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Your guide to goal setting and ecology

It is widely acknowledged that goal setting is an important step when undertaking self- and professional development and 9/10 times, the first advice you find is “…find goals that are achievable…” “…make your goals SMART…” “…make your goals public…” eugh!*runs for the bathroom to vomit* …corporate jargon… impersonal bullshit… *vomits*


Don’t get me wrong –

We’ve got nothing against setting smart goals themselves – but this rigid method doesn’t seem to include the magic of taking time to work out what YOU want in life and where you want to be.

Trust me: time spent meandering through your ideal life and dancing with the idea of tapping into your deepest desires… well it’s personal, it’s thoughtful, it’s exciting and its life changing.

Are you ready to “level up” your life?

You can do that today… for free… with nothing more than a notebook and pen, an hour to yourself and this blog post to keep you company?

If so, read on…

Goal setting and ecology | #itsawildlife

Our tips for setting kick-ass goals you’ll actually achieve fall into 3 steps

  1. Get clear on what you want
  2. Set your goals
  3. Track your progress
1 Get clear on what you want

The best way to start a meaningful goal setting is to give yourself the time and space to get clear on what you want. Clear your next hour and take some time for yourself. Get comfy with a notebook, pen and even make a tea or a coffee – anything that helps you to feel chill and cozy will help.

For best results, try to complete this exercise when you’re well rested, and when your body is most awake. For example, if you’re a morning person do it first things whereas if you’re more a night owl, wait for your body to work up first.

Take some deep breaths. This time is for you to get crystal clear on what you want.

So, it’s important shit!

I like to start by doing a bit of a brain dump writing anything and everything that comes to mind. Like all exercise, the more often you do this the more easily things will flow to you as you strengthen this muscle. If the creative juices don’t flow straight away, be gentle on yourself and stick with it.

You can try these journal prompts:

  • Who am I currently and who do I want to start showing up as (top 5 qualities)?
  • What would my life look like in a year if I stepped into the best version of myself?
  • How would I feel in a year’s time if my life looked and felt exactly the same as it does now?

If you are looking to get clear on your dream job, read through this post.

I will then go through and list my desires you’d likeboth within the next month (short-term) and next year (long-term) under these 6 pillars or categories:

  • Career, study and business
  • Financial
  • Health and fitness
  • Relationships
  • Personal growth
  • Spirituality growth

Try not to limit yourself at this point and write down everything that comes to mind. Aim for 3 long- and short-term desires under each pillar.

Once you’re finished, highlight your top 3 desires in each category for both the short- and long-term and write each one out. Beneath each desire, list some steps you could take to get from where you are today to a place where what you want has become a reality.

This is a powerful exercise so get creative and enjoy thinking through the process!

2 Set your goals

Pick desires that resonate most with you from the exercise above (aim for about one short- and long-term from each pillar). To turn your list of wants into a list of goals:

  • Only set goals where you can control the outcome

For example, it is tempting to set a goal “to work as an ecologist by next year” but there are way too many factors beyond your control. Instead, your goal could be “to become employable as an ecologist by next year” and list the steps you’d like to take towards that before the year is up.

For more advice on this and breaking your goal down into bite-sized, manageable steps, see this post.

  • Think about why you want each desire and write that beside each goal. This will become your motivation to keep pursuing your goal even if it feels challenging to achieve.
  • When deciding how big or ambitious to set each goal, aim for a stretch or reach goal level. Imagine you raise your arm above you to reach your goal and stretch that little bit higher – aim for optimistic and possible.
  • Break each goal into actionable steps and consider how long it will take and what you’ll need to achieve each step. You have to give yourself time and space to achieve your goals.
  • Of these steps, consider which ones need to be taken regularly and which are one-off.

For example, you only need to study each degree once if your goal is to complete your qualification however, you’ll need to practice bird watching regularly if your goal is to learn to identify them from call.

The best way to achieve mastery-style goals like learning your bird calls or getting fit, eating healthy, getting enough sleep each night is to make them a part of your routine. To do this, find a reliable window in your morning, evening or weekly routine and allocate enough time for the activity.

For example, you are much more likely to master your bird calls within the year if you make the actionable step birdwatching part of your weekly routine, let’s say 3 times a week.

You can’t help but master your bird calls if you stack the habit or slot it in amongst your other priorities each morning. For example, when scheduling your week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, you wake up, make a cup of coffee, get changed and head out to walk around your local nature reserve for 30 minutes with binoculars. When you return, you have a shower, make breakfast and leave for work by 8 am.

When your goals become part of your everyday life, you can’t help but achieve them!

3 Track your progress

There’s no such thing as “set it and forget it” when it comes to effective goal setting. One of the best ways to actually achieve your goals once you’ve set them is to track your progress towards them.

This can be in the form of a more involved habit tracker or in a simpler reflection session on a weekly or monthly basis. It is important both look back and look forwards: to acknowledge and celebrate your progress, as well as plan the next steps to keep you on track.

I like to check in with my goals once a week to track my progress which is scheduled for 30 minutes every Friday morning. In this way, I can make a plan for the following week and reflect on what is working and what isn’t.

If you’re not making progress towards your goal, think about why that may be. Are you really motivated to achieve it (is it something you actually care about or felt like you should want), is it too big for your mind to conceive (can you break it into bite-sized pieces), or do you recognise progress in this goal (would you know what achieving this goal would look like if it slapped you in the face)?

So, you’ve got nothing to lose. Why don’t you give it a go and see where you can take your life…!

If you’d like more on goal setting in ecology, we have a follow up post here.

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16 thoughts on “Your guide to goal setting and ecology”

  1. I absolutely loved reading this and the timing could not have been more perfect as I am sitting down and thinking thoughtfully about my Q2 goals today. I especially like this part: “only set goals where you can control the outcome.” Thanks for this inspiring read!

  2. I worked in a corporate environment for years and thought the idea of SMART goals was amazing. Fast-forward years and bad experiences later and I’m ready to throw those out the window. I won’t because they are still helpful steps and factors to consider. However, I totally agree to start with our wants or reasons “why” before moving on to goals that will not be accomplished because we honestly don’t want them to. Love your insights and journal prompts.

    1. Yes Mari you’re so right – SMART goals aren’t necessarily a bad thing – but they certainly aren’t the only way to set goals! Hope you’re ok after your experience, and feeling more motivated by your why 🙂 thanks for your insight!

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