direction and keep you focused on what matters.
Benefit #5: It Simplifies Your Life
We make tons of decisions every single day. When you have clear goals in mind, it becomes much easier to figure out what you should do because your decisions will align with your goals.
Benefit #6: It Helps You Progress Faster
If your goals are realistic and follow the SMART methodology, they’ll be both measurable and achievable. As a result, you’ll feel motivated to keep progressing quickly versus floundering because your goals are too ambitious and hard to reach.
Benefit #7: It Identifies New Opportunities
Setting realistic goals can open your mind to new ideas and opportunities. How? As you work to reach these goals, you might learn something new or realize you have a natural talent in a previously unknown area.
Benefit #8: It Inspires You to Act
If your goals aren’t realistic, you’ll psyche yourself out at the onset because you’ll know in your heart that you can’t accomplish them. On the other hand, if they are achievable, you’ll be excited to start so you can get where you want to go.
Benefit #9: It Exposes Unrealistic Expectations
Sometimes we have unrealistic expectations for ourselves, which inevitably leads to disappointment and frustration. Using the SMART framework to evaluate your goals, you’ll discover what’s unrealistic and be able to make appropriate adjustments.
Benefit #10: It Will Change Your Life
Ultimately, participating in realistic goal setting will change your life. Every goal you reach will propel you on to the next one, and before you know it, you’ll have achieved all you’ve dreamed of and more.
What Happens When You Reach a Goal?
You’ve heard people say it’s all about the journey and not the destination, right? There is some truth to that. After all, life is a series of goals. We’re all constantly trying to achieve some new pinnacle of success. Once we reach it, we’re usually eager to pick another achievement to pursue.
But it’s important to take some time after accomplishing a goal to celebrate your win. Bask in the glow of what you’ve done and acknowledge your hard work. If you earned a degree, for example, recognize all the hours of studying it took to achieve that and allow yourself to feel good about it. You deserve that! If you’re continually striving, striving, striving without appreciating all you’ve achieved, it’ll be a challenge to ever feel satisfied and content.
Don’t Quit! Take Time to Enjoy and Then Go for the Next
After reaching a goal, it’s a great idea to reward yourself by taking a trip, treating yourself to a dinner out, or taking a few days off work to lie around and relax. Not only are you deserving of this, but doing so will reinvigorate your desire to set another goal to pursue. Knowing that once you reach it, you’ll receive a reward and experience feelings of happiness will push you to keep achieving more and more.
What should you do when you’re ready to move forward and set another goal? Embrace this and start the process all over again: explore where you are in your life now and what you want to accomplish, use the SMART framework to ensure your goal is realistic, write down your goal, and then create a schedule to check in on your progress. Once you’ve followed these steps a few times, it’ll come naturally, and you’ll be well on your way to attaining what you want in life.
Examples of Determining Realistic Goals
Sometimes it’s easier to understand a new concept if we’re given some real-life examples to consider. In this case, let’s take a look at some examples of realistic and unrealistic goals to clarify the differences between them.
Unrealistic Goal: I want to lose 65 pounds as soon as possible.
Realistic Goal: I will use a food and exercise tracking app to lose one to two pounds a week until I reach my desired end weight.
Unrealistic Goal: I want to start my own company.
Realistic Goal: I will start freelancing on the side until I build up a large enough clientele and enough monthly income to comfortably leave my corporate job and strike out on my own.
Unrealistic Goal: I want to get a 25% pay raise.
Realistic Goal: First, I’m going to research what kind of pay raise is reasonable given my location, job title, and experience, and then I’m going to approach my manager to find out what steps I should take to get a raise in this range by next year.
So, why is it important to set realistic goals again?
Because sometimes you might feel stuck where you are in life. Setting goals can get you moving in the right direction to achieve your dreams. But it’s imperative that you create goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and bound by deadlines, so you don’t end up aimless and frustrated. And after you’ve accomplished a goal, don’t hesitate to celebrate it and feel good about what you’ve done. Then you can move on to the next!