The Importance and Benefits of Goal Setting
Something that we’re taught from a very young age is that we should set goals. Many elementary schools across the country have activities that center around teaching children to set manageable goals. But they don’t often go very deep into why goal setting can be important.
Setting good goals can do a lot for you. It can help improve motivation, boost productivity, and give you a way to track your progress, among other things. So today, let’s take a look at some of the big benefits behind goal setting, and some tips for setting goals that you can manage.
I’d like to start out by saying that you should go easy on yourself. Use this information not to push yourself too hard, but instead to set goals that are manageable for you, and help you improve yourself.
If you’d like to learn even more about the importance of goal setting, this article is a great in-depth read, and some of the information we use comes from there.
What are goals?
If you want to learn how to set goals, the first step is understanding what they are. Good goals, goals that you can work with, are concrete, usually very specific, markers of progress, not abstract ideas. Even though they may start out as abstract ideas, they need to be turned into something concrete to be a good goal.
For example, you may say “I want to do more gardening.” That’s great— but how are you going to track your progress? Take that abstract idea and turn it into something concrete: “I want to plant 20 seeds before the end of the month”. Now you have yourself a trackable goal.
Some goals, like that one, might have just a final end result. Others may have multiple milestones. It depends on what you want to achieve. The important thing is that you have something concrete to track your progress, and that you are as specific as possible.
How goals help
Having good goals to work towards can have a lot of benefits, in your professional life, personal life, and even on your mental health. To start out, it’s been shown that goal setting can increase motivation, and thus increase productivity. This also translates to the workplace, where setting good goals can improve work performance, and help you be better at your job.
Setting goals, especially ones with milestones, also gives you a way of keeping track of your progress. You can use this to remind yourself of all of the good things you are doing. It’s very helpful for your mental health, because it gives you something to feel proud of.
How to set good goals
Good goal setting involves a few factors. First, think about what we said previously— make sure you have something concrete. If all you have is an abstract idea, spend some time thinking about how you can turn that into a concrete goal.
Throughout the whole process, remember to go easy on yourself. Don’t take on more than you can handle, and plan your goals with your mental health, capabilities, and schedule in mind. And if you don’t meet a goal, that’s ok! Simply reassess and try again.
Think about clarity. The more clear and precise your goal is, the easier it will be to keep track of. Also consider how much it challenges you, how much time you can commit to it, and the complexity of the activity involved. Make sure that any goal you set is something you are able to fully commit to, because that’s the only way you will get it done.
It can be a good idea to break a goal up into milestones, unless it is a very small goal. Think about all the steps required to reach your end desire, and make each one its own milestone. This gives you something to work towards that feels much smaller and more manageable. It also lets you celebrate little victories along the way.
As you progress in your goal, make sure to take time to give yourself feedback. Have you been doing really well? Acknowledge that, and feel proud. Are you struggling with certain things? Adjust your goal to accommodate that. Although goals are concrete, they don’t have to be set in stone. They can change as you realize the best way to meet your goals.
Of course, when setting goals, one of the most important things to consider is time. If a goal has no deadline, there’s no real need to complete it. Try to figure out a good length of time for your goal and milestones, and set that out. And if you need to adjust it later, that’s ok.
Lastly, once you have your goals in place, you can consider telling someone else. This could be a friend, family member, or even your therapist. Having another person who knows about your goals will help keep you accountable, so you have more of a push to get things done.
Tracking your progress
Once you’ve come up with some concrete goals, created milestones, and given yourself a time frame, you’re going to want a way to track your goals, and what you have accomplished. There are many, many ways of doing this, but I’ll share some of my personal favorites.
The first is writing them down. This is practically essential for any goal setting. Writing goals down with clear steps, milestones, and timeframes helps you to remember your goals, and keep track of your progress. You could simply write them out, or make a checklist so you can check things off as you complete them.
Writing goals down is simple, but effective. It ensures that you won’t forget them, and gives you a simple way of tracking progress. Even if you choose other methods to track your goals, you should still write them down in some form.
Something I strongly recommend is sticker charts. It may sound childish, and perhaps it is— but there’s nothing wrong with it. Sticker charts work, and they’re a fun way to keep track of your goals.
There are all kinds of fun sticker charts you can find online or in stores. Or you can make your own, using pen and paper, calendar options in programs like Google Sheets, or anything else. I like making my own, but the important thing is that you like it.
Sticker charts work because they are fun and provide instant gratification. I’ve yet to meet a person who actively dislikes stickers, and choosing things you really like give you even more benefit. It may seem silly, but give it a try— it just might be the thing you need to help you keep track of your goals.
My last recommendation is to use an app to keep track of your goals. There are dozens of apps out there, and I certainly haven’t tried them all. It’s up to you to find the ones that work best for you. But I do have a few recommendations, depending on your needs:
Trello. This is a great all-around app for goal setting, as well as keeping track of to-do lists and workloads (which are their own form of goal setting!). It allows you to easily keep track of what you need to do with checklists, as well as letting you put due dates on things. And you can customize the look. We use it to keep track of all the work for this blog, and it works great.
Forest. I have sung this app praises before, and I’ll do it again. If your goals involve work or the need to stay focused, Forest is a great way to keep track of that. You simply plant a tree in your virtual forest, and then you can’t leave the app until the chosen time is up, or else you’ll kill your tree. There is a pro version, but the free one works just fine.
Runkeeper and Fitbit. Fitbits are great for all sorts of exercise-related goals, and also for telling time, alarms, and keeping track of sleep. For more specific exercise goals that involve activities like running, biking, or walking, I recommend Runkeeper. It lets you keep track of how far you went, how long, and what speed you were going. Plus, with GPS, you can see the exact route you took! For exercise goals, I recommend checking this one out.
So there you have it. The importance of goal setting, how they can help you, and how you can set (and keep track of) good goals. And remember, this is an opportunity to better yourself, not wear yourself down. Go easy on yourself, and don’t take on more than you can handle!
Do you have other ways you like to keep track of your goals? Something else you want to share? Let us know by leaving a comment or mentioning us on social media (@therapeutichealingjourney on Instagram and @llctherapeutic on Twitter). We’d love to hear from you!