Okay, so y’all know I’m hype about being the best version of yourself you can possibly be. Whether it’s the beginning of a new year and you want to completely reinvent yourself (#NewYearNewMe), or you just want to step up your game in a certain area of your life, the best way to achieve something you want is to make a solid plan to get there. That involves—you guessed it—setting some goals.
And not just any goals: There are actually seven different types of goals that can help you win this year.
What Are Goals?
A goal is a result or achievement that calls for some effort on your part. At least, that’s how the dictionary defines it. But I think there’s a lot more to the story than that.
Here’s how goals normally work: You set a goal, you get the result, and then the goal is finished. Let’s say your goal is to bench-press 350 pounds. (You’re cray, but we’ll go with it.) Once you get to the point of being able to bench 350, you’re technically “done” with your goal. Get a few slack days and a couple orders of fries in your system, and you might not be able to bench 350 anymore.
Some goals are just a one-time thing, and there’s definitely nothing wrong with that. But there’s also a way to create a bigger and longer-lasting life-change.
The Goal-Setting Process
I think of the goal-setting process as having three distinct parts:
1. The Vision
Before there’s a goal, there has to be a larger vision, or what I like to call a “formation.” Think about how the Bible says in Jeremiah 1:5 that God formed us in our mother’s womb. Who has He formed you to be? What kind of person do you want to become as you learn and grow in your life? That’s the big picture you should always keep in mind, even before you set your goals. The why behind your goals will really drive you and keep you motivated.
2. The Goals
Goals are what you set in order to help you work toward the vision. All goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-sensitive. It doesn’t matter if your time limit for your goal is a month, a year, or a decade, as long as it’s in line with your God-given vision.
3. The Habits
Maintaining that goal once you’ve already hit it is a real challenge—that’s why habits are important. You have to create some smaller, consistent habits that help you achieve your goals. That way, once you reach your goal, you’ve already established a pattern that will help you stick with it over time. That’s how lives change, you guys.
Think of it this way: Habits are kind of like the compound interest of self-improvement. Invest your time and energy now, and you’ll get a big payoff later.
Goal Categories to Think About
So, let me just do a quick playback for y’all. The goal-setting process works like this: Daily habits help you achieve your goals, and goals help you achieve the big vision. This process can (and should) apply to multiple areas of your life.
And let me tell you something: If I can do it, you definitely can too. So, I’m going to give you a few examples from my own 2020 goals of new things to try. Yours might be different, and that’s totally cool. We can still be friends.
Here are the top seven goal categories:
1. Spiritual Goals
Spiritual goals keep you focused on God and what’s really important, and they can seriously help with stress and anxiety. I’ll be straight up with you: This is the most important category for me, so we’re going to talk about it first.
In this area, my “formation” or vision is to grow spiritually into the best man/brother/son/uncle/future spouse I can be, and to have an even deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. So, my spiritual goal for 2020 is to read the entire Bible in one year. (That’s a big one—do y’all think I can do it?)
Here’s how I’m planning to accomplish that goal: By following a reading plan and making a daily commitment to finish the reading. That pattern will form a habit.
Now, once I hit my goal of reading the entire Bible in one year, am I done? Nah, son. At that point, I’ll have already gotten in the habit of reading Scripture every single day, and I’ll be constantly improving because of it—so I know I won’t want to stop.
Your spiritual goal doesn’t have to be reading the Bible in a year. There are all kinds of different goals you could set in this category, and habits to help you get there.
Here’s a few examples:
- Have a better prayer life by praying, reading and journaling for a set amount of time every morning.
- Be part of a close community of believers by joining a small group and committing to going every week.
- Serve the people around you by signing up to volunteer on a regular basis at your church or in your community.
- Have an in-depth understanding of a specific part of the Bible by leading or going to a scheduled Bible study.
- Know Scripture by heart by memorizing one of your favorite verses every month (so you can whip it out when you or someone else needs some encouragement).
- Cut gossip out of your life by saying something positive every time you catch yourself wanting to gossip—or hear someone else gossiping. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
2. Financial Goals
Let’s get this bread. (Not talking about the breadsticks from Olive Garden, but let’s get some of those too.) Now is the perfect time to get on track with your financial goals!
I’m just keeping it real here—my “formation” in this category is to be financially stable so I can provide the best possible life for my family one day. So, my goal this year is to save a specific amount of money for my future wedding.
My habit will be setting aside a certain amount from each paycheck to put toward the wedding fund. And of course, that amount is always accounted for in my monthly budget!
Here are some more examples of financial goals you could pick from for this year:
- Make—and stick to—a zero-based budget every month. Try using a budgeting app like EveryDollar to help you track all of your spending.
- Save up a starter emergency fund of $1,000 by a certain date by setting aside money from every paycheck for savings.
- Pay off all debt by a certain date by cutting something (like entertainment or clothes shopping) out of your budget for a few months, selling a specific amount of items you don’t need, getting rid of all credit cards, staying away from money traps . . . the list goes on.
- Start investing so you can retire when you want to by setting up your 401(k) if your job offers one with a match, and putting a certain amount of money into a Roth IRA every month.
- Cash flow college and graduate with zero debt by finding affordable colleges, working through school, filling out the FAFSA, and following the plan in Debt-Free Degree. Peace out, student loans!
3. Career Goals
Everybody’s got gifts from God that usually influence what you end up doing with your career. Let that bigger purpose be the why behind the career goals you set this year. For example, I’m passionate about encouraging young people and helping them win at life, and I believe a huge part of my purpose in my career is to be a good communicator.
That’s why I’m making it my goal to become a better speaker and writer, and to have better grammar by the end of the year. I mean, let’s be real: The English language can be a hot mess. Why do we need three words that sound like “there” but have different meanings and different spelling? Give me a break.
So, my habit is going to be reading something for at least an hour a day. Then I’ll spend 30 minutes journaling about what I just read and 30 more minutes writing something of my own.
Here are some more ideas for career goals:
- Find a new job by updating your work resume and applying for a certain number of jobs every week.
- Crush your job interview by asking a friend to do mock interviews with you on a regular basis so you can be prepared for anything.
- Work toward a promotion by learning a skill you don’t have yet and practicing it every day, putting in 110% effort in your current job, and maybe even taking a class on public speaking or leadership.
- Start your own business or get a side hustle going by making a detailed business plan and doing one thing every single day that will help you carry out the plan.
4. Educational Goals
Some goal categories might overlap, and that’s okay. For me, the grammar goal is an overlap of career and educational goals, but there are plenty of other educational goals and habits you might want to set.
Here are a few examples:
- Build your knowledge by taking a class on something you’re interested in at a community college.
- Read a new book every month by committing to read a certain number of pages every day.
- Hone your teaching skills by teaching someone else how to do something you’re good at.
- Get straight A’s for a semester by doing the homework every night, making a regular study schedule, and always doing the extra credit.
- Get a specific score on the ACT or SAT by meeting with a tutor regularly, taking a practice test every month, and retaking the exam as many times as you need to. (Annoying, I know.)
- Earn a certain number of scholarships by filling out applications for at least an hour every day. (Pro tip: Try my Scholarship Search Tool to look for scholarships for free!)
5. Fitness Goals
I get it. The last thing on Earth you probably want to do when you wake up (or get home after a long day at work) is hit the gym. But I promise it will give you a mood boost, and most importantly, you’ll be healthier in the long run. To me, that’s what the “formation” part of this category is about: being as healthy and strong as possible so you can do the work God wants you to do!
But maybe the gym just isn’t your thing—don’t sweat it. There are other fitness goals you can set that won’t put you anywhere near a treadmill.
- Find accountability partners for your workouts by signing up for a weekly fitness class or getting on a sports team with your friends or coworkers.
- Work out and get some vitamin D by going for a run outside with a friend on a regular basis.
- Make your workouts more convenient for your schedule by looking up a workout video on YouTube and doing in your living room.
- Build up those quads by taking the stairs every day.
- Get toned without putting as much strain on your body by doing laps in the pool two or three times a week.
6. Family Goals
Yep, that’s right—family is so important, it’s an entire goal category. I realize it might sound weird to set goals that have to do with your family, but when you put some intentional effort into those relationships, you might be surprised at how strong your bond becomes. Don’t get so busy that you don’t have time for your family (and the ride-or-die people in your life who you think of as your family).
This year, I want to travel home more often to spend as much time as possible with my people. So I’m planning a specific number of trips over the course of the year. Here are some more examples of family goals you could set:
- Keep your relationship with your parents going strong by calling them once a week to catch up.
- Plan a trip to surprise your grandparents by setting aside the money every paycheck in a sinking fund (that’s just a category in your budget that you use for a set purpose).
- Stay involved in your siblings’ lives by setting a coffee date with them once a month. Or if they live far away, that sinking fund thing works for this, too.
- Brighten your fam’s lives by reminding them on a regular basis how much you love and appreciate them. (Speaking of fam, have I told y’all how much I appreciate you? It’s the truth.)
7. Social Goals
After setting all those other goals, who even has time for this category? Not me. (Kidding—kind of.) This one might be the hardest one to make time for, but guess what? Having a healthy social life and pouring into friendships is still super important, even with a tight schedule. Human beings are meant to have community, so set a goal in this category, even if it’s a small one.
Here’s a few examples:
- Make new friends by talking to someone new at church every week.
- Get to know your current friends better by grabbing dinner (or making it at home) with a different friend every month.
- Get out of your comfort zone by saying “yes” to at least one invitation per month.
- Make time for rest by saying “no” to at least one invitation per month (yeah, saying no is important too).
- Stay in contact with your friend group by texting a friend every week to encourage them or let them know you’re praying for them. It only takes a couple seconds!
Start Setting Goals Today
Now listen, you guys. Do you have to set a goal in all seven of these categories for 2020? Heck no. If you want to choose just one or two to really focus on, that’s dope—I can guarantee you’ll still make a change for the better.
So, there you go: Write down your big-picture vision and keep it in a place where you can see it. Set some clear, specific goals that will help get you there. And form some habits that will keep your goals going strong, even after you reach them.
You got this!
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About Anthony ONeal
Since 2003, Anthony has helped hundreds of thousands of people make smart decisions with their money, relationships, and education. He’s a #1 national bestselling author of Debt-Free Degree and national bestselling author of The Graduate Survival Guide. He recently released Destroy Your Student Loan Debt. He travels the country spreading his encouraging message to help teens and young adults start their lives off right and people of all ages succeed with money. You can follow Anthony on YouTube and Instagram @AnthonyONeal and online at anthonyoneal.com or facebook.com/aoneal.