By Jillian Bell
Your New Year’s resolution was to eat clean, but by February you were back on the Diet Coke bandwagon. Your goal for this month was to finish those books that have been sitting on your nightstand forever, but then the siren call of Netflix lured you away. Clearly it’s not enough to just set a goal. If you really want to achieve it, you need to be intentional about it, from the planning stage up until the goal is met, according to Toronto-area life coach, Ivana Pejakovic. “Just because we set a goal at the beginning of the year doesn’t mean that’s going to be the right goal for us at the end of the year,” she says. “By monitoring where we’re at, how far we’re going, and if this goal is still right for us, we’re able to navigate and specifically tune in so that we can shift the goal in the way that we need to or continue working toward it.” Below, Pejakovic has outlined the seven key steps that are essential to meeting any goal, whether it’s to score six-pack abs, increase productivity at work, or save enough money for that trip to Italy you’ve always dreamed about.
1. Choose the Right Goal
For a goal to be achievable and satisfying, it needs to meet three main criteria, Pejakovic says. First of all, it needs to utilize your strengths. “We don’t want to pick something that we’re not good at doing or that won’t help us,” explains Pejakovic. Next, it needs to express your values, the things that are important to you in life. A great goal also satisfies a psychological need. If we meet a goal that doesn’t leverage our strengths, express what’s important to us, and satisfy a need inside us, Pejakovic says, “It’s going to feel empty; we won’t feel like we accomplished something important.”
These are going to be your two best friends when it comes to monitoring your progress and holding yourself accountable.
A progress map is “a visual representation of the journey to come,” according to Pejakovic. “You’re drawing it out, having little arrows pointing out to the bigger chunks of the goal, [seeing] if the bigger chunks can be broken down into smaller chunks.”
A progress log is a diary that corresponds to your map. Not only are you keeping track of what you’ve done, but also how much effort you’ve put in. “If we don’t keep a log of how much we’re working toward [our goal],” says Pejakovic, “we’re not going to be working toward it, we’re going to get distracted, other things are going to take over in life. And by having a log, we can look back and see why we haven’t achieved the deadline, or what went wrong throughout the process.”
Whether you write in your log daily or weekly may depend on where you’re at with your goal (sometimes you hit a stage where you’re just waiting for something to happen), but Pejakovic suggests that “the more frequently you write in your log, the better off you are, and the less likely you’re going to be distracted and just stop moving closer to your goal for a period of time.”
3. Set an Achievable Deadline
“We usually set deadlines that are not all that realistic,” says Pejakovic, “because we’re impatient and our goals are important to us and we want to achieve them as quickly as possible.” Refer back to your progress map in order to set a more realistic deadline, she suggests.
As important as it is to have a deadline, you also need to understand that it may not be totally within your control and sometimes you have to be flexible. You may change your deadline during the monitoring stage of meeting your goal. “While we’d like the deadline to be as accurate as possible, it’s really important to adjust based on what happens while you’re achieving your goal,” says Pejakovic. For some goals, it’s easier to predict the deadline, she points out, while others — like, say, getting married — is really hard to put a firm deadline on. Realizing that the deadline isn’t totally within your control in these situations will keep you from getting discouraged and feeling as though you’ve failed.