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Setting (achievable) goals

Adulting is hard. This cliche phrase seems to have become the battle cry of the millennial generation but can we really disagree? Being a grown-up can be a challenge, especially when navigating the brave new world of balancing different spheres of life at once. Something that can make adulthood less overwhelming is goal-setting. Goals are a cornerstone of learning, growth, and success. While it may seem that the importance of goals is overstated, don’t underestimate the transformative power of setting goals that are not only motivational but also achievable.

There are a number of studies that prove how important it is to be goal-oriented, whether in your work or personal life. Setting goals creates a healthy amount of ambition and motivates people to be successful in a measurable way. Additionally, working hard to achieve something you’ve set your sights on also increases self-confidence and autonomy. The benefits of being ambitious extend into more parts of life than just work.

Despite how popular goal-setting is, especially in professional environments, creating goals that are tailored to you can be a daunting task. Before you begin, it’s best to understand exactly what expectations you, your team, and your managers (or teachers) have for your role or project. Having a clear idea of what you need to accomplish will ensure that your work and deadlines are on par with the expectations. Discussing your goals with a team member or supervisor will create accountability and allow you to be transparent about your time management and effectiveness within your team or company. Aligning your goals with your workplace will also signify your dedication to your employer’s mission and your commitment to working hard.

Even with set expectations for performance, goals and targets that are too lofty can feel overwhelming. Break down larger, more strategic goals into actionable items. Using a framework, like SMART goals, is a great way to start. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. This model allows you to easily tailor goals according to what works best for you. It’s especially important to write down your goals. Studies have shown that writing down your goals, rather than just keeping them in your mind, has a clear correlation to actually reaching your goals. Equally important are accountability and commitment. Tell others about your goals and check in regularly with progress reports to monitor your achievement.

Checklists can be a great way to keep track of progress on your goals, because they combine many of the aforementioned tips to creating achievable targets. Lists naturally break things down into smaller action items, and it’s easy to see how you’re making headway on your projects. Setting small objectives actually helps us to stay motivated to reach larger goals. Plus, crossing things off lists naturally releases dopamine, which causes feelings of happiness and motivation. Of course, we want to feel happiness, so we are eager to continue the actions that cause the dopamine release. This reinforces positive motivation and therefore encourages us to keep crossing more off the list until it’s complete.

An important thing to remember is that burnout is real. I know it’s another word born from the world of the millennial, but it is a real problem that affects a large percent of the workforce today. According to Anne Helen Petersen, “in a marked shift from the generations before, millennials need to optimize ourselves to be the best workers possible.” Millennials in particular are susceptible to burnout because of the idea that we should be working all the time. Of course, it’s important to work hard, but work-life balance is just as key! And, reasonable goals can help with this, too. Breaking down everything, even mundane tasks, can help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by all the items on your plate, from work projects to weekend errands. Goals will help you to prioritize and stay motivated – they’ll also help you to ensure that you work hard at work and leave time to do the things you love. Don’t let burnout get you – set goals instead.

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