How to set goals that actually motivate you

What area of your life do you want to improve? Perhaps it’s becoming more organized or developing better study habits. These are great goals to aspire to but there’s often two problems in the way people set goals: They’re either too vague or too specific. goal setting
  • Too Vague
If you leave the goal at “get more organized,” this is too vague. This doesn’t give you enough clarity to set you up for taking action on your goal. Just stating a goal won’t make things fall into place.
  • Too Specific 
On the other side are very specific goals that lack inspiration. By now many people have heard of how to set SMART goals, ones that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely. For instance, a SMART goal for getting organized could be: “I will file all of my schools papers into their appropriate class binder at the end of every week.” This goal would be great if you are already motivated to be organized. In Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, Chip and Dan Heath explain that goals like SMART goals “presume emotion; they don’t generate it,” which means that if you aren’t already in a place where you’re motivated and starting to organize your life then this type of goal won’t work. If you’re a mostly disorganized person and taking this type of action will be completely new for you, then a SMART goal isn’t all of the sudden going to change you. Instead, goals FIRST need a clear, near-term picture of success and SECOND need specific steps on how to get there.
“We want what we might call a destination postcard– a vivid picture from the near-term future that shows what could be possible.” -Chip and Dan Heath, Switch
  • Destination Postcard
For the organization example, what would your life look like in three months if you were organized? Describe the scenario and write it down. Perhaps you are no longer losing important notes to study from and turn in homework assignments on time. You aren’t stressed every morning trying to find everything before you head out the door. The point of painting this picture for yourself is to get to the motivation behind your goal. Why is this goal important? How will achieving this goal affect my life in positive ways? After you answer these questions, then you can begin to think about how you are going to get there.
“What is essential, though, is to marry your long-term goal with short-term critical moves.” -Chip and Dan Heath, Switch
  • Short-term critical moves
When we have a big goal that we want to achieve or a big problem that we want to solve, it’s easy to get bogged down. We want just as big of a solution. However, change happens most often in a series of small solutions. So for the getting organized example, instead of trying to organize everything in your life at once, pick one thing at a time. What action are you going to take this week to organize your life? Focus on just organizing your school binders at first. Once that becomes a habit then start organizing your desk, then your room, and so on. Setting smaller actions allows you to experience success early on, building momentum toward your goal.
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