Setting goals is usually about beginning something new, cutting bad habits, improving something, becoming a better person, etc. Whatever the reason is, all of them have something in common – changes and challenges. It’s not easy work. You have to want it, be willing to do it, and then do it with persistence. Of course, you have to be realistic and set the goals you are able to achieve. But why is it important to set realistic goals?
The habits and patterns you want to change are often deeply rooted in your life and may involve things you have done for years. So, don’t expect to change them in a few days. Also, don’t expect extreme changes to happen immediately. Think of it like growing hair – if you have short hair now, don’t expect to have long hair overnight! Setting clear and realistic goals is the first step toward achieving them. Read on and we’ll explain to you why – in detail.
So, make yourself a coffee, get comfortable and let’s begin!
Why is it Important to Set Realistic Goals?
Almost all successful people, – from businesspeople to athletes to artists and so on, set goals for themselves. The crucial thing is that successful people make sure their goals are sharp, clearly defined, and primarily – realistic.
Why is it important to set realistic goals? Setting goals per se is essential for a clear long-term vision of your life and the motivation boost to get there. Being very clear on where you are trying to go makes it easier to know what steps you need to take.
Although it’s great knowing what we want, it’s even more important to understand what we are able to accomplish. People tend to dream big and set great standards of success for themselves. There’s nothing wrong with shooting for the stars, but biting off more than you are able to chew, and not being aware of the actual outcomes can lead to great disappointments.
We can define a realistic goal as a clear expectation for success that one believes is achievable. That belief depends on one’s goals, current skills, and time to attain it.
There are a number of reasons for setting clear and realistic goals:
Realistic goals destroy unrealistic expectations
Right in the beginning, you have to get rid of expectations that are too high. Again, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim high but being unrealistic leads to disappointments and frustration that often lead to abandoning the goal before you’ve really gotten started.
You have to be aware of the skill sets you have, the skill sets you need to improve, the required resources, the timeline for completing the specific goals, etc.
Also, when your goals are realistic, you are much better at making sure 100% clear on why you want to achieve them. That further clarifies the course of action and direction towards achieving these goals. In short, when your WHY becomes clear – your HOW becomes easier.
Having a realistic goal in front of you will increase your motivation and inspire you to take action. Being aware of what you’re capable of achieving will motivate you to actually get it done without procrastinating. You’ll feel more energetic and confident. The actions you have to take will be more transparent, and you won’t hesitate to get to work.
Better organization and usage of resources
Realistic goals are time-saving goals, no matter how long they take. It will be much easier to organize the time and effort you are willing to give. You’ll have a better picture of what and when to do and for how long.
When you know where you’re going and believe that you are likely to get there, you will have better clarity and incentive to channel your energy, time, and even money (for education, skill improvement, etc.) to work toward your goal.
Better and consistent focus
Unrealistic goals often cause great excitement but lack clarity on what you need to actually do. When you don’t know how to achieve a goal or even what to focus on, it is easy to lose sight of your goal which is devastating for your motivation. On the other hand, having a consistent focus and setting realistic goals make it easier to specify and define the actions you need to take. Your focus increases, and you have a clearer direction. Also, breaking big goals into smaller ones helps you maintain that focus and keep going.
When achieving realistic goals, your confidence will jump, right? If you set up small goals that lead to the bigger ones, how will you feel when you achieve them? Apart from joy and happiness, you’ll be very proud of yourself. Everybody would.
You will gain more confidence and strength to aim for the other goals. Sooner or later, you’ll find yourself in an ongoing cycle of goal accomplishment!
Better mental and emotional health
One of the best tips for personal growth is prioritizing your mental health and overall well-being. Setting micro-goals on the way to a greater one and succeeding to achieve them gives you a little boost of dopamine each time. Dopamine is a “pleasure chemical “our body releases when we’re happy.
Not only does this keep you motivated, achieving realistic micro-goals prevents negative emotions like frustration, stress, depression, feeling of defeat, anger, etc.- anything that impairs your mental and emotional health.
Consistency and discipline
Being motivated, focused, confident, and organized to achieve realistic goals, will drastically improve your discipline and persistence. You’ll be more and more consistent with your goals and yourself.
Even if you feel tired and unmotivated, your pattern of achieving micro-goals will help you find discipline, and keep you going, be consistent and not give up. You’ll be able to achieve even more than you set out to do, because you’ll be living with purpose.
These are the most crucial reasons for setting realistic goals. We know it can be hard at times, so we hope the following mini-guide on how to set realistic goals will help.
How to Set Realistic Goals?
Now that you know WHY it is important to set realistic goals let’s learn HOW.
First, ask yourself: what gives your life meaning? What gives you energy and fulfillment? What do you find challenging? What would you like to change – do more or less of?
Many things will come to your mind, that’s for sure, but how to define your goal precisely and make it realistic?
Here are a few tips to help you:
#1 Write down your goals
Everything is much easier when you have it written down in front of you. Start from the big picture by answering the question “What do you want your life to look like?” Don’t overthink; just write everything you want to accomplish, what you want to change, places you want to visit, etc. Having it all written down will help you clarify and prioritize what you really want to focus on.
According to one study, if you write down a vivid description of your goals, you are more likely to achieve what you imagined. Additionally, you can even create a vision board – a visual representation of your goals that contains text and images of what you want to achieve.
#2 Use the SMART approach
Once it’s all written down, take a goal by goal and try to understand if your goals are realistic by answering these questions:
Are they measurable? Are they achievable with your skill sets? Can you define them precisely? Are they relevant in the short and long run? Lastly, can you achieve them within a set time frame?
In other words – evaluate your goals using the SMART approach, a nicely structured framework for setting realistic goals. The top benefit of this approach is that you can think about your destination from every angle and make thorough, detailed, and realistic goal statements.
SMART is an acronym for the requirements a goal must meet:
- Specific: Can you make your goals more precise and clear? Do you know what and why you want to achieve?
- Measurable: Can you measure the success of your goals? How will you know when it’s accomplished?
- Attainable: Do you believe you can achieve them? How can you do that? What are the odds?
- Relevant: Do they make sense: are they worthwhile; is now the right time; is the environment favorable?
- Time-based: Can your goals be attained in a certain amount of time? Can you control the timeline?
In terms of time, goals can be divided into three categories:
- Immediate goals (something you want to achieve soon – in a few days or weeks);
- Short-term goals (something you want to achieve in the next several months or a year);
- Long-term goals (something you want to achieve in the next several years).
As you can conclude – A-attainable and R-relevant are mostly related to “realistic”.
Filtering your goals through this “SMART filter” would imply assessing and adjusting or redefining your primary written goal statements, improving them, and making them more realistic. This will give you a much better view of your goals, leading to better results.
#3 Review the resources you have
Reaching your goals relies on the resources you have available to help you overcome the obstacles you may face. Therefore, we suggest making a list of the resources you have in order to improve the realistic picture of your goals.
Resources include the following:
- Time – how much time you have available to achieve the goals you’ve set and how much control you have of the timeline.
- Knowledge – all the information you need to achieve your goals. Perform in-depth research about every aspect that may affect your success.
- Skills – determine whether you have what it takes to reach your goals and if you can improve those skills or learn what is required to develop the necessary skills.
- Funding – if your goals depend on your budget, assess if you have enough money or access to money to achieve your goal.
- Support – often involving others can greatly increase our ability to achieve a goal. Consider what type of person or what skillset will help you and then make a list of people that fit that description that you can approach about helping you.
There certainly may be other necessary resources outside of this list. The key is to be thoughtful and honest in evaluating what resources you are going to need to achieve your goal and whether you have access to those resources.
#4 Break every big goal down into micro-goals
The best way to achieve your goals is to start small and go step by step. Take one big goal and break it down into several smaller ones. Every time you accomplish the micro goal, you’ll be motivated and persistent to keep going.
In Atomic Habits, author James Clear recommends the “Two Minute Rule.” When getting started, try to break down larger goals into actions that take no more than two minutes. Getting these smaller wins will make it easier to stay focused and motivated as you work toward your final goal.
#5 Create an action plan
An action plan is the very final step of setting realistic goals. This is where you ensure that you’re setting achievable goals with the resources you have available. Consider the potential problems and challenges you may encounter on the way to your goal.
Contemplate the backup plan as well, in case something goes wrong or in another direction than the one you anticipated.
The action plan is also where your organizational skills step onto the scene. You have to organize your time and effort. To-do lists and planners are excellent tools for managing the entire goal-achieving process.
The process of achieving a goal may be quick or may take a long time. If you know that it is going to take a while, determining milestones along the way is an excellent way to check if you’re on the right track. Milestones help you divide your tasks into manageable segments, making it much easier to follow step by step.
Of course, don’t forget to track your progress. Check what you’ve accomplished on your list. Keeping it all written is a great way of reminding yourself where you started and where you’re now, how great you’re doing, and what’s your next move.
Final Thoughts on Why is it Important to Set Realistic Goals
Setting goals properly is half the battle in achieving those goals. When you know the destination, the path to reaching it becomes much easier to identify and follow. At the end of the day, realistic goals make you a better version of yourself. You learn patience and dedication, how to stay persistent and not give up, you improve your skills, and even learn new ones.
We hope this article explained why it’s important to set realistic goals and helped you learn how to do so.
So – dream big, but start with small steps.
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