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{Note from Jessica: Today’s post is shared by my dear friend Kelly Matsudaira. Kelly is passionate about personal development and reflection on life and often pops in to share words of wisdom! I hope you enjoy today’s article!}

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by Kelly Matsudaira

We all get to a point where we feel stuck in a rut. Our daily lives can become monotonous and mundane. This means we’re lacking focus and direction on what we really want out of life.

Now that we’re right around the corner from jumping into the New Year and leaving 2014 behind us, there is no better time to set some goals and learn how to stick to them. This, however, is easier said than done.

Many people find excuses, lose sight of their focus, or just procrastinate instead of achieving what they set out to do.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can fight through all the distractions and negative thinking and finally accomplish any goal you set for yourself.

Ready to change your life? Then, let’s get to it!

How to Set Your Goals

This is the easy and fun part – setting your goals and action plan. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Make S.M.A.R.T. goals.

  • Be specific when you are determining what your goals are. Get as detailed as possible as this will give you more direction than if you only generalize them. You want to set an easy path to follow, like if you’re wanting to lose weight, set a specific number or clothes size you want to be at.
  • Set measurable goals that you can track and measure your success. Set amounts or dates to give yourself a time to work towards, like you want to lose 30 pounds in 90 days.
  • Be sure the goals are attainable. You need to have realistic goals that are actually achievable. If you’re trying to lose weight and think you can lose as much and as fast as contestants do on The Biggest Loser, than you’re setting yourself up for failure. You don’t want to demoralize yourself or lose confidence by setting impossible goals.
  • Be relevant with your goals. This gives you focus so that your goals aren’t scattered all over or inconsistent with where you want your life to go. For example, if you’re working on eating better, getting in more exercise and losing weight, then don’t randomly throw in a goal about getting out of debt. Concentrate on just one area of your life at a time.
  • Set time bound goals, which means you must have a deadline. There needs to be a sense of urgency and a knowing that your achievement is close and will happen that much faster. Set priorities for yourself to help you stay on track.

Write Your Goals Down

Get them down somewhere, whether it’s on a pad of paper, your computer or a dry erase board. You need to be able to see what you’re working so hard towards, and it’ll feel more attainable. This will also help to remind you of the end goal and keep you motivated.

Make an Action Plan

Once you have your goals in place, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to achieve them. When you write out a plan of action, it helps you to see the bigger picture and how you’re going to get from Point A to Point B. Get detailed with your plan and even write out what you’re going to do every day to move closer to your goal. This will keep you focused and help you to see your progress when you can cross things off your list that you’ve done.

How to Stick to Your Goals

Now, this is the more challenging side of achieving your goals – working towards them and sticking with it. But don’t let your goals intimidate you. Here are some tips to keep you motivated and moving towards the end results:

1. Take baby steps by doing one at a time. Too many people make a long list of goals, and then get overwhelmed at how far they have to go to accomplish all of them. Start with one, finish it, and then move on to the next one.

2. Make a list of benefits if you achieve the goal and a list of consequences if you don’t. This will help you to see what could happen when you get to the goal or what could happen if you don’t. This will also help keep up that sense of urgency and priority of the goal.

3. Make your goals public. This will give you accountability since others will know what your goal is and what you’re working towards. So don’t be afraid to tell a family member, friend, post it on social media or announce it to a special email list. It’ll become a new mindset that you don’t want to look bad in front of people by not achieving what you said you would do, so you might go that extra mile.

4. Track your progress. This helps you to see how far you’ve come over a period of time. It can be as simple as using a calendar or as fancy as creating a visually-appealing spreadsheet. Some other ideas are to take pictures, keep a journal, or use online software programs. It also is beneficial to visualize achieving your goal so you can see yourself completing your task.

5. Allow your life to incorporate the goal. When you open your daily life to your goal, it’ll start to feel more like a normal habit and not a chore that you’re forcing yourself to do. It’s just a shift in your thinking so that you don’t see the goal as something “extra” in your busy life but is already part of your schedule.

6. Take breaks. You don’t want to become obsessed with achieving your goal or dread working towards it. It’s perfectly okay to take breaks and not work every single day on it. Even if you only do something towards your goal once or twice a week, you are still making progress.

7. Be patient, persistent, and persevere. Sometimes, it just takes time and determination to get to your end goal. Never ever give up. Make a pledge to yourself that you will see your goal to the end, and try to get yourself really excited about it. We all lose sight when we’re in the trenches, but remember why you’re pursuing this goal in the first place and the benefits your life will experience from achieving it.

8. Take time to celebrate and reward yourself. Don’t forget to celebrate even the smallest accomplishments. Then when you reach the final goal, you can give yourself that big reward. For example, if you’re working on losing weight, celebrate that 20 pound mark with a pedicure, but when you reach that 75 pound mark, you can buy yourself a new wardrobe or book that tropical cruise.

It doesn’t matter whether your goals are physical, health, financial, professional or personal, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. You just need to be confident, believe in yourself and just have fun with the process.

Remember, it’s not about the destination but the journey because life is all about the experiences along the way, not always the end result. I wish you all the best in the New Year! You got this!

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