Everyone has set a goal for themselves at some point in their lives. Whether it’s to go to the gym more, cut out sugar, take more vitamins, get more sleep, or pursue a personal passion, goal-setting is a natural part of planning for the future. Yet, many people still struggle with not only setting realistic goals but actually achieving them.
To wrap up Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re diving into the topic of intentions and goal-setting which, like meditation, is a practice we at Bluebird work into each morning. Today, we’ll explore some of the most effective and research-backed tips and tactics for setting intentions and goals, as well as share how our team goes about our daily intention setting.
(If one of your goals is to live a happier and healthier lifestyle, you can get started right here!)
Four Different Types of Goal-Setting
One of the first steps in successful goal-setting is identifying the types of goals you have. There are generally four broad types of goals: stepping stone goals, short-term goals, long-term goals, and lifetime goals.
Many psychologists trained in the art of goal-setting recommend starting with painting your ideal life vision in your mind and then slowly breaking it down from there. Lifetime goals allow you to visualize what you want your future to look like. It’s almost like a bucket list for personal development and growth. Where do you want your career to go? What do you want your family and network of friends to look like? What kind of person do you want to be?
Once you’ve begun to establish your life vision for yourself, you can begin breaking this vision down into shorter and more actionable goals. To set some long-term goals for yourself, you might write down a specific career or skill that you want to achieve in the next 5 to 10+ years. Are you trying to go back to school? Do you want to become an expert pianist and play concerts all over the world?
After identifying some long-term goals, you keep cutting off smaller chunks from there until you’re left with your more palatable short-term and stepping stone goals. Short-term goals include items you might want to accomplish over the span of a few weeks or months while stepping stone goals are the items you want to accomplish on a daily or weekly basis. For example, if my short-term goal is to read 4 books a month, I would set a stepping stone goal of reading for 45 minutes every day.
Narrowing Your Focus
There’s this concept called “goal competition.” It essentially means that when you set too many goals for yourself, you impede your ability to actually achieve any of them. You can only split the pie so many times before you’re left with a mushy, inedible mess.
It can be quite easy to be over-ambitious about goal-setting. In fact, it’s something I struggle with myself - I like to call it “shiny penny syndrome.” I get so enthusiastic about the idea of so many activities and skills that I convince myself I can and should do them all. Spoiler alert - I can’t and I shouldn’t. I think maybe only a robot that doesn’t need sleep or food could achieve every single thing they set their mind...err, processor to.
The point is, it’s important to take time for reflection and ask yourself what is really the most important to you. Is it getting in shape? Is it spending more time with family and friends? Is it focusing on your career? By forcing yourself to actually prioritize your goals and pick one or two to work on at a time, you’ll have a better chance of actually committing to and achieving your goals without finding yourself completely overwhelmed and ready to give up on everything.
We’ve talked in previous blog posts about S.M.A.R.T. goals. It’s a pretty common concept for most, something that you might have even learned in school at some point. However, no matter what age or stage of life you’re in, using the S.M.A.R.T. model to set short-term and long-term goals for yourself can be incredibly helpful.
To cover the basics, a S.M.A.R.T. goal is one that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. So, to break it down into an example, if I wanted to set a goal for myself to get into running, I might write down the following:
Specific: I want to run a 5k race.
Measurable: I will increase my run distance by a quarter-mile after each week of training.
Achievable: I will run on the treadmill right after work for 30 minutes four times a week (whatever is realistic for your schedule).
Relevant: Running is an excellent physical exercise and will help me become healthier and happier.
Timely: I will run that 5k race in 3 months.
How to Set Daily Intentions
Setting daily intentions can be a great way to actually manifest your goals and ambitions. When you set an intention, you essentially take a goal and speak it into existence. To quote a famous intergalactic philosopher, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Our Bluebird team loves to kick off every morning with a group meditation followed by sharing gratitudes and setting an intention for the day. We take turns sharing one thing we intend to focus on the day. Just one. If you’re an expert at getting things done, you can try to set a couple more intentions, but remember that “goal competition” theory we talked about earlier - the more you put on the plate, the less you’re going to be able to digest.
Quick note - I’m not a psychologist, just a writer. There’s a lot more to this topic than I can cover in this blog, and I highly recommend giving this article a read. I pulled a lot of tips from it, but author James Clear really digs deep into successful goal-setting. It’s worth the time to read, I promise.
At the end of the day, whatever your goals may be, our intention is to empower you to achieve what you set your mind to. We hope these tips help you along your journey to a happy and healthy lifestyle, however that may look for you. If you’re in the mood for further reading, check out our other blogs in support of Mental Health Awareness Week.