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What’s in a Goal?

I’m sure everyone has, at one point in their life, heard of SMART goals. No, these aren’t goals with brains; instead, they are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based.

I don’t know about you, but creating goals that satisfy each of those requirements can actually be pretty difficult. It takes a lot of effort to hold all that information in your head – and if you’re like me, when it’s that hard at the beginning I’m more likely to give up before I even get started!

In today’s post, I’ll share with you a tool that I’ve created to help me wrap my head around the process of crafting goals. I’ll also be sharing my personal set of goals for this spring-cleaning season.

Ok, so you decided upon one (or a few!) key areas that you would like to focus on this spring season. You may have decided to  improve your social life, make your relationship with your body more positive, adopt a minimalist lifestyle, etc.

Great! Let’s start there.

The first step in the goal setting process is gathering more info about why you are setting this goal. By doing this, you will more fully understand your motivations and really tap into the values that are attached to the goal.

STEP 1: You want to start by asking yourself why your are choosing to focus on that particular goal. Then try to describe what might be getting in the way of you being satisfied with the current state of the subject matter/domain. Finally, think about what values are attached to this goal – what makes it important to you and worth changing?

For example, I am choosing to focus in on my social life as one of my goals.

Why? Because, although I don’t have many friends, the ones are do have are very special and important to me. And I’ve been a huuuge flake lately.

Is there something causes this area to be unsatisfactory?  My own mental health often causes me to distance myself from others when I’m feeling down and isolation often begets more isolation.

Why is this area/goal valuable? It’s important to me to tend to these relationships because, like plants, they may wither if I don’t put in effort to keep them alive. I know that my friends need support just as much as I do – we will both benefit from increased communication and outings.

OK, now it’s your turn. Starting with just one of the domains, walk yourself through those three questions. If you find yourself getting stuck on the last question, or you feel like your answer doesn’t dive deep enough, just ask yourself the question again.

E.g. Why is saving money valuable? Because I won’t be broke all the time.
Why is not being broke valuable? Because it will give me wiggle room each month for unexpected costs or fun trips.
Why is that wiggle room valuable? It will increase my confidence in my ability to live on my own/feel like an adult/be self-sufficient/etc.

You can continue to ask yourself the question until you feel like you have an answer that really motivates you and truly aligns with your values.

STEP 2: After figuring our the motivations and values behind your goals, it’s important to figure out ways to ensure that you are making progress toward your goal. This is key because you can break the larger goal of “Save $10,000” into smaller, more accessible (less scary!) pieces.

For example, I can break down “strengthen relationships with my friends” into little goals that will feel more manageable to me and, therefore, encourage me to stick to it. Here’s what I have decided will help me to improve my relationships:

  • Go out with a friend for coffee
  • Start writing letters to Friend X again
  • Plan a hiking trip
  • Text friends

Those might seem a little vague – and they should! What’s missing here is the next step…

STEP 3: Add in time and frequency to specify your smaller steps and urge you to make progress toward your larger goal. Depending on what your goal is, you may want to decided on a time (today, Mondays, a specific holiday) or, less specifically, the frequency of repetition (once a week, 4 times a month, every other week).

For example, if we go back to my goal of strengthening relationships

  • Go out with a friend for coffee twice a month
  • Start writing letters Send out a letter on Sunday to Friend X
  • Plan a hiking trip for Memorial Day weekend
  • Text friends once a week

STEP 4: Choose a check-in date. It’s important to schedule a check-in date in order to re-evaluate whether your goal is going as planned. Since you are your own boss, you get to change things when they aren’t working. Is texting your friend once a week too little? Is going to the gym 5 times a week too much? Switch it up! Try a different time or frequency and see if it works better. You can always re-evaluate and change it again.


Now, it’s your turn to try this out. You may not be used to thinking through decisions so thoroughly, but this method really helps to search out and identify the motivators and values that are attached to our goal decisions. And since values are often driving forces in our lives, they can help drive us to make change too!




I'm a social worker, a vegan, a reader...and I'm in need of a place to collect all the amazing things that I encounter in my day to day life. I'll be posting about the little things, the small, sunny moments that keep me going.

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