How To Set Goals & Stick To Them

For many of us the new year is a time we associate with setting goals – however, we do not need to wait for the new year to act as a catalyst to set goals for ourselves! In fact, regularly reviewing your aspirations and goals can help maintain momentum, purpose and focus within your life. We all have different goals, aspirations and desires within many different areas of our lives. In this article are the tools you need to set yourself goals and STICK TO THEM!

Learning To Set SMART Goals

The difference between a regular ‘goal’ and a ‘SMART’ goal, is the amount of time and detail that has gone into the thought and strategy behind it. So, what is a SMART goal?

Be specific about the details of your goals, don’t be wishy washy. Go into detail, and find specific information needed to achieve it. For example, if you want to lose 5 kilos don’t just plan to ‘eat healthy’ and ‘exercise more’ – actually complete a meal & exercise plan and think ahead. Be specific and make a strategy!

A goal that you can regularly measure and track to see your progress. How will you know when you have achieved your goal? What tools or tracking sheets can you implement to keep you motivated? This creates accountability and allows you to track and monitor your progress.

This point focuses on the importance of making your goals attainable and achievable. There is no point setting yourself a goal that may take 10 years to complete whilst giving yourself only a 5 year limit. Be realistic, a goal should be somewhat challenging yet achievable.

This may be fairly obvious, but it can be really easy to get off track when it comes to setting goals. Make sure your goal relates back to the bigger picture as to why you want to achieve it. For example, if you want to improve your health, then your goal may be to exercise for 1 hour per day and complete a daily food diary – all relating back to your big picture goal.  

Time Bound
Setting a time limit around your goal can create a sense of urgency and accountability when it comes to achieving it. If you do not have a time limit, then it can be very easy to put it off and say, ‘I’ll get around to it tomorrow.’ Help keep yourself on track by making it time bound.

The 4 Goal Categories

We all have so many different areas within our lives, so it can be helpful to break down your goals into different categories. For example, there are usually 4 main sectors people choose to set goals in. Write down a goal for each sector of your life and then prioritize which of these requires most of your attention. This can also help with getting your priorities right and focusing on areas of your life that you may have pushed to the side for too long.

1. Health
What do you want to achieve in your Health sector? Do you feel well? Do you feel physically fit? Or do you want to find a more balanced way of approaching your health?

2. Career
Do you know your passion? What do you want to achieve in your career sector? And what will you need to do to actually achieve this? For some you might not know any of this yet, and that perfectly is fine! So maybe your goal focuses on finding your passion and attending different workshops and open days to find your calling. Or maybe you have been in your career for a while and need to look at going back to study to further develop your skill set.

3. Relationships
How many fulfilling relationships do you have within your life? Maybe for some making more friends is a focus so your goal may be to attend 1 social event a month. Or maybe it’s to focus on your marriage, so attending relationship counselling together and having regular daily communication is part of the goal. There are such a wide variety of relationship-based goals and aspirations one can have.

4. Personal/Emotional
Personal or emotional goals can relate to a variety of different situations. Maybe it’s to begin working on your anxiety levels so seeing a therapist for sessions is the first step. Another example could be to overcome a fear, so completing weekly tasks or entering situations that challenge you may be part of your strategy.

Tip’s To Staying Motivated & Succeeding

Once you have articulated your aspirations and figured out which of these will take your primary focus, it’s time to find out how to stay motivated in achieving them. Different things work for different people, so it can be important to implement and try a variety of different techniques whilst in the process of completing your goal.

1. Regular Visualisation & Meditation
Brain studies have now shown that mental imagery actually impacts cognitive processes, suggesting that thoughts can produce the same effect as actions. Therefore, regularly imagining yourself succeeding and completing your goal can actually help you achieve it.

2. Affirmations
Your ‘self-talk’ can be an obstacle in the way of your success if it’s negative. Affirmations are a great way to help with manifestation, confidence and influencing your subconscious mind. Regularly practicing mirror work and repeating positive and empowering words to yourself can help challenge those negative self-beliefs.

3. Acknowledge Your Limiting Self Beliefs
This is a big one. How can we expect to succeed if we unconsciously believe we do not deserve too? Maybe it relates back to thought processes we learnt as children. It can be beneficial to get professional help to work through any emotional difficulties that may be preventing you from succeeding.

4. Who You Hang Around
Are the people you hang around lifting you up? Do they ask you questions about you and your aspirations? Do they have invested interest in your success? If not, then maybe it’s time to revaluate how much energy and time you spend with them. Who you listen to and who you hang around directly affects your mood, productivity and well.. Your Life!! That’s why it’s soimportant to be around people that lift you up, be deliberate about who you spend time with outside work and family commitments.

5. Avoid Negative Input
Similar to who you choose to hang around, your daily input is just as important. What we listen and pay attention too on a daily basis has a huge compound effect on our mindset and lives. It takes focusto achieve goals and any unnecessary input such as the news, the newspaper, television and excessive social media use has detrimental effects on your productivity and mindset. Alternatively listening to related podcasts, reading, learning and filling your time with positive input can really help project you forward towards your goals and aspirations.

6. Understanding Delayed Gratification
We live in an ‘instant’ society, we want things now! However, understanding delayed gratification can help cultivate patience and perseverance with goals. University is a perfect example of delayed gratification, you need to study and work your butt off for sometimes up to 7-8 years. You don’t get a gold star after finishing every exam or learning every new skillset, you need patience and a bigger picture view to understand that your gratification won’t come until the end of your degree, it’s an accumulative effort vs. instant results.

7. Making A Vison Book
As humans we think visually, creating a vision book or board can help to draw more detail to the goal in mind. Regularly viewing your vision book can help create an emotional connection to your goals as well bring clarity. Review this daily, before bed or in the morning.

8. Trap Yourself into Succeeding
Understand what will stop you from succeeding, make a list – review this and then lay the ground work to make sure this won’t be a problem. For example, if your goal is to attend regular yoga classes, something that may stop you from going is not having had dinner and feeling too hungry to focus on a yoga class. Therefore, you trap yourself into succeeding by doing meal prep, having a meal ready made for you to eat before you leave taking the stress out of going to the yoga class. Implement small efforts that can help with the overall achievement of your goal.

9. Find a Coach or Support System
Let’s face it, sometimes having an ambitious goal can leave you feeling stressed and a little overwhelmed at times! That’s why it can be beneficial to create a support system around you of people that can assist when it comes to your mental and emotional wellbeing. This can be in the form of a monthly meetups, positive friends and family that have invested interest in you, self-development seminars, or a therapist that can help assist when it all feels too much! Because while you may be setting the goal and feeling on top of the world, there will most likely be times when you will question your aspirations in the first place as they may seem far too hard.

10. Journaling Throughout the Process
This can be a great way to express and document the whole process. Journal when your angry, happy, sad or deflated. This can help assist with your mental chatter and be a great tool for self-expression and understanding.

Things to Remember

Whilst it’s all well and good having a goal and setting yourself up to achieve it, there are some important things to remember when in the process of achieving.

1. There is no such thing as an ‘Over Night Success’
We have all heard of people that have been an ‘Over Night Success’ – its simply not true! All achievements come from small compound effects over a period of time. Whilst for some it may seem it magically fell into their lap, often there are many steps and processes that you didn’t see behind the scene’s.

2. ‘Pike’ Syndrome
A study conducted with the Pike fish is a perfect example of learnt helplessness (aka Pike Syndrome.) Scientist’s placed a glass barrier in between the fish and its food. The pike fish continuously smashed its head against the glass barrier in hope of reaching food. Eventually the fish gave up, as it associated the food with pain. Scientists then removed the glass barrier, only to find the Pike fish no longer interested in its food. Even when the food was right next to the fish’s head, the pike did not even try to eat it. Eventually the Pike fish starved to death. This study is the perfect example of how we as humans can learn to become ‘helpless’ but in fact we have the ability to change our life circumstances regardless of past hardships and barriers.

3. Learning to Re-adjust
Another point to remember – Success is never one simple straight line to the top, it’s really a bunch of detours, squiggly lines and constant readjusting that gets you there. Make sure you are flexible in your thinking, things will change, and won’t always go to plan. The important thing is that you re-adjust and re-focus on the goal to get back on track.

If you feel like there are some emotional difficulties or beliefs that are holding you back from achieving your goals and want to seek some professional help, get in touch. We would love to hear from you. I am able to assist in overcoming the personal challenges, beliefs or situations that may be stopping you from unlocking your potential.

ashley gilmour

If you find yourself struggling with current goals and aspirations, contact us today on 07 5574 3888 or email to discuss how Ashley our Gold Coast Psychologist can help you to start to feel happier, less anxious and live a more fulfilling life again.