10 Proven Methods for Establishing Your Life Goals: How to Identify What You Want in Life
(Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. For more information about this please read the Affiliate Disclosure.)
You know, when people talk about life goals, it can seem so cliche.
More than likely, people have been talking to you about setting goals since you were an elementary school kid.
You were encouraged to set goals to get better grades, do better in school, be a good kid.
When you finished high school or went to college, everything was all about setting goals for your future, to graduate, begin a career, to get a good job and eventually to start a family of your own, to settle down.
Sometimes it seems we’re goaled to death.
The problem is, you’re here.
And if you’re here, it likely means either you’re not entirely happy with how things have turned out, or you’re looking for “more”.
You may have set goals to get to this point in your life, or you could have just sort of floated along as life has pushed you in this direction or along that path (a lot of people do).
But the point is you’re here now and you’re either unhappy (or at least not entirely happy) with where you are, and/or frustrated, tired, bored, confused or feeling “unfulfilled”.
Somehow you’re just not in “the right place”.
So then, lets talk about goals again. But this time, let’s do things right. You with me?
At some point you’ve had dreams for your life. Am I right?
What you wanted to be, what you wanted to do. What you wanted to experience.
Hopefully, you still do.
But the dreams you have for your life will likely stay dreams if you don’t take (actionable) steps towards manifesting those dreams into reality.
It is nearly impossible to work towards what we really want in life without setting “clear, attainable goals”.
So let’s take a look at 10 methods you can put into practice to help you get clear on what you really want and create goals that will help you achieve your dreams.
10 Proven Methods for Establishing Your Life Goals
This is an important secret…It is impossible to set goals if you don’t know what you really want.
Sounds really obvious. Right?
I can see you rolling yours eyes you know.
But I can’t tell you how many people, myself included, have set a bunch of goals in life without REALLY knowing (or without honoring) what it is they really wanted.
Just let that marinate in your mind a minute, becasue I promise you it sounds basic, but it truly is an important point.
It is imperitive for you to get in touch with your authentic self, the person you know yourself to be, to identify and understand what you really want out of life.
And one way to do that is to meditate.
I’m not talking about chanting or making strange noises or folding yourself in weird positions.
What I am talking about is getting into a calm, quiet space, and clearing your mind of distractions and “noise” (both literally and figuratively) so that your thoughts flow through you more readily.
Doing so helps to make your mind more receptive to your thoughts, and to have the ability to see and consider the thoughts you have with more clarity and depth and feeling.
Having a level of clarity helps you greatly in identifying and determining what it is you actually want.
There are many ways to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into your life, the most common of which is finding a quiet space and ample time to sit and be alone with yourself.
Walking meditation is also good, as the act of walking is meditative, but allows your mind to get still and go inward.
Going on long walks by yourself where you are able to enter that quiet, meditative space is one way to start contemplating and getting clear on what it is that you want in life.
2. Brainstorm your Lifetime Goals
Once you’ve had opportunity to consider what it is you want, it’s time to start brainstorming your goals and the “how” to get to what you want.
To help you start brainstorming, consider developing specific goals in the following areas of your life.
Personal Development: These are goals involving who you want to be as a person and what you want your personality to be like.
Would you like to be more thoughtful, empathetic, compassionate, outgoing?
These are the types of goals that fall under personal development.
Spiritual Development: Any goals you may have with regard to your spiritual growth and development falls under this category.
Maybe you’ve lost touch with your faith over the years and are interested in going to temple or church again.
Maybe you’d simply like to have a deeper understanding of spiritual matters or incorporate meditation and mindfulness into your life.
Whatever you want to incorporate into your life for your spiritual wellbeing falls under this category.
Health & Wellness: What do you want to achieve in terms of your health?
Are you looking to lose or gain weight?
Would you like to lead a more active lifestyle?
Do you want to eat a more clean and whole-food-based diet?
Write down whatever goals you have relating to physical health in this category.
Relationships: Are you single and wanting to meet new people?
Are you in a committed long-term relationship and seeking to re-ignite a spark?
Do you desire to reconnect with a best friend?
Do you wish to spend more quality time with your children?
Whatever goals you have relating to the people in your life will fall under this category.
Career/Professional: What do you want out of your job?
Are you seeking a promotion or a change in career?
This is the category for whatever you want to accomplish as far as your profession is concerned.
Finances: What is your ideal income for the life you want to live?
What expenses are necessary for your life?
Is there anything you want to accomplish in life that would require you to have a specific amount of money to finance it?
Do you want to travel?
How about retire early?
Think about your finances and to determine what you need/want in order to be living your best life.
All of these can be part of your goals.
Environment: What does your dream home look like?
What do you want to be surrounded by every day?
Think about these things and make goals about what kind of environment you would like to have around you.
This can include small things like decluttering or bigger things like moving to a new place.
The Dailygreatness Journal is perfect for goal planning. It’s a Practical Guide for Consciously Creating Your Days, and combines a yearly diary, goal and appointment planner, and daily tools for self-mastery.
3. Brainstorm Smaller Goals
It’s important to keep in mind that not all goals have to be massive and life-changing, and not all goals have to be massive to be life-changing.
Are there small things that you’ve been putting off for a while?
Take some time to brainstorm smaller, more immediate goals.
Maybe you want to deep clean your kitchen or accomplish a task like renewing your license.
Once you identify some of these smaller, but important or meaningful goals, you can then place them into the context of your larger life goals (maybe you want to clean your kitchen because you desire to live in a cleaner, healthier, uncluttered environment), and thus kickstart some motivation to begin.
4. Evaluate Why Your Goals Are Your Goals
As you identify and formulate your goals, take some time to consider them. Make sure that you are setting goals based on your dreams and desires, and not based on the desires of others.
If something is on your list just because you feel like it should be, get rid of it.
Your goal list is for you based on your deepest desires for your life.
They shpuld not be formulated or influenced someone else’s ideas of who you are or who you should be.
Take the time to review your brainstorm list, evaluating each desire individually to determine that it is truly yours and no one else’s.
5. Engage in the Bucket List Community
The bucket list community online can help inspire you to create goals for yourself.
Have you always wanted to explore nature or travel more?
Seeing others’ bucket lists can help inspire your own and give you some direction with narrowing down some broader goals you might have for your life.
Being able to clearly identify, define, articulate and envision the goals you choose is a critical element in bringing them to fruition.
6. Set SMART Goals
One scientifically backed way to set goals is through the SMART method:
Specific: Your goal should be clearly defined and precise. It should answer more questions than it creates.
Measurable: Your goal should include dates, times and exact financial numbers so you can measure achievement. Each step should be measurable. If you do this, you’ll know exactly when you have achieved the goal and can take satisfaction from the completion.
Actionable/Attainable: Your goal must be achievable. You should be able to accomplish it within your own constraints. If this is not possible, try extending your timeline and create more sub-goals.
Relevant/Realistic: Your goal should be something you actually care about. It should be in line with the direction you want to head in life.
Timely: Your goal should have a specific deadline for completion.
Example SMART goal:
“By December 15th 2018, I will apply to 10 graduate schools’ MFA programs in poetry,” as opposed to “I want to be a writer.”
This goal specifies the task at hand (namely, applying to MFA programs in poetry).
It is a measurable goal with a specific target: 10 schools.
The goal is achievable because the goal setter has 1. defined a limited time within which to accomplish her goal and specified and end-date, and 2. given herself enough time to carry out the related tasks.
It’s relevant because it is helping the goal setter move toward something she feels passionate about.
Finally, the chosen goal is timely because it has a specific date by which the goal should be completed.
7. Break Down Your Goals
Some life goals seem huge or unattainable.
Maybe you want a house in Greenwich, Connecticut (one of the most eclusive areas in the US to buy a home).
Maybe you want to be the CEO of your company.
Maybe you want to be a public speaker who conducts presentations before thousands of people.
Maybe you want to live in a foreign country and help to build schools for impoverished children or help bring fresh drinking water to rural communities.
All of these goals seem huge at first glance, but instead of getting overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of them, try breaking down your goals into several actionable, smaller goals.
For example, if one of your life goals is to retire early, you will have to break that goal down into smaller goals.
How will you increase your income or cut spending (and over what period of time) so you can put addiitonal money into your retirement fund?
Will you need to pick up extra work?
These are the kinds of questions that can lead to the formulation of smaller goals to help you reach your larger goals.
8. State Each Goal as a Positive Statement
Express your goals positively.
Try mentally framing your goals as positive or actionable tasks in the style of “execute this technique” instead of negative thinking such as “don’t make this stupid mistake”.
In this way, you have something you CAN do to reach your goal instead of something you shouldn’t do.
For example, if one of your goals is to “stop eating junk food” (negative) you could change that around to be “eat healthier snacks on a daily basis” (positive).
This way, you are accomplishing your goal every time you make a good choice instead of failing at your goal every time you slip up.
9. Set Priorities
Not all of your goals will have equal weight in your life.
You must therefore prioritize your goals so that you focus your energy and resources to obtain the most desired results.
This helps you avoid feeling overwhelmed by having multiple goals and helps to direct your attention to the most important ones.
10. Set performance goals, not outcome goals
If you base your goals on personal performance, then you can keep control over the achievement of your goals and draw satisfaction from them.
Avoid setting goals that explicitly involve something outside of your own control.
So for example, if one of your goals is to buy a house by the ocean, try thinking of it more as “saving enough money to buy a house by the ocean.”
In this way, as soon as you have the money to buy a house by the ocean, you have achieved your goal (Yay!) and won’t be discouraged (or view it as a failure) if in the process of actually finding a house, external circumstances make that difficult.
Becasue goal setting and establishing life goals is an often talked about subject, you may think it’s just over-used, positivity concept babble.
But I would challenge you to find a genuinely successful person who was not also a successful goal setter and achiever.
Setting goals doesn’t make you successful. But setting meaningful, measurable, actionable and achievable goals (based on what you genuinely desire, are willing to commit to and work for) and taking the necessary steps to realize them is what makes you successful and helps move you forward into the life you want.
If you’re ready to start identifying what you want in life and setting realistic, attainable goals, then try our 10 methods for establishing your life goals and go for it.
What amazing life-altering experiences will you begin today?
If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, please share with your family and friends! Thanks!
Kimberly Clay is the founder and creative force behind What She Say. She’s a business professional, writer and editor who’s been creating and managing digital content for nearly twenty years. Her work is now focused in the areas of self-improvement and personal development, and she is passionate about helping other individuals, especially women, to find a path for living their best life.