1 Step at a Time: How to Focus on Your Goals

One funny thing about life is that we tend to look towards our next step and focus on the future paying less mind to our present state. For example, for those in high school, it may mean getting into college. For students in college, it may be getting into graduate school or attaining a good paying job in your field post-graduation. When one gets a job, it may then be trying to get a raise or promotion. Obviously, there are many more possibilities because overall we’re talking about our long term goals or the “next step in life.” No matter what, as humans, we tend to want more and to aim higher.

It’s a wonderful thing to have goals, but we can’t achieve these goals without focusing on our present state. If we always live for the next step, the next stage or the next day, we’re not living our lives to the fullest every day, and quite honestly you don’t know what day will be your last. Ambition is key to being successful and it's extremely important to be passionate about our goals in life, but that should never mean sacrificing your sanity, physical or mental health by overstressing yourself, which it often does. When looking towards the next stage in our lives, it’s vital to be aware of staying in the present and maintaining your current happiness, while still seeing the big picture. Being mindful of the present allows us to take control of our physical and mental health and ensure that we are at our top performance in order to achieve our long-term goals.

So how can we make the process of looking towards the next step in our lives more manageable in the present?

Well, here are a couple of ways to keep yourself accountable when trying to focus on the present, while keeping yourself on track to achieving your long term goals.

First off, take it one step at a time, meaning set small goals in order to achieve the larger one. Typically, you don't just land the internship or the job without preparation and setting deadlines. Creating achievable short term goals will get you to your long term goal because it’s breaking it up in doable chunks. This is vital because it makes your long term goals not so overwhelming.

A second tool that keeps you grounded is to prioritize. This seems like a big concept, but let’s break it down. Making checklists creates a visual aid that will hold you accountable and allow you to prioritize what’s important at the moment. By prioritizing your goals for the day, the week, the month or the year, you’re able to get a better picture of what you need to achieve in the present moment while still keeping on the direct path to long term goals.

On that same note, another way to organize is to use a calendar, a planner or both! This may seem super obvious, but people do this a lot less than you think. I actually use both a calendar and a planner and I find it helps me stay on track and allows me to see where I can make essential time for myself and have downtime to keep me grounded in the present. Schedule to keep yourself sane!

Lastly, and most importantly, practice mindfulness (in your own way) and self-care. These are two terms that are thrown around a lot these days, but they’re extremely important to maintaining your mental and physical health. Keep your stress levels at bay and your happiness high by carving out time for yourself and doing the things you love, whatever that may be. It’s important to do the things that make us feel healthy in the present moment, whether that may be pampering your skin, getting a massage or simply laying down and reading a book or watching Netflix.

Sometimes doing the things that make us feel good in the present can seem harder than they need to be. Take a moment in a day every two weeks to assess your goals and if you’ve made a mark or done something to further them. Always remember, it's okay to slip up. It's okay if you miss a deadline, but still, hold yourself accountable. You're only human, so just take it day by day and keep yourself aware of being present in the moment. Step one foot in front of the other and take a deep breath. You got this!

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