Tips for Setting and Achieving Your Personal Goals

From the lofty to the simplistic, we all have ambitions — though we may choose to keep many of them to ourselves for fear of failure. When we keep our goals tucked safely in our private dream world instead of daring to pursue them, we may avoid the potential humiliation that could result from pitfalls along the way — but we also shelter ourselves from personal growth and fulfillment.

Whether you aspire to reach a specific set of fitness goals, dream of finally landing that job promotion, or are itching to master a new set of skills, stifling your greatest hopes in an attempt to prevent all that could go wrong won’t help you get any closer to success!

In fact, setting and achieving personal goals of any kind relies on striking a smart balance between risk and reality. For example, when you sign up to take part in a fitness boot camp, the main risk lies in the physical (and emotional) challenges ahead — but this is ultimately outweighed by the reality that taking charge of your health is an important step in leading your best life.

No matter the goals you have in mind, consider these tips to keep you on track as you plan for success.

1. Follow the “SMART” acronym

The SMART acronym is one of the most commonly cited pieces of goal-setting advice, and for good reason. So what does SMART stand for? When prioritizing your goals, make sure each one is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-conscious. Let’s break this down a bit.

Specific: Define your goals in no uncertain terms to maximize your chances of success. For example, “eat healthy” is a fine goal, but it lacks anything concrete to work toward. If you’re trying to eat healthy, you can start by cutting soda from your diet and eating an additional serving of veggies each day — specific goals that also apply to the next part of being “SMART.”

Measurable: When you set specific goals, such as those outlined in the above example, your successes (even the small ones!) can be measured. When your progress is observable, you’ll feel more motivated to stick with your goals. You can measure that additional daily serving of veggies, and you can also measure and track the results you see from upping your intake (such as more energy or easier trips to the bathroom).

Attainable and Realistic: These two criteria go hand in hand. Set goals that are realistic for you rather than setting yourself up for an unnecessary struggle by striving to meet unattainable goals. But remember, just because a specific goal may not be attainable now, doesn’t mean the time won’t come to shoot for the moon! Be realistic about what is possible for you today.

Time-conscious: Work within a given timeframe to keep yourself on track. For example, a structured fitness class such as group boot camp allows you to follow a built-in class schedule and duration. With the right effort, a matter of weeks of regular classes will give you results within the allotted time.

2. Think in baby steps

Gradual, incremental goal-setting is key. If you’re not accustomed to endurance running but aspire to participate in a marathon, you wouldn’t immediately get up off the couch and head for the start line — you’d ease into it over time by jogging, getting in shape, perhaps trying out a 5k, and ultimately working your way up to endurance activities and long-distance running.

3. Get excited

Set yourself up for success by giving yourself something to be excited about! Make achieving your goals fun. It doesn’t need to be a tedious struggle. For instance, working out doesn’t need to mean the same old treadmill session a few times each week. A boot camp or group class introduces a community aspect, keeps you accountable to attend, and offers a fun environment.

4. Keep an open mind

The path to achieving your goals can take some unexpected turns, and you may even arrive at a completely different method than you set out with. Goals can evolve and so can the route you take to success.

5. Reward yourself!

Give yourself a pat on the back for your hard work! You don’t have to tick all your goals off your checklist to enjoy a little gift to yourself — remember to celebrate small successes, too! Practice regular self-care and take the occasional moment to treat yourself (have you been sticking to your no-soda goal? Why not enjoy a small scoop of your favorite ice cream as a reward?).