As the year winds down (2018, where the heck did you go?), it’s only natural that we start to think about new beginnings too. And sure, you could wait until January 1 to think about your big goals — but starting a little earlier gives you all the time you need to visualize what you want to create for yourself and nail down the strategies you’ll take to get there. Ready to formalize your big, scary aspirations for 2019? Here’s a handy DIY guide to smart goal setting!

This guest post is adapted from one that was originally featured on aSweatLife.com.

Smart goal setting 101: open your notebook.

Yes, we’re going old school pen-and-paper for this smart goal setting session. We’re big fans of the tactile and visual elements of this exercise. The way you set up your paper gives you freedom within a clear structure to write out your thoughts in a concise way.

A DIY guide to smart goal setting with aSweatLife

Photo courtesy of aSweatLife

Do this:

  • Draw a line down the middle of the paper and write “vision” on the left and “goals” on the right.
  • Underneath the goals side of the page, divide it into three sections – they’ll be for your one-year, five-year and ten-year goals.
  • Finally, under each yearly increment, write down “career,” “personal,” and “health.” You’ll eventually come up with a goal categorized underneath each of these umbrellas.

Start with a vision.

Close your eyes and imagine your ideal day ten years from now. Like, the absolute best day ever, where everything goes perfectly and you’re able to do all your favorite activities — regardless of schedules, transportation, and hours in a day.

There is no right or wrong way to create a ten-year vision. It might be a stream of consciousness, words that provoke feeling, song lyrics that describe how you feel or a full walk-through of your day from start to finish. The more specific, the better. Go through your ideal day, and do it more than once to pick up on more nuances each time that you can use for better specificity.

Do this:

  • Close your eyes, picture your perfect day in 10 years and get creative as you write it down.
  • This process will set you up for the “goals” side of your paper in the right column. After envisioning a perfect day ten years from now, ask yourself, “How do I get there?”.

Formalize a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal.

The BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is a goal so big that you aren’t sure if you can even attain it.

During this time, let go of any constraining thought processes. For example, don’t limit yourself to thinking that your goal has to be work-related or that it has to be 100 percent attainable. This goal doesn’t have to work right off the bat — in fact, not having it work is a part of the process, as is going back to the drawing board and re-evaluating your thinking after the next few steps.

Do this:

  • Write down your BHAGs underneath the ten-year goal section. You might have one or two (but no more than two) goals for each category – career, personal and health. It might scare you to write them down, but do it anyway.
  • Give it an exact date. The idea is to go big and take yourself seriously about it at the same time.
  • Write in the present tense, i.e. “In ten years, I am living in Colorado as a ski instructor for Aspen Snowmass.”

Work backwards from your BHAG.

By slowly taking steps back, you’ll have career, personal and health goals for a specific date in 2019 looking you in the face. These set you up with actionable goals to work towards versus ambiguous New Year’s resolutions like “I’m going to eat healthier foods this year.” This specific way of goal setting brings purpose and sense to those well thought-out sentences.

Do this:

  • Take a step back now and ask, “What’s a mid-level step to get to that goal?”
  • Still think as specifically as possible to create your five-year goals with another end date on them in 2024.
  • Finally, ask “What needs to happen in the next 365 days to make that five-year goal happen?”

Related: breaking your big goals down into smaller goals should help to prevent burnout, but what if it happens? Here are some easy tips for getting back to your baseline and recovering from burnout. 

The best (and worst) part?

These goals are meant to be displayed where others can see them – and can hold you accountable.

Here’s the cool part – the part that’s hard for a lot of us to wrap our heads around. If your goals change, that’s fine. Decide to shift your focus? Cool. Your vision changes drastically? No problem. Update your goal plan accordingly and re-post. Just because you write it down doesn’t mean you’ve signed your life away. You’ve just given yourself some daily direction to cut through the clutter and go after what you want.

Do this:

  • Put your vision and goals up somewhere and be proud to look at them daily.
  • Let others see your goals too! They’ll be able to encourage you, ask for updates, and hold you accountable.
  • If your vision or your goals change, update your goals on the display, and re-evaluate your next steps.

Now what?

The question isn’t whether or not you can do it — you’ve just practiced smart goal setting and created a space where you can do it. Your big, hairy, audacious goal shouldn’t feel quite so scary anymore. Share your goals with your friends and family so they hold you accountable in the coming year, and talk excitedly about your goals (and the mini-goals you have to tackle first) to anyone who asks you about New Year’s resolutions. You’re on your way to doing something amazing, something exciting, something that 99 percent of people won’t be brave enough to go after — shout that from the rooftops and go crush that goal.

Post written by FFC contributor, aSweatLife.

Want to learn more about aSweatLife? Head to aSweatLife.com for tips, tricks & more health/wellness content!

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