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The Five Elements of Goal Setting

by Kristin Swain

Setting goals helps you to gain focus and direction in both your personal and professional lives. By setting useful goals for yourself, you will have a path to work toward where you want to be. Goals can involve anything that you want to accomplish, from building a 401(k) for retirement to helping you accomplish a specific task such as completing a presentation for work. To keep yourself motivated, your goals have to be more than a simple to-do list. Empower your objectives by creating formal, S. M. A. R. T. goals.

Set Specific Goals

Before your goals can motivate you, they need to be specific. When you're thinking about the things that you want to accomplish it's helpful to write down as many details as possible. Putting the details into the goal helps to make it more tangible in your mind and motivates you to accomplish it. For example, if your goal is to create a college fund for your child, write down how much money you can contribute from each pay period and how much money you want to have saved by the time your child graduates from high school.

Measurable Goals

To keep yourself motivated with both long- and short-term goals, it's helpful to give yourself a measurable path. By creating a measurable goal you can note when progress has been made and when the goal is fully accomplished. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, note how many days per week you can commit to working out, decide how much weight you want to lose and set mini goals throughout the time period you assign to the goal. Rather than having a goal of losing a given weight, your goal may be to lose 50 pounds at a rate of 2 pounds per week, working out for one hour, three days a week.

Attain It

Setting goals helps you to build your confidence and grow as a person. As you reach each of your goals it motivates you to create more goals and strive to reach them. One of the keys to goal setting is to make sure that your goals are attainable within the time frame that you assign. If you give yourself a goal of making $5000 in two weeks when you've never made that much money in a month you might be setting yourself up for failure, which will ruin your self-confidence, making you feel like you'll never reach your goals. As you're setting your goals, give yourself room to grow into your objectives and to rediscover opportunities to attain your goals that you might have previously overlooked.

Know What's Realistic

There is a definite difference between setting a goal that challenges you and an unrealistic one. The goals that you set for yourself may seem out of reach, but if you can develop a plan to get there, then it's not unrealistic. Setting a goal that is not physically or financially possible, such as to lose 50 pounds in two weeks, is unrealistic. You're not giving yourself enough time to work toward your goal, and you're setting yourself up for failure by making an unrealistic goal. Setting unrealistic goals closes you off to exploring new opportunities and can potentially damage your self-esteem when you realize you can't meet your objectives.

Create a Time Frame

Leaving your goals open-ended gives you room to procrastinate and lose your motivation. When you set your goals, give yourself a time frame in which to accomplish them. Setting a time frame helps you to distinguish between what are short-term and what are long-term goals. As you determine the time frame for each goal, keep in mind what is realistic -- but also make sure that you incorporate some challenge to keep you motivated. An example is if you want to save $5,000. Determine how much money you can allocate to your savings from each paycheck. If you get paid twice per month and can save $100 from each check, your time frame is 25 months to accomplish your goal.

About the Author

Residing in Los Angeles, Kristin Swain has been a professional writer since 2008. Her experience includes finance, travel, marketing and television. Swain holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Georgia State University.

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