Goals in 2023
Goals - we all have them.
Whether it is getting a promotion at work, graduating top of your class, or creating a family, working towards achieving your goals can help give your life meaning and motivate you to be the best version of yourself.
That said, you can’t achieve your goals just by wanting them badly enough.
If you don’t have a strategy in place, chances are you’ll fail to achieve your goals, even if they seem small or easily attainable at a glance.
So, what are the best strategies for achieving goals and how can you use them to your advantage?
This is exactly what this article is here for. Read on to learn:
- 12 Strategies to Achieve Your Goals
- 5 Benefits of Having Goals
- How to Set Realistic Goals for Your Work and Your Life
And more! Let’s dive in.
12 Strategies to Achieve Your Goals
#1. Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
SMART is an acronym that stands for five criteria aimed to help you set strong and attainable goals, achieve them within a reasonable time frame, and measure the results.
George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham developed the acronym, which they published in 1981 in an article titled “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.”
Although they may have intended these guidelines for business settings, you can actually follow the SMART acronym to set and achieve your goals in any area of your life.
SMART stands for goals that are:
- Specific. You want your goals to be as specific as possible. Use questions like who, what, where, when, and why to help you.
- Measurable. Define indicators to help you measure your success (or failure).
- Attainable. Make sure your goals are practical and realistic. A bit further into the article, we’ll give you detailed tips on how to set realistic goals (and why it’s so important).
- Relevant. You want your goals to be in tune with your personality and values. Otherwise, you may wake up one day and understand you’ve been working toward the wrong goal.
- Time-bound. Set a clear timeframe for achieving your goal in order not to postpone it indefinitely.
In a nutshell, having SMART goals consists of getting very detailed about what you want to achieve. In turn, this can increase your chances of success by helping you work smarter instead of harder.
#2. Create an Action Plan
Having and abiding by an action plan is essential if you want to achieve your goals.
Let’s assume, for example, that you are a recent graduate whose goal is to write a science fiction novel. This is, without a doubt, a long-term goal that requires daily work and effort to achieve.
Without an action plan in place, you may postpone your writing indefinitely.
You may get distracted, blame the writer’s block, postpone writing until you’re “inspired,” and before you know it, ten years may pass without writing a single word.
With a detailed action plan that outlines exactly what you need to do, on the other hand, it will be much easier to follow through with your goal. Your brain won't be overwhelmed by the effort it takes to write a book if you have a concrete plan in place that you will follow day in and day out.
Here are some steps you can take to define your own action plan:
- Define your end goal (you can use the SMART method outlined above to do that).
- List all the steps you need to follow.
- Prioritize your tasks and add deadlines for each task.
- Set milestones (e.g. finishing each chapter, proofreading the book, sending it to publishers, etc.).
- Identify any necessary resources. What will it take you to achieve your goal, in terms of time, money, connections, skills, etc.? How many of these resources do you possess and is any of them an obstacle?
- Monitor, evaluate, and update. Once you start working on your action plan, you may notice that you’ve miscalculated certain steps, milestones, or resources. This, however, is nothing to worry about - no one can predict the future. If something like that happens, simply readjust your plans accordingly.
#3. Break Bad Habits
Do you pull all-nighters when you need to do deep work and end up looking like a zombie for two days in a row? Do you like partying a little too much?
Or, maybe, you’re one of those people who think multitasking is some sort of superpower (although it really isn’t).
No matter what your bad habits are, it’s important to work hard on fighting them if you want to achieve your goals.
If your goal is to get promoted at work, for example, but you’re an avid procrastinator who barely finishes your work on time, chances are that your boss will promote someone else.
Here are some tried-and-tested ways to break your bad habits:
- Become fully aware of your bad habits (writing them down can help here)
- Visualize yourself overcoming a tempting situation
- Replace bad habits with healthy ones (e.g. partying with exercising)
- Identify your triggers
- Ask a friend for help
We know, we know. Saying “break bad habits” is really easier said than done. There are, however, no shortcuts or hacks here. 95% of the work is going to have to come from you.
#4. Work On Your Self-Discipline
Self-discipline is what makes the difference between an achiever and a dreamer.
Albert Einstein once said “genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work” and we couldn’t agree more!
It takes self-discipline to actually sit down and put in the hard work. Most people simply want to enjoy the benefits hard work brings, which is why they get disappointed when they can’t achieve their goals.
For a self-disciplined person, nothing seems impossible. For someone who lacks discipline, on the other hand, even the easiest and most mundane tasks can seem difficult and a waste of time. They may have big goals but lack the grit to sit down and work for them.
You can improve your self-discipline by incorporating healthy habits in your life, such as:
- Waking up and starting your day early
- Eating healthy and exercising regularly
- Establishing a sleep routine
- Working a set number of hours daily
#5. Eliminate Distractions
Distractions are, arguably, the number one enemy of productivity and progress. However, our world is filled with distractions, from social media notifications to information overload.
If you’re constantly distracted from the daily work you need to do to achieve your goals, your progress will get derailed and you’ll get almost nothing done. Be it a noisy TV in the background, your roommates or coworkers, or your social media notifications, it’s important to eliminate distractions if you want to achieve your goals (sooner rather than later).
Here are some ways you can effectively eliminate distractions and focus on your to-dos:
- When you’re working on your goals, silence any notifications and alerts that aren’t directly related to the task at hand.
- Use headphones to avoid distracting background noise. If music is also distracting to you, try putting on white noise or nature sounds.
- Go to a coworking space/the library. Seeing others also focused on work is a great way to get into the zone and get things done.
- Leverage productivity apps. To-Doist is a great app for managing your day-to-day to-dos. Similarly, Chrome extensions like StayFocused restrict distracting sites on your laptop, thus helping you stay focused on your work.
#6. Leverage Daily or Monthly Targets
Chances are, some of your goals are long-term. For example, becoming the CEO of a company, buying a house, owning a business, etc.
Well, such big goals can get very overwhelming, very fast.
That’s why, to achieve long-term goals, it’s essential to split them up into bite-sized daily goals. Think about what you need to do daily to meet that overarching, future objective.
Say, for example, that your goal is to write a sci-fi novel in the next five years. Some milestones you can set for this goal may be:
- Becoming more knowledgeable about science
- Reading world-famous sci-fi novels
- Improving your writing skills
Based on these milestones, you can set different daily goals for yourself, such as:
- Write 1,000 words a day
- Spend two hours a day reading sci-fi books
- Spend one hour a day reading scientific studies
#7. Avoid Procrastination
Procrastination is something many people struggle with. Heck, 25% of adults even consider it to be a personality trait.
If you’re one of them, procrastination can seriously get in the way of achieving your goals. Always postponing everything that you need to do until the last moment will result in low-quality results, more effort spent, and a whole lot of disappointment.
Here are some effective ways to avoid procrastination:
- Schedule your deep work. Deep work is the time you devote to your most important, time-consuming, personal work.
- Take breaks frequently. Nobody can be productive for seven hours straight. Let your mind wind down every once in a while to make sure that when you’re sitting to work, you actually work.
- Acknowledge your negative feelings. Address feelings of fear, anxiety, or frustration that may be causing you to procrastinate.
- Hone your organizational skills. The more organized you are, the more effectively you can tackle your tasks and meet impending deadlines.
#8. Anticipate Obstacles
The better you’re able to identify possible obstacles to your goals, the easier it will be to tackle them and overcome them.
Here are some steps you can follow to identify potential obstacles to your goals:
- Brainstorm all possible obstacles.
- Categorize the obstacles into “no control,” “influence,” and “direct control.” Put obstacles over which you have no control in the first category, obstacles over which you may have some influence in the second, and obstacles over which you have direct control in the third.
- Remove obstacles over which you have no control from the list.
- Prioritize the “direct control” and “influence” obstacles accordingly.
- For obstacles you have direct control over, prioritize them by the easiest to address. For the ones where you have some influence over, prioritize them based on their impact on your goal.
- Develop an action plan to address each obstacle.
#9. Seek Out Inspiration
When you’re striving to achieve big, long-term goals, it’s not common to get discouraged every now and then.
This may happen due to several reasons, including the obstacles you may face along the way, fear of failure, lack of focus, or even the inability to handle negative emotions like anxiety or fear.
To make sure that your discouragement doesn’t become a reason to quit your goals, you should seek out daily doses of inspiration.
Continuous inspiration can help keep you motivated, focused, and driven. It can also help you combat discouragement and negative thoughts, whenever they occur.
Now, different people seek different types of inspiration. For some, motivational TED talks may be enough to keep them focused and inspired. Others perform better with a mentor to guide them on how they should meet their goals.
As such, you should think about what motivates you and find the right source of inspiration for YOU.
#10. Track Your Progress
When you track your progress systematically, you’re much more likely to achieve your goals.
When you track your progress you are able to evaluate how your action plan is doing, how effectively you’re addressing obstacles, whether you need to readjust your targets or timeframe, etc.
Tracking your progress should be fairly easy if you follow the SMART goal-setting method outlined above and have a detailed action plan in place. With measurable, realistic goals, you can set up a system (or KPIs) to track your progress much more easily than if your goal is something vague like “have a lot of money someday.”
For example, a simple way to track your progress is to check your action plan. Are you meeting the milestones you’ve set for yourself in the expected time frame or is it taking you longer?
Are you facing unexpected obstacles along the way that are setting you back? If that’s the case, you may need to readjust your action plan.
#11. Manage Your Time Effectively
When it comes to achieving your goals, time can be your ally or it can be your enemy, all depending on how you manage it.
If you’re prone to mismanaging your time, you’ll likely feel like there will never be enough of it to achieve your goals. With strong management skills, on the other hand, you’ll likely even have time to spare at the end of each day.
That said, time management is easier said than done. To do it as effectively as possible, it helps to have a time-management system in place.
For example, you can adopt the quadrant time management system, which divides time into four boxes based on the urgency of the tasks you have to complete:
- Important and urgent. These are short-term crises and problems you need to deal with ASAP.
- Important but not urgent. These are the long-term strategic goals you need to work on consistently.
- Urgent but not important. These are easy but short-term tasks you can accomplish by avoiding distractions and interruptions.
- Not urgent and not important. Misc stuff you have to do. Put these on the bottom of your to-do lists.
Alternatively, you can head over to our comprehensive guide on improving time-management skills to learn about many more effective strategies to manage YOUR time.
#12. Hold Yourself Accountable
Last but not least, you should be able to hold yourself accountable if you want to achieve your goals.
This means accepting failure now and then, facing setbacks head-on, and not making excuses for yourself. Holding yourself accountable is an important mindset that you should incorporate into your life to make all the strategies mentioned above tangible.
In the long run, accountability is what sets action apart from mere dreams and talk.
5 Benefits of Having Goals
Having goals and working toward achieving them is definitely a challenging undertaking.
Even if you follow all the strategies for achieving your goals outlined in this article, chances are there will be moments when the going gets tough and you feel like quitting.
When that happens, it helps to focus on how beneficial goals are for your personal and professional life.
Specifically, here are some of the top benefits of having goals that you should keep in mind:
- Motivation. Setting goals will give you something to aspire to, which, in turn, can serve as a strong motivator to always try your hardest. Is your goal to be the best professional in your field? That alone should motivate you to always show up and give it all you’ve got in the workplace.
- Control. Goal setting means you’re acknowledging exactly what it is that you want in life. That is the first step towards making things happen, instead of simply letting them happen to you.
- Sense of direction. Your goals can offer you a clear direction for your short-term and long-term future. Is your goal to become a doctor? Then your path is going through med school, studying hard, and dedicating your life to helping others.
- Clarity. When you set goals, it’s easier to see the bigger picture and gain perspective on what really matters to YOU. If your goal in life is, say, to help people, then you won’t feel unfulfilled or disappointed if you don’t advance your career or make tons of money.
- Focus. Having goals can help you stay focused on your day-to-day tasks. When we think abstractly about our dreams, they often remain exactly that—dreams. When we have goals, however, it’s easier to put in the effort to achieve them and avoid distractions and feeling overwhelmed.
How to Set Realistic Goals for Your Work and Your Life
Whether you’re setting goals for your professional or your personal life, it’s important to keep them realistic; otherwise, it may be very hard (or even impossible) to achieve them.
An example of an unrealistic goal is wanting to become a mathematician when you’re bad at math. Or, aiming to graduate with an above-average GPA without studying.
An example of a realistic goal, on the other hand, is to become a renowned professor once you have shown academic potential. At work, it can be getting promoted after meeting your job’s KPIs.
Here are some tips for setting realistic and attainable goals in all aspects of your life:
#1. Consider your passions
Working toward a goal for which you’re not passionate is bound to be boring and bound to backfire.
That’s why it’s important to consider your passions, values, and aspirations when you’re setting goals. If, for example, you’re someone who isn’t driven by material gains, setting a goal to make as much money as possible may prove to be disappointing and uninspiring to you.
#2. Envision your future
Where do you see yourself in five, ten, or fifteen years?
What does your ideal future look like?
Taking some time to envision your future based on who you are today is essential in setting personal and professional goals.
Some other questions that can help you get a clearer idea of your future include:
- Do you want to work for yourself?
- How much money do you want to earn, ideally?
- Would you like to work remotely?
- Do you want to focus on your family or career?
- Do you see yourself having children?
- Would you like to spend some time traveling or living somewhere abroad?
#3. Note your resources and potential threats
Think long and hard about the resources you have available that can help you achieve your goals and the threats that may make it difficult to do so.
Examples of such resources include the time at your disposal, how informed you are about what achieving your goal requires, whether you’re trained (or have the right skills), if you have or need support, funding, or monetary resources, etc.
Let’s say that your goal is to get into an Ivy League school. The resources you may have at your disposal to achieve your goal may be that you’re well-informed, that you’re an excellent student, and that you have your parents' and teachers’ support.
Potential threats, on the other hand, might be low-acceptance rates and very high tuition fees.
#4. Reassess and adjust
Once you have considered your passions and values, envisioned your future, and made a detailed assessment of resources and potential threats, you can reassess your goals and adjust them accordingly.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re passionate about basketball and you want your professional life to revolve around it. However, you’re not a great athlete, which means that your childhood dream of becoming a professional basketball player is not realistic.
A reassessed goal, in this case, would be to become a sports journalist if you have a knack for writing, or a sports photographer if you’re better at taking pictures. Alternatively, you may decide to make basketball your number one hobby and play daily after work as a way to let off steam and enjoy yourself.
FAQs on Strategies for Achieving Goals
Do you still have some questions about the best strategies for achieving your goals?
Check out the frequently asked questions below:
1. How can students achieve their goals?
Some strategies that students can use for achieving their goals include creating a detailed action plan, fighting their bad habits (e.g. non-stop partying) and distractions (e.g. watching TV shows), avoiding procrastination, looking for a mentor (for example, an inspiring professor), identifying potential setbacks, and tracking their progress.
2. Are goals necessary to achieve success?
Yes, goals are definitely necessary to achieve success. That’s because goals can help you stay motivated, offer you a clear direction for your short-term and long-term future, help you gain perspective on what matters most to you, and take control of your life.
3. What are the obstacles to achieving goals?
Some obstacles to achieving goals include putting off your goals indefinitely, waiting to act until you feel the time is right or until you feel ready, not anticipating the tough times, viewing every mistake or setback as a failure, not making your goals a priority, and underestimating how hard the process can be.
4. What can you do if you have no goals?
If you feel like you have no goals, that’s totally OK. It’s not uncommon not to have any goals - typically, it comes as a result of now knowing exactly what it is that you want out of life yet.
If that’s you, here are some tips on how to figure out your goals in life.
First things first, you should get to know yourself better. What are you passionate about? What do you love doing, what are your hobbies? What type of skills do you possess? If your hobbies and your skills align, that’s a great place to start.
Secondly, you should envision your future. Where do you see yourself personally and professionally in the future? Is there something you really want to have or dream of achieving by the time you’re a certain age? That can very well be your goal.
If you don’t have any hobbies or passions yet, start researching different fields and trying new things to see what clicks. Alternatively, talk with friends and family about their goals in life - you may find a great source of inspiration among them.
5. What is the difference between goals and targets?
Goals can be defined as people’s primary ambitions and, although they can be short-term, they typically represent some of our most important desires in life. Targets, on the other hand, are specific desired outcomes that can help us achieve our goals.
To give you an example - a professional goal can be someday owning your own medical practice. In this case, some targets would be finishing med school, buying the right property, establishing a strong client base, etc.
And that’s a wrap on the best strategies for achieving goals.
Before you go and start putting them into practice, let’s go over the most important points covered in this article:
- Some of the best strategies for achieving your goals are setting SMART goals, creating an action plan, breaking bad habits, fighting procrastination, growing your time-management skills, and holding yourself accountable.
- Having goals gives you a sense of direction in life and makes you more motivated to achieve success.
- To set realistic goals, make sure to analyze your current situation and identify potential threats and the resources at your disposal.