Goal-setting is an important process to achieving our dreams and desires. Without clearly-defined goals, we have a tendency to flounder rather than flourish. But most of us struggle in organizing our hopes into a step-by-step process.
Many people make the mistake of generalizing their goals. For example, if the goal is weight loss,they simply say, "I want to be thin," or "I want to lose some weight." A goal needs to be specific. It needs to be something quantifiable and within a specific time period. Write down exactly what you want to accomplish. (i.e. "I want to lose 50 pounds by December 31, 2006.")
Goals also need to be both challenging and realistic. While having something to work towards instills motivation, having a goal that is unrealistic will only create frustration. And as in the weight loss example, a goal that is too extreme can lead to health risks. Make sure your goal is something that is attainable and beneficial - not only in the end result but in the process as well.
After you have set your goal, create the steps to attain it. You should also have checkpoints of progress to keep yourself focused. For example, if your goal is to lose 50 pounds within 7 months, you might have a list of steps that include a specific diet plan and a detailed workout routine, with progress goals of 7 pounds per month. Then have monthly weigh-ins with your doctor or at the gym to monitor your results. Once you have everything mapped out, seek out ways to stay motivated. Some people work well with a buddy-system - having a friend holding them accountable to their goals. Others use reward systems as an encouragement. For example, if you meet your first step in your goal, give yourself a treat to some small indulgence. Find whatever works best for you to keep motivated and stay focused on your end result.
All of these principles can be summed up with an acronym used frequently by goal management experts: SMART. According to Paul J. Meyer in "Attitude Is Everything," goals need to be:
S - Specific
M - Measurable
A - Action-oriented
R - Realistic
T - Tangible
So stop simply thinking about your dreams, and start planning on how to actualize them. Set SMART goals and put them into action!