How to Set Goals for Your Life
The different types of life goals and how you can set yours.
Life goals are the desired states that people seek to obtain, maintain or avoid (Nair, 2003). Our lives include many different pieces so life goals can include relationship goals, career goals, financial goals, and more.
Why We Might Set Life Goals
Researchers believe that the reason we set life goals is to resolve "discontent" with aspects of our present situation. Indeed, we may want something in our lives to be different—our relationship, career, or health, for example. And indeed, the simple act of setting a goal makes it more likely that we will reach it.
How to Set Life Goals
Setting specific and slightly difficult goals—like "I will run a marathon by running a little further each day for a year"—tends to go better than setting vague or abstract goals, like "I'm going to be rich!" Commitment to the goal also seems to help us achieve it. And getting feedback from others and tracking our progress also help us achieve our goals (Locke & Latham, 2006).
To set effective life goals, we can use the "SMART" acronym. Although there are some variations in what SMART stands for (Rubin, 2002), here is one example:
What Are Short-Term and Long-Term Life Goals?
Achieving easier, shorter-term goals can help us feel like we're making progress and motivate us to keep going towards long-term goals. That's why it can be helpful to break longer-term goals up into a bunch of short and mid-term goals—things that we could accomplish in an hour, day, or week. For example, if I want to go to college, I might study for the SAT one hour per day for several months. Over time, these short-term goals allow me to accomplish my longer-term goal.
Turning Life Goals Into Objectives
Most short-term goals can be broken down even further into objectives—or actionable parts. For example, if my goal is to get into college, I might plan to study an hour per day (a short-term goal), but what I do during that time would be to accomplish my objectives. I might complete 10 math problems, memorize 10 vocabulary words, and quiz myself each evening on my vocabulary works. Those would be my objectives.
Examples of Life Goals
Setting life goals can be good for us. If we take just a little more time to set the right goals in the right ways, we'll have a greater chance of reaching those goals and manifesting some of our dreams.
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Pamela (Pami) Parker currently serves as a holistic practitioner, coach and teacher. Her intention is to be a compassionate guide to those who choose to experience a healthier, happier and more peaceful way of life.