How to achieve your goal

It’s one thing setting a goal, and quite another achieving it. But there are practical steps you can take to increase your chances of getting where you want to be. It most often takes hard work and dedication, though.
Go through the steps below, answer the questions, and do some concrete planning on how to achieve your goal.
What is your goal? Write it down. Now try and break it up into smaller targets. A huge goal, such as wanting to become a biochemist, or to lose 20kg, can be overwhelming. But if you start by saying you need to get a Matric pass with a university exemption as a starting point, that’s a first step to realising your dream of becoming a biochemist. Or make sure you choose the right subjects in Grade 10. If you set a goal of losing 2kg per month for the next 10 months, it is less overwhelming, and you are less likely to give up.

What if I have more than one goal? Do I have to choose between them? Of course you can have more than one goal. Life consists of many different facets. You may, however, have to put them in order of importance. Some can be time-consuming and life-changing and may require commitment in terms of money and time and effort. It might be difficult to become a professional sports star if you are also studying full-time. But smaller goals can definitely fit into your programme. You can take dance classes or read to the kids at the library, while pursuing more time-consuming goals. It is good to have several interests.

Have I been specific about exactly what my goal is? Vague goals, such as having lots of money, or becoming famous, are often up in the air, and people do not have any idea on how they are going to get there. You have to map out a clear journey for yourself, with smaller goals along the way. Start small (if you want to start your own business, for example), such as getting some work experience in a business environment, find out what courses or internships you can do, try and save a little money, and find out what business opportunities there are in the area where you live. Do some work shadowing. Remember all big businesses started small.

Have I written down what my goal is? Have I told other people? Saying something out loud expresses your hopes, and makes it feel more real. But that’s only the start, and not the end. Rather than just fantasising about the end result, use that energy to map out a way of getting there.

Do I have a date by which I want to achieve this goal? Is that realistic? If you want to get fit, you are not going to achieve that in two weeks. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic and unachievable goals. But a bit of pressure is good. If you want to be super fit by the end of the month, it’s not going to happen, but if you undertake to exercise for an hour a day five days a week for the next three months, you will have a far greater chance of achieving that. Success breeds confidence – failure makes us give up.

How will I measure whether I have achieved this goal? Again it is important to be specific. If a goal can be measured, it is easier to keep your eye on the target. Let’s say you want to save enough money to visit your cousin in December. Find out how much the ticket is, and if there are six months between now and then, set yourself a monthly target. Measurement often has to do with numbers or dates or amounts. A specific goal would be something such as, “I want to be able to walk four kilometres in an hour by 28 February next year.”

How much of the outcome of this depends on other people? You can plan all you want, but if reaching your goal depends on other people’s co-operation, you might not always get it. Factor in in that you may not get accepted for the course you wanted to do, or may not get chosen for the sports team. Always have a Plan B ready. Otherwise you could just end up sitting around wasting time and getting depressed if everything doesn’t work out exactly as you wanted it to.

How much time/effort/money am I prepared to make/spend on a daily basis to achieve this? This is important. Reaching goals takes time, effort and dedication, and often money. Sometimes you have to work really hard to get what you want – and it means sacrificing other things along the way. You might have to miss your friend’s party the day before the exam, or go running when your favourite TV programme is on, because there is no other time to do it. It all depends on your priorities and how badly you want something.

What can I do every day to work towards this and to make this happen? Start small, and work your way towards your goal. Let’s say you want to write a children’s book. It isn’t one day going to fall magically from the sky. Set yourself a goal of writing for 20 minutes every day – and stick to it. It’s a good way of seeing how serious you are about your goal.