April 17, 2023

Intentional Goal Setting Can Help You Reach Your Peak

By: Ericka Andersen

Most people set goals too big for the short-term and too small for the long-term. I’ve heard this sentiment over the years and discovered it to be true in my own life. The reality is, most people don’t set real goals. 

We often take steps forward toward vague, goal-like notions that look like job titles, dollar figures and vacation destinations, but intentional methods to achieve them are absent. A little planning and plotting, however, can change the trajectory of what you hope for. 

Here are five methods I’ve used to intentionally plan and achieve professional goals that actually worked: 

Set a Rejection Goal. When I started out as a freelance writer, I had a dream list of publications in which to land bylines. It felt impossible. I grabbed a white board, posted it in my office and wrote the titles of all the publications down in red dry-erase marker. Getting published can come down to a numbers game. How many times do you pitch? How many angles do you try? How many times can you fail? For me, many rejections led to a few victories. Set a “rejection goal” to rack up your numbers and somewhere in the midst of them, you will find success. You’ll also get way better at pitching (or whatever skill you’re working on as you fail and fail again.)

Understand the Why. When we don’t understand why we do something, it’s tough to stay on track. Maybeyou know your goal, but do you know WHY you have that specific goal in mind? When I was writing my first book, I was only able to finish because I knew the why behind the writing. I knew that even if only a few people ever read the book, it would still be worth it because the story mattered. The personal fulfillment of writing a book was a secondary why and these two “whys” propelled me forward.

Set a Deadline. I have a love/hate relationship with deadlines. Ultimately, however, love wins out because they help me get things done. When a deadline is looming, I prioritize and make space for the task at hand. Self-imposed deadlines can be hard, but practice implementing them and you’ll be shocked at what you can achieve. The pressure of a deadline forces you to focus and implement. It can be hard, but it cultivates discipline and helps you realize that you do have what it takes to reach your goal.

Create Small Wins. Whatever your larger goal is, it can and must be broken down into smaller pieces. For writing, that might mean writing 1,000 words a day. For a presentation, it might be creating 4 slides every morning that week. Whatever you have to do, break it down into manageable chunks. Make it so you can’t fail! We get overwhelmed with massive goals because they are so big. But no one ever accomplishes a big goal in a single day (generally speaking), so what can you do to create small wins that motivate you each day?

Recruit Team Members. Everything is better with friends and fellow travelers. Whatever your goals are, there are other people with the same or similar aspirations. It is incredibly helpful to have a sounding board, to gain an education from the experience of others and curate the right path for yourself in the process. These days there are groups and meetups for every kind of hobby, professional or interest. There’s a reason we thrive in community, that our ideas flourish when planted among like-minded species. It’s how the plant kingdom works and how humanity works as well. Don’t do this alone. 

The first step is writing down your goals, even the ones that seem crazy. Put some of my ideas into place and visualize what it would look like to actually accomplish them. 

It helps me to imagine myself one year—or five years—from now. Time will pass, but will you have made any real steps toward your goal? What could you do in a year? That’s a long time. With intentional goal setting, you can and will find success in your striving.