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The Truthful Path to Success: The Importance of Realistic Goal-Setting

Updated: May 17, 2023

A woman with sunglasses gazing out at the horizon thinking about her goals.

Have you ever found yourself struggling to achieve your goals and feeling frustrated when you can't? I certainly have, and it wasn't until I burned out that I realised the importance of realistic goal-setting.

I'm all for people dreaming big and reaching their dreams - we wouldn't have put a man on the moon or had the likes of people like Oprah Winfrey, who came from poverty and obscurity to become one of the most influential women of the 21st century.

But these big dreams are usually grounded in reality, where hard work, determination, opportunities and connections come together at the right time. And they're underpinned by smaller goals that are all leading to the ultimate dream.

Becoming truthful with myself

By being truthful with myself and aligning my goals with my values, allowed me to feel less pressure, be honest with myself about what was achievable given what I had available to me and to live my life authentically.

Growing up, I was never taught the importance of setting goals. I'm sure not many of us were taught how to set proper, achievable goals and how to go after them.

Instead, I based my aspirations on what I saw others achieving and what I thought society deemed successful. This led me down a path of floundering for long periods of time then setting unrealistic goals and constantly feeling disappointed with myself when I couldn't achieve them.

Setting realistic goals can make the difference between success and failure.

What realistic means to me

For me, setting realistic goals means being honest with myself about what I can realistically achieve within a given timeframe. It's the R in SMART goals - Realistic.

It means taking into account my abilities, resources (financial, people and time), and circumstances, and setting goals that are challenging but attainable. They must just take me a little out of my comfort zone but not terrify me that I am unable to act any further.

Being truthful and honest with myself when setting goals is crucial because it allows me to set achievable objectives that are aligned with my values and priorities.

It also allows me to live my life authentically.

The power of truthful goal-setting

Setting goals that are truthful and honest can be the difference between success and failure.

By acknowledging our strengths and limitations, we can set achievable objectives that align with our values and priorities. This not only helps us avoid disappointment and frustration but also builds self-confidence and resilience.

But it requires us to really know ourselves.

Setting realistic goals doesn't have to be a negative experience. If you're unsure of your strengths and limitations, consider seeking input from those closest to you. This can help you gain a better understanding of yourself and set goals that are both achievable and realistic.

The power of discernment in goal setting

Overcommitting yourself to too many goals can also lead to burnout and failing to achieve any solid progress. Rather, take a commitment inventory to identify a limited number of goals that are the most significant to you. As a general guideline, try to avoid having more than five significant goals at once, and ensure a blend of both short-term and long-term goals.

If you're stuck, ask yourself, "If I only had the next year to live, which of these goals is most important?"

Social media's impact on our goal setting

A lot of what we see on social media is not steeped in reality - it's a version of someone's life they've crafted for us to see.

Social media can have a significant impact on the goals we set for ourselves. Here are some ways social media can influence our goal setting:

  • Comparison: Social media can make it easy for us to compare ourselves to others, particularly those who appear to be more successful or accomplished than we are. This can lead us to set unrealistic goals based on what we think we should be doing or achieving, rather than what is realistic and attainable for us.

  • FOMO: Social media can create a fear of missing out (FOMO) on experiences or opportunities that others seem to be enjoying. This can lead us to set goals that are not aligned with our values or priorities, simply because we feel like we should be doing something similar to what we see others doing.

  • Unrealistic expectations: Social media often portrays a skewed view of reality, with people sharing only their highlights and achievements. This can lead us to set unrealistic expectations for ourselves based on what we see others achieving.

  • Motivation: On the other hand, social media can also be a source of motivation and inspiration for setting and achieving goals. By following people who share similar values and goals, we can feel inspired and motivated to work towards our own objectives.

To counteract the negative effects of social media on our goal setting, it's important to be aware of the influence it can have and practice mindfulness and intentionality when setting goals.

This includes focusing on our own strengths, limitations, and priorities rather than comparing ourselves to others, setting realistic and achievable goals based on our own abilities and resources, and avoiding the pressure to achieve things simply because we see others doing it.

Why do we set unrealistic goals?

There are other several reasons why people may set unrealistic goals:

  • Unrealistic expectations: Sometimes we may set unrealistic goals because we have an exaggerated idea of what we're capable of achieving, or we may have unrealistic expectations based on what we've seen others achieve.

  • Pressure to perform: In some cases, we may set unrealistic goals because we feel pressured to perform or achieve a certain outcome. This can be due to external factors such as societal expectations or internal pressures we put on ourselves.

  • Pressure to conform: The pressure to conform can be a significant factor in how we set our goals. We may feel pressure from society, peers, or family members to set certain types of goals that are considered "successful" or "impressive." This pressure can lead us to set goals that are not necessarily aligned with our own values or priorities, or that are unrealistic based on our own abilities and resources.

  • Lack of self-awareness: If we don't have a clear understanding of our own strengths and limitations, we may set goals that are beyond our capabilities.

  • Fear of failure: Setting unrealistic goals can also be a way of avoiding failure. By setting goals that are too high, we can avoid the risk of failing to achieve them and protect our self-esteem.

Here are a few examples of realistic and unrealistic goals:

Realistic Goals:

  • Running a 5km race in six months after regularly training and building endurance

  • Saving $5,000 over the course of a year by consistently setting aside a portion of your income

  • Learning a new language at a conversational level within a year by practicing consistently and immersing yourself in the language

Unrealistic Goals:

  • Running a marathon in one month without prior training

  • Saving $50,000 in three months by sacrificing basic necessities and not considering unexpected expenses

  • Learning a new language fluently in a week without any prior knowledge or experience

What is the most likely consequence of setting unrealistic goals?

Setting realistic goals can help us avoid disappointment and feelings of failure, as well as build our confidence and motivation as we achieve our objectives step by step.

Unrealistic goals, on the other hand, can lead to feelings of overwhelm, burnout, and ultimately, failure to achieve our desired outcome.

When coupled with the pressure to conform to other people's agendas or wishes, we could be in the danger of losing ourselves. For example, we may feel pressure to pursue a certain career path or achieve a certain level of financial success, even if those goals are not fulfilling or realistic for us. This pressure to conform can create stress, anxiety, and a sense of dissatisfaction with our own achievements, even if we have accomplished something that is meaningful to us.

To counteract the pressure to conform, it's important to focus on setting goals that are aligned with our own values, priorities, and abilities. This may involve taking the time to reflect on what is truly important to us, rather than simply following what others consider to be successful or impressive. It may also involve seeking out a supportive community of like-minded individuals who can offer encouragement and validation for pursuing our own goals, even if they do not align with mainstream or societal expectations.

The benefits of setting realistic goals

Setting realistic goals has numerous benefits. First, it can help you stay motivated by giving you a clear sense of direction and purpose. When you know what you're working towards, you're more likely to stay focused and committed.

Second, it can help you build self-confidence, self-belief and resilience by allowing you to achieve small wins along the way.

Third, by resisting the pressure to conform and prioritising our own authentic goals and aspirations, we can achieve success and fulfilment on our own terms.

Finally, it can help you achieve long-term success by providing a roadmap for achieving your objectives.

How to set realistic goals

Setting realistic goals starts with identifying your values and priorities. What matters most to you? What are you passionate about? Once you have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve, break down your larger goals into smaller, more manageable tasks. This can help you see progress and stay motivated but also fine-tune your timing or other resources needed.

Tips for staying motivated and on track

Even when you're working towards realistic goals, it can be challenging to stay motivated. To help you stay on track, try the following tips:

  • Keep checking whether your goals are in alignment with your values.

  • Make the goal challenging but not to the point that it breaks you. We need a driver and something to aspire to but always use the lens of reality to discern.

  • Break it down - if the goal feels too audacious, how can you break it into smaler, more achievable parts to allow you to plan the route to the ultimate goal but feel successful by achieving the smaller parts?

  • Celebrate your successes: When you achieve a goal, take the time to acknowledge your accomplishment and celebrate your success.

  • Find support: Surround yourself with people who support and encourage you to achieve your goals.

  • Stay positive: Maintain a positive mindset, even when you face setbacks or obstacles.

  • Stay focused: Keep your eye on the prize and stay focused on your goal, even when it's difficult.

  • Maintain perspective and practice self-compassion : Celebrate small successes along the way, rather than fixating solely on the end result. This can help us stay motivated and focused on our goals while maintaining a realistic perspective. Be kind to yourself if you don't make your goal - remember you get to try again and that's OK.

  • Mindful social media use: By using social media in a mindful and intentional way, we can stay focused and harness its positive, motivational effects effects rather than its downsides.

  • Work with a coach to hold you accountable and keep you on track

Setting realistic goals is not just about achieving success; it's about being true to yourself and honouring your values and priorities.

Why values and priorities are essential in goal setting

Values and priorities are essential in goal setting because they provide a foundation for creating goals that are meaningful and fulfilling for us.

When we set goals that are aligned with our values and priorities, we are more likely to feel motivated and committed to achieving them. This is because these goals are linked to our deeper sense of purpose and meaning in life, rather than just superficial desires or external pressures.

Additionally, setting goals based on values and priorities helps us to stay focused and avoid distractions or detours that may lead us away from our desired outcomes. By prioritising our values and aligning our goals with them, we can create a roadmap for achieving success and fulfilment in a way that is authentic and true to ourselves.

In conclusion

By setting realistic goals, you can stay motivated, build self-confidence and resilience, and achieve long-term success. So, take some time to reflect on what matters most to you, and set some realistic goals that align with your values and passions. With hard work and dedication, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.

As a coach, I can help you on your journey towards truthful and honest goal-setting. Through personalised coaching sessions, we can work together to identify your strengths and limitations, align your goals with your values, and develop a plan for achieving your objectives. I can also hold you accountable and keep you on track.

Contact me today to learn more about how I can help you unlock your full potential through truthful and realistic goal-setting.

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