Make your goals a reality

A job, healthier finances, a better work/life balance or more quality time with your family. Goals are the starting point of creating a new reality but without proper thought and planning many of them are doomed to failure.

So, where should you begin and how can you ensure you succeed? Experts say many people fail to achieve their goals because they are not well defined and they are not sufficiently interested in realising them.

Start by spending time deciding your top priorities, then write them down. On another sheet of paper list why you have not been able to achieve these wishes. The reasons might include financial pressures, lack of time, relationship difficulties, etc. Remember, to choose goals you will be more likely to achieve.

Be specific, realistic and time related. If you are unemployed getting work may be your most pressing concern. Draw up an action plan, detailing how much time you are going to devote to this pursuit. Pencil in hours you will spend preparing CVs, calling to prospective employers, reading and replying to advertisements, getting work experience or re-training if you need to upskill.

If your goal was to break free from an unwanted habit, eg, smoking, it may be a good idea to replace it with something else. Use the time you spent lighting up to cook, read or swim.

Breaking down your goals into manageable steps will make them easier to achieve. Be realistic and do not expect too much too soon. We are creatures of habit and do not change easily. It may take six months of effort before a new behaviour or change happens naturally.

The hardest part is starting. Try to take your first step as soon as possible. Once you get going the whole thing will gain momentum.

Steps to success

* Many people do not achieve their goals because they set impossible demands. Do not set your goalposts so narrow that you cannot get the ball through. Choose goals you can achieve and this will empower you.

* Think in the present tense when setting goals and aim for daily successes. Tell yourself, “I am a non-smoker/healthy person” and work at achieving this. Small successes add up and do wonders for your self esteem.

* Review your day each evening and examine how it has contributed to your quality of life.

* Share your goals with supportive family members and friends. Working as a team with like-minded people will help also.

* Inspiring self-talk will keep you motivated. Write positive, uplifting notes to yourself and pin them in conspicuous places or repeat positive phrases to yourself at night and early in the morning when your mind is most receptive. This will strengthen your inner belief in yourself. Anything from “Walking is good for my heart” to “Forget the TV, play with the children instead.” This will help motivate you.

* Use reminders. Pin your goals on your bathroom mirror/fridge/car dashboard. If you want to give up raiding the fridge for late night snacks be sure to put a large notice there. You will be less likely to offend and if you do, you will be racked with guilt afterwards!

* Start small. Aim for many mini successes. If you break your goals into steps you will achieve some of these. This will boost your self confidence and encourage you to aim higher.

* Be selective. The more goals you make the more your energy and enthusiasm will be diluted and the less likely you will be to achieve all of them. Focus on one or two important ones and be singleminded about achieving these.

* Set a time limit. If your goal is to travel the first step might be to decide where you want to go, when you can do it and whether you will travel alone. If you are working will you be able to get time off? If you do not plan to travel until later in the year, how about learning the language of the country you want to visit? Give yourself a set time to achieve all this and monitor your progress.

* If you stumble and fall on the journey to realising your goals, view it as a minor setback. Analyse what went wrong and learn from it. Did you try to do too much? Did you aim too high? Was your focus scattered? Did you not have sufficient support? Were you too overburdened already to direct enough energy and motivation into this new project?

* Flood your mind with your goals before going to bed and on awakening. The mind is most open to change early in the morning when you’ve just woken up.

* Practise visualising your chosen goal as if playing a DVD in your mind. Play out the scene as you wish it to be. Include every detail to make it as lifelike as possible, the colours, the sounds, the smells.

Don’t

* Underestimate your potential. You have the capability to change, all you need is desire and commitment.

* Expect failure. If you channel all your energy into thinking you will fail, you will.

* Expect success without effort. Work hard at achieving your goal. The confidence boost it will give you will make it worthwhile.

* Let others discourage you. Seek out uplifting people and avoid those who pull you down and chip away at your self belief.

* Procrastinate. It is all too easy to put things on the long finger and plan to achieve change when the time is right. You may never get the perfect circumstances so go for it now!

* Couch your goals in sweeping terms, such as “I want to be a better person” or “I want to be rich”. Focus on a key target. Your goal should include not only what you want to achieve but why you want to change and how you propose to do this, for example, “I want to save money each week to redecorate the house and I’ll do this by sticking to a budget and avoiding impulse buys.”

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