Everyone wants to be successful, but how do you get there? Blue-collar, white-collar? College or an apprenticeship? With the uncertainty that every day can bring, what separates accomplishment from complacency? The simple answer is goals. They’re the marker for progress and the light that guides you in the direction you want to go for peace and happiness in life.

But setting goals isn’t easy. If you need help, read on to learn tips for setting goals that will help you grow yourself and bring you closer to the life that you want.

Why Setting Goals is Key to Success

Many people consider setting goals as an abstract concept – something to dream about, but nothing more. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! Your goals are more than a fantastical idea about your future; they’re a mark on the map that lets you know which direction to go.

A large majority of Americans admit to not having any goals at all! That doesn’t mean they don’t have wishes or dreams. But it does mean that they won’t be able to clearly identify the direction to get to their dreams.

When you set goals, you create a milestone in your life. That milestone is a big flag on your overall career or journey. It leads you in a direction, helps you stay focused and above all, it lets you acknowledge your progress when you finally achieve it.

Goals don’t have to be huge, and they don’t have to massively change your life. They can be as simple as budgeting an extra 1% of your income towards retirement for a year, or as big as finally going from employee to boss after years of putting in your dues in the trades.

Once you have these goals, you can fill in the gaps from where you start to where you finally achieve them. There is a lot that happens between setting a goal and completing it. But just creating the goal makes it easier for you to get started, and it makes the little steps that may have otherwise seemed insignificant more meaningful as part of a larger picture. 

Using the SMART Goal System

There are plenty of ways to develop your goals, but I appreciate how difficult it can seem. This is especially true if you’ve never actually sat down to write out a goal on paper before!

If you’re not sure where to begin, the SMART system for setting goals is a great tool to increase your chances of turning goal-setting into a habit. It works by guiding you into creating real goals that you’ll be able to reach:

S for Specific

The first rule of goals is to avoid vague achievements. “Getting rich” isn’t a goal, but “saving enough money to buy a new car in three years,” is. If that means you need to set 10 different goals to keep them each identifiable, that’s great! You can look at all your specific goals to help narrow down which path will let you hit all those milestones.

M for Measurable

A goal can’t be a guide if it’s too flexible. If you want to learn to draw, you can’t simply set a goal of “I will draw more often.” Use a specific number: “I will draw 10 sketches every month.” This gives you a way to track every step as well as an actual means to judge whether or not you’re working towards your goal.

A for Attainable

Impossible goals are worse than no goals at all. They discourage you. One of the most important tips for setting goals is to remember that you should be able to reasonably attain them.

That doesn’t mean you can’t set huge goals. If you want to own the largest company in the world, go for it! But remember to set goals for steps in between that are definable. There are dozens of smaller goals you can set to get you there, for example:

All these goals are specific and attainable. They help you make progress and the little goals will lead you closer towards your big goal. If all your goals are shooting for the moon, you’ll constantly feel like you haven’t achieved anything.

R for Realistic

Some goals may be extremely difficult to attain, but other ones aren’t realistic. Becoming a rock star, the richest person on Earth or other larger-than-life goals will often lead you back to becoming a dreamer again instead of someone who takes action.

T for Time-Bound

If you were paying attention above, you may have noticed many of my goal examples included a timeframe, such as “one year” or “every week.” This is critical to prevent you from falling into a trap of procrastination.

“I want to save money, but I really want this new gadget. I’ll just start saving next month.” It’s easy to push back goals that challenge your habits. Create restrictions based around time to make sure you don’t waste time wandering away from the things you want to achieve.

Tips for Setting Goals for Your Career

If you’re ready to sit down and write down your goals, here are a few more tips for setting goals that will help you stop dreaming and start acting.

Create Short and Long-Term Goals

Even creating one goal is better than no goal at all. But life is a marathon with milestones and achievements that can happen daily, weekly, yearly or even in decades!

If you only set a long-term goal, you may still feel lost on a day-to-day basis about how to achieve it. If you only create short-term goals, you may feel accomplished but feel anxious about where it will ultimately bring you.

By using short-term goals as markers towards long-term ones, you can plan for what will make you happy in a few years while still appreciating the steps that happen every day to get you there.

Have Unique Goals for Different Parts of Your Life

Everyone has different aspects of their life. You have your work and career, family and friends, home life and hobbies. Nothing stops you from setting goals unique to each! This lets you work on multiple goals at once and gives you the opportunity to reach new achievements even when something slows down your growth in another part of your life.

Don’t Let Hiccups Distract You from Your Goal

No path is straight. There will be potholes, difficulty crossings, stressful encounters and forks that will slow you down or even knock you to the ground. Don’t veer off the path just because you lose pace!

Every happy, successful person has had to claw through turbulence (in fact this trait is one of my top 8 traits for success) – many of them spend a majority of their life-fighting tooth and nail for their wins! Try to take it in stride and remember not to sacrifice what you want just to find an easier path.

Learn More About How Setting Goals Helped Those in My Life

In my book, Blue Collar Cool, I include a lot of stories about other successful people I’ve known throughout the years. Their stories involve setting goals and working towards them, even when their goals look too far to the horizon to reach. Pre-order your copy to read about their paths and the peace it brought them. 

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Discover the Benefits of a Blue Collar Career

Ken Rusk is a blue-collar entrepreneur who has started several successful endeavors and mentored hundreds of young people in their pursuit of a satisfying career and fulfilling life.

Discover how Ken’s approach to life and work can help you set and achieve your goals – all while avoiding the nearly inescapable trap of college debt. Pre-order his new book, Blue Collar Cool: How to Earn Without the College Burn today!