Do you ever find yourself staring at the ceiling late at night, thinking of all the things you haven’t accomplished in your life? Has your to-do list gotten so long that you’re not sure you can ever get it done and you can’t relax enough to sleep because you’re trying to find a way to fit it all into your over-packed schedule? Don’t blame your bed or break out your Sleepy’s return policy yet. There’s one simple habit you can implement in your life that can help you to sleep more soundly and live with more satisfaction.
Set Some Goals
Everyone has dreams, wants and wishes. These are important for your life, they give you something to entertain your mind and drive your efforts. But unless you tie those dreams to a specific action you’re unlikely to ever realize them. The key to getting your dreams is to follow the right set of actions to reach them. Success is never an accident, it’s a system, and the way to keep it running smoothly is to set the right kind of goals, follow through on your commitment to yourself, and always keep the promise to reward yourself when you meet the goal you set.
Achievable, Quantifiable, and Accountable
To set effective goals they need to meet three basic requirements. They must be:
Achievable: small enough to finish in a short time-frame
Quantifiable: have a real way of measuring if it’s done
Accountable: have another person who can help you celebrate your success
Small, short-term goals are the ones most people don’t struggle with because we can see the end from the beginning. You’ve heard the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Success is made up of taking those small bites until you have eventually swallowed the entire project you set out to accomplish. No matter how big your dream is you can achieve it if you break the big goal up into a hundred small ones that you can chew and swallow.
Small goals like that are also easier to measure. This requirement is exactly like planning a road trip. You have your big destination in mind and then you plan sightseeing stops, bathroom breaks, and meals along the way. When you break your big goal up into bite size chunks make sure you choose goals that you can see a completion to. For example: you might want to run your first 5K this year but you’ve never even run as far as the end of your driveway. You know you’ll need to train, but it sounds so overwhelming. The best way to chunk that training up is to set a time or distance goal for each day. 10 minutes of walking on day one. 2 more minutes on day two. 12 minutes and 5 sit-ups on day three and so on. With each successive day you can see that you have indeed accomplished what you set out to do.
Accountability is probably the most important part of smart goal setting and is perhaps the most under-utilized. We value independence in our culture and want to “go it alone” on most projects that we set out on. This might sound good in a book or movie, but the truth is we are actually very social creatures and the benefits of working with a group or individual to accomplish your goals can make the difference between success or failure. This is the genius behind groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Weight Watchers. By reporting your success with another person or group you are sharing the celebration and hearing the congratulations for a job well done; by sharing a failure with your group or accountability partner you are taking the weight of disappointment off of your own shoulders, sharing it with people who can help you, and getting positive feedback to help you keep going.
Reward is the New Drug
Success gurus have been saying for years that the key to success is to create good habits that you consistently do. By making a habit of checking off small goals on a daily or weekly basis you are doing far more than just giving yourself a pat on the back. When you make a goal in your mind it creates neurological tension. This tension makes you feel a deprivation in your life as long as you haven’t gotten the goal yet