Setting goals is a great way to stay focused and motivated while habit-tracking. Not only do they give you something to look forward to, but they also provide a central idea to focus your efforts and energy on while reminding you why you’re working so hard. As you can see, creating goals can be extremely beneficial!
But what type of goals should you be setting for yourself? Many people decide to choose goals that help them become healthier, happier, or more financially secure, but ultimately your goal can be anything you want it to be.
But thinking up goals isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Oftentimes, we’re so stressed by everything going on in our lives, that we forget what our goals were or have trouble coming up with new ones. So to help you brainstorm some ideas, below are some of my favorite techniques that will have you coming up with tons of meaningful goal ideas in no time.
1) Use Fill-In-The-Blank Prompts
Prompts are great for getting you to think about your wants and needs which can then be turned into goals. Perhaps there’s a new skill you want to learn or a way you can improve some part of your life. Filling in the blanks below can help you figure these things out. And I’ve included some examples to get you started.
- I want to improve ______
- I want to improve my Photoshop skills
- I want to improve my hair health
- I want to ______ more
- I want to be on time more
- I want to feel more awake
- I want to ______ less ______
- I want to feel less stress
- I want to spend less money
- I want to ______ faster
- I want to write blog posts faster
- I want to get ready for work faster
- I want to increase ______
- I want to increase my salary
- I want to increase the amount of fruit I eat
- I want to decrease ______
- I want to decrease my cholesterol
- I want to decrease my weight
- I want to learn how to ______
- I want to learn how to knit
- I want to learn how to play MineCraft
- I want to start ______
- I want to start flossing every day
- I want to start drinking more water
- I wish I could ______
- I wish I could ski
- I wish I could organize better
- I want my ______ to be ______
- I want my skin to be clearer
- I want my house to be cleaner
- I want to save time when ______
- I want to save time when getting ready for work
- I want to save time when getting ready for bed
- I want to be better at ______
- I want to be better at applying makeup
- I want to be better at cooking
2) Ask Yourself Self-Reflection Questions
Another great technique for coming up with goals is to ask yourself self-reflection questions. The answers you come up with will be a great starting point not only for goal creation but habit creation as well.
* Like if your boss wants you to stop showing up late for work or your doctor wants you to consume less sugar, for example – I don’t mean negative things people have said to you just because they’re mean.
3) Think About Categories That Are Meaningful To You
One of my favorite ways to come up with goals is by thinking about different categories like beauty, health, finances, and altruism. Once I have a category in mind, I think about the things I would like to change or improve upon, and before I know it, I have dozens of different goal ideas.
* And by “environment”, I mean your house, car, place of work, desk area, backyard etc.
4) Analyze Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs
Abraham Maslow was a famous psychologist who created a hierarchy of human needs. Maslow believed that we are motivated to meet our physiological (or basic) needs first (which are found at the bottom of the pyramid). These needs include things like sleep, sex, air, food, and shelter. According to Maslow, once we meet our basic needs, we can move up the pyramid until we finally reach self-actualization and become our ideal selves.
Even if you don’t agree with Maslow’s theories (or completely understand them), I think his ideas and hierarchy can be helpful for goal setting. I’ve personally experienced, for example, how difficult it is to work on my goals if my basic needs like sleep and diet are not being met.
I also think Maslow highlights some important categories we often forget about like friendship and even safety. In fact, I had completely forgotten how important personal safety was to me until I looked at the pyramid again. And once I realized this, it became one of my top goals for 2021, ultimately leading me to take self-defense lessons.
Can I Break Larger Goals Into Smaller Ones?
Absolutely. Some people do better with smaller bite-sized goals because it makes them more attainable. For example, say two people have the same goal which is to “start working out more”. Person A may decide to start working on habits for this goal right away.
But person B, may feel completely overwhelmed by this goal. So instead, they create three sub-goals they can work on one at a time. For example, three smaller sub-goals might be: increasing the amount of aerobic exercise they get, starting a weight training routine, and learning how to stretch.
So now person B can choose one of the sub-goals to start with and begin creating habits for that goal. For example, if they decide to increase their aerobic exercise, their first habit may be to take the stairs each day instead of the elevator. And their second habit may be to park further away from the door so they have to walk more, and so on.
Then when they feel comfortable, they can start working on habits to achieve their second sub-goal with is to start a weight training routine and so on.
Which Goal Should I Start With?
Once you’ve finished the above exercises, you may have more goals than you know what to do with. Don’t get me wrong, having lots of goals is great, but it can definitely feel overwhelming to suddenly go from 0 to 20.
So with so many goals, which one should you start with? There’s no right way to answer this question (that will apply to everyone), but I can give you a few ideas regarding the best way to figure it out.
Start With The Goal That . . .
Has An Immediate Effect On Your Health Or Safety
If you’re recovering from an emergency health event (like a heart attack) and your doctor tells you to make changes, then I would strongly suggest you make your first goal based on their advice. Or if your house is such a mess that it’s a safety hazard (like you have a pile of objects blocking your only exit), then having a goal to get your house more organized would be a great goal to start with.
Will Help You Achieve Your Other Goals Easier
Sometimes working on one goal can make doing the others easier. For example, I mentioned earlier that I was having trouble sleeping at one point. And once I achieved my goal of getting better sleep, I felt much better both mentally and physically. As a result, working on my other habits (like working out) became 10 times easier.
Is The Most Important To You Or Will Make You The Happiest
The good thing about this technique is that you’ll have lots of motivation to reach your goal, which will make completing your habits easier. And as you get closer to achieving your goal, you will feel happier and more positive about the habit-tracking experience. This can give you confidence before you start working on goals that you might be less excited about (like changing your diet).
Will Be The Easiest To Achieve
Choosing a goal that is easy to achieve can be a great way to build confidence and get you accustomed to habit tracking. For example, an easy goal for you might be to learn how to cook, whereas, a really hard goal might be to quit smoking. By starting with the easier goal, you can practice performing new behaviors on a regular basis and you may learn some helpful tips and tricks that will prepare you to work on harder goals.
How Many Goals Can I work On At Once?
If you’re new to habit tracking, I would stick with one goal for now. Then after you’ve completed some habits related to that goal (and you feel comfortable), you can add a second goal, and so on. But there are exceptions to this rule, which will depend on the difficulty of the goals you choose.
For example, one of your goals might be to improve the health of your hair. So your first habit might be to do one 20-minute protein treatment each week. This habit is pretty simple to complete, so adding another goal to work on concurrently (even if it’s much harder like losing weight), shouldn’t be a problem.
It basically comes down to the difficulty of the goals you wish to achieve and how much effort it takes you to complete the habits related to that goal. When in doubt, start slow and gradually add more.
Now That I Have Goals, What’s Next?
Now that you have an idea of what your goals are, you can move on to the next steps. This includes:
(1) Determining the best way to structure (or phrase) your goal so you have something to focus on and strive for as you move further in the process.
(2) Figuring out what your motivation is which will help you choose the best goal to start with and provide you with encouragement.
1) Structuring Your Goals
Now that you know the goals you wish to achieve, you will have to decide how you will structure or phrase them. And by structure, I mean will your goals be simple and vague or will they be more specific and time-based?
Personally, I make my goals following the KISS (“keep it simple stupid”) principle. So basically, my goals are simple and do not have deadlines I have to meet. An example of this type of goal might be, “I want to work out more”.
Now others prefer to make SMART goals that are more specific and time-based. A SMART goal, for example, would rephrase the last goal as follows: “I want to workout 3 times per week for 30 minutes by the end of two months”.
And these aren’t even the only two ways to structure your goals. Other goal-structuring techniques include PACT, GROW, and CLEAR. The only way you will know the structuring method that works best for you is to try them.
If you like keeping things simple and low-stress, then I would start by creating a KISS goal. Whereas, if you like a little pressure to keep you motivated, I would create a SMART goal. If neither of those methods works for you, you can try one of the other techniques listed until you find one that you like.
1) Determining Your Motivation
While your goals are still fresh in your mind, it can be helpful to write down your motivation for achieving these goals. This can help you determine which goals are the most important to you while giving you reasons to keep pushing forward, even when times get tough. However, this step is optional (as you may already have your motivation). Just keep in mind, that having more than one reason for your motivation may come in handy later on.
To help figure out your motivation, think about your goals and fill in the following statements below:
Remember, you don’t have to write an essay about your motivation. You just want to start thinking of ideas and jotting them down. And it doesn’t matter how unimportant you think your reasons are or if you think they’re superficial. Nobody is judging you if you want to be wealthy or look good in a bathing suit.
Finding Motivation That Makes You Take Action
In some cases, you may have to think outside the box for your motivation. In other words, you may not have the typical reasons for doing things as others might. For example, a few years ago my goal was to increase my upper body strength because it would help me look better and feel more physically fit. But as badly as I wanted these things, it wasn’t enough to motivate me to work out.
So I thought about it more and found a reason that was enough to light a fire under me. And that reason was actually my dog! My dog was growing older but loved going for walks. So guess who ended up carrying all 35 lbs of him all over the neighborhood? I knew working out would enable me to carry him easier while making him happy. So using him as my main motivation, instead of my own reasons, gave me the ability to take action and stick with it.
So if you know you want something, but can’t find enough of a reason to get yourself going, keep looking. Somewhere out there is a motivating factor that will get you fired up and diligently working towards your goal.
What techniques do you use to come up with goals? Please share in the comments!