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We all have life goals — some of us bigger than others. Some people want to move out of home, others want a promotion, and all of us could probably do with saving a few extra bucks from our pay every month.

Having goals to strive for is important and, without them, it’s easy to flounder around and then never really get to exactly where you want to be. But I think we can also agree that setting goals, both big and small, is often an empowering task that turns overwhelming real quick. Below, we’re breaking down how to break your goals up into smaller and more achievable tasks.

First, Think About Where You Want To Go

There are two types of people in this world: those who follow the bouncy ball all the way to their dreams and those who have their entire life mapped out. Neither is bad, but to tighten it up and make sure you achieve your goals, it’s pretty important to either know what you want your next step to be or your end goal. From here, you can figure out what you need to do right now to move closer to your goal.

Reverse-Engineer Your Goals

Once you know what your goal is (either short or long term), you can reverse engineer it to map out your plan. For example, when I was starting out in my career, I scoured LinkedIn to see what jobs people were doing in that industry and when I found a couple I liked, I stalked their trajectory. That way, I could see a clear path forward to follow myself and suddenly I was focused on the next step rather than the final product, and avoided a lot of overwhelm.

Make Them Actionable

Once you’ve figured out what your smaller achievements are, match them up with actionable steps. I once interviewed an athlete who had their sights set on the Olympics and she said her sports psychologist told her to focus less on getting to a specific competition (i.e. getting to the Olympics), that has way too many variables and doesn’t have any clear actionable steps to get there.

Instead, she honed in on her goal to break a world record and worked towards beating her own personal best. That’s an extreme example but what I mean is, if your big goal is to make new friends as an adult, perhaps joining a local sports club is a better immediate goal.

Be S.M.A.R.T.

You’ve probably heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals in the context of job interviews but the concept can actually be applied to almost anything in life and help you focus in on exactly what your goals are. Here’s the lowdown:

  • Specific (S): Say exactly what the goal is
  • Measurable (M): Be clear about what success looks like
  • Achievable (A): Keep it realistic
  • Relevant (R): Base it on your skills, strengths or interests
  • Time-specific (T): Be clear how long you think this will take

Celebrate The Smaller Wins Along The Way

I am so guilty of always looking to the next goal and not taking the time to celebrate the small wins along the way. Don’t do what I do, okay (I’m working on it, too). Every so often, take a look back at how far you’ve come and acknowledge what you’ve achieved — it’s important, ‘kay.

If you feel like you need someone to talk to about your goals or anything else that’s on your mind, Kids Helpline is always available — any time and for any reason. If you’re under 25, there are a few ways you can reach out: WebChat, phone or email. Click here for support if you’re over 25.

Image: The To Do List