I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have some sort of goal. As babies, our parents have all sorts of goals for us, to sleep through the night, start crawling, eat regular food, talk, and as we grow, our parents’ goals for us change. To be obedient, to get good grades, to be a good person. It’s when we start making goals for ourselves that things really change.
The first goal I can remember is wanting a bicycle. I prayed every day for a bike. I asked my mom if I could work to earn one. I told everyone who asked me how I was doing that I wanted a bike. We lived in a small town, I think that if you asked anyone in that town they would be able to tell you about the little girl who wanted a bike. I mean, I REALLY wanted a bike.
I wanted a bike so much that when my uncle asked my mom what I’d like for my birthday, she told him and I got my bike, for my birthday, in FEBRUARY… in Northeastern WASHINGTON…in 1996. It was the worst snowstorm in decades. My bike sat in a box, waiting for the snow to melt. You can bet your last dollar that as soon as the parking lot in our apartment was plowed on the first day the sun peeked from behind the clouds, I demanded to go out and go bike riding.
I still remember the joy I felt riding my bike and then riding well enough to take off the training wheels. I remember on our regular walking path; there was a giant hill. Every time we would get to that hill, I would get off of my bike and have to push it up. I remember the day I rode my bike all the way up. I remember thinking if I could ride my bike up that mountain, I’m sure there isn’t any path I couldn’t ride my bike on. For the rest of my childhood, my bike and I were good friends.
I rode it every day for as long as possible. And then one day, I climbed onto my bike, and my knees hit the handles. Soon a new bike was bought as a gift. It was green because I was going through a no girly things phase, I still am. The seat on its lowest setting was just a bit too high. It had gears that intimidated me. It was harder to pedal. I rode it for exactly 15 seconds before asking for my old bike back. My mom told me it was too little for me, and my little sister would get to ride it now. I didn’t ride my bike for a while. I was scared.
I’ve always struggled with new things. Rather it’s bikes or people, or places, if it’s new, I’m probably intimidated by it and would rather wait and see if it works out before committing to anything.
Then one day, I got back on the bike, I had grown a bit more, and the seat wasn’t too high. I rode my bike all day, and it was just like my old bike, but even better. This bike was faster. The gears made riding easier, and the best part was my knees didn’t hit the handles. I saw my old bike that night as I put away my new one. It looked small, and I wondered how I had ever fit it.
Goals are a lot like bikes. You start with a small one; it has training wheels on it, it fits who you are at the time, and even though it’s a starter bike, it can still be intimidating. It’s the first time the goal is all yours, and you can take it as far as you want. But someday, you will outgrow that goal. You’ll know more; you’ll have grown, and as good as that goal was in the beginning, it doesn’t apply anymore. It’s time to move on. But sometimes it’s hard to tackle your new goal; it’s hard to believe that the new goal is going to work. To even know what the first step is to change your goal into action. How do you achieve something you’ve never considered before? What if you fail? What if you succeed? What if you make a plan, and in 5 years, you have completed this goal and have already moved on to a new one?
The truth is there is always uncertainty, but the real tragedy would be not trying. The real tragedy would be doing nothing and having the same goal in 5 years. But the fact is, if you don’t have a plan for how you are going to get to that goal, you won’t ever get there.
We like SMART goals:
Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
Achievable (agreed, attainable).
Relevant (reasonable, realistic, and resourced, results-based).
Time-bound (time-based, time-limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).
See, a goal says I want to lose weight.
A smart goal says, in order to be healthy, I’m going to work out each day for 5 minutes for the next week, and every week from now on, I will add 5 minutes of working out. I will also eat a large salad before lunch and dinner to help reduce the number of calories I consume. I will check in with my health progress each week by taking my measurements and weight. I know I’m achieving my goal because I will have done each of those things each week, and regardless of what the scale says, I will know that I’m a healthier person.
Do you see the difference? One is an idea, and the other has a plan with actionable steps to take to and an ability to measure your progress.
Take some time right now. Sit with paper and pen or your computer or your phone and think about the next thing you are trying to accomplish. Is it being debt-free? Going back to school? Starting your own business?
Now pause and think about it. What specific steps do you need to take to get there? It’s ok if you don’t know all the steps. That just means your first step is figuring out what the steps are. Put them in order. If you want to be debt-free, your first step is to know what debts you have. Whatever goal you have, there are steps you need to take.
Next, you need a way to measure your success. If you want to start a bakery before you ever open a shop you can measure success by getting orders for your goods and baking them at your home. Make a goal of getting one new customer every two weeks. But you’ll need a plan to get those new customers, like social media, word of mouth, etc.
Now, look at your list of steps. Are they achievable? If your goal is to run a marathon tomorrow but you haven’t left the house in 5 years, you have set yourself up to fail. This is not an excuse to stay where you are. It’s permission to move your end date or switch up your goal a bit to reach it. Instead of running a marathon tomorrow, an achievable goal might look like putting on exercise clothes, grabbing your headphones, putting on your shoes, and walking to the sidewalk. Do what you can and let yourself grow.
Now make sure that it’s relevant. If your goal is to run a marathon but your action step is to go get a facial your step is not relevant to your goal. No matter how much you might need some personal pampering, it doesn’t get you closer to being able to run a marathon. You might be able to convince yourself of it, but if you tell someone else and they look at you like your crazy, you know your on the wrong path. It’s ok, refocus on your goal, and then make a plan that is relevant to your goals.
Finally, set time limits. Building a business will take time, but deciding on a name shouldn’t take 12 years. Give each of the steps a reasonable time limit. REASONABLE. You’ll need more than a week to lose 50 pounds; you need less than a day to do 5 minutes of exercise. As you grow in your ability to understand your goal and what it takes to achieve grows as you reprioritize your life, you’ll find more time to move that goal closer and closer by being able to push harder and harder.
Keep setting goals, and making plans, and achieving every dream. It’s already inside of you. Now you just have to live it.
We love hearing from you. What is one goal you have and the first step you need to take?