I'm an obsessive goal setter. I set goals, reset them, and then reset them again. I've been getting a lot better at following through in recent years but there's always room for improvement.
How I set goals.
I usually start off my making a broad "I want" statement. Like "I want to be healthy." Then I develop a list of two or three goals for each statement that, if I reach, will get me closer to getting what I ultimately want.
Goal 1: Have an emergency fund of $15,000. This amount should allow me to pay my bills for at least 6 months if I were to suddenly get laid off. I'm pretty much starting at zero here, so I have a long way to go.
Goal 2: Pay off my main credit card. I want to be debt free by 2011 (not counting student loans). To do this, I have to pay off a little over $12,000 between my credit cards and my car loan. Even though the car loan has the higher interest rate of the three, there's a prepayment penalty, so I'm pretty much stuck paying the whole thing no matter when I pay it off.
Goal 1: Run a 10k. I ran my first 5k last fall and, although it was a struggle, it was a great self-esteem booster. I'm finding that reaching goals has quite a snowball effect. It makes you want to achieve greater and greater things. I've been quite lazy this winter and I'm sure I've lost some of the endurance that I was able to achieve last fall. I'm heading to a gym with an indoor track tonight to see where I'm at. This week my goal is to do: Monday 3k, Thursday 4k, and Friday 4k.
Goal 2: Eat more raw fruits and veggies at every meal. This is me basically trying to trick my brain. I've had the goals of eating better and losing weight for what seems like forever and I have reached it at times, but none of the improvements have been permanent. I'll eat healthy for a couple of months and then one cheat day becomes two, which becomes three, and you can figure out the rest. Now I'm taking it a meal at a time. I figure that if I force myself to think about each meal and how much of it is made up of raw fruits and veggies, it will cause me to think about what I'm eating more often and I will eat healthier.
Goal 3: No coffee after 5pm. I'm a caffeine junky. I specifically love Americanos and it doesn't help that my girlfriend works for Starbucks. Unfortunately, I'm finding that as I get older, caffeine is keeping me up later and later. I used to be able to sit and study in a coffee shop all night, drinking bottomless cups of coffee, and then go home and fall right asleep. Nowadays, if I have a tall Americano at 8pm, I have trouble sleeping at midnight. So I'm switching to tea at 5pm and I'll see how that goes.
I think all of these are doable and don't require drastic lifestyle changes or punishment. I want to create goals that will positively impact my life, but also ones that I'll stick with.