How Specificity Can Improve Your Life

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How you ever set a goal only to be disappointed when you don't reach it? You know what you want to change in your life, but you just can’t seem to make it happen? Then, when you try to do something different or get something done, you get mediocre results.

One of the most common, but also most overlooked, pitfalls in losing weight, starting a business, or achieving goals is not being specific about what it is that you want and lacking a detailed plan on how you’re going to get there.

Back in 2012, I ran a half marathon. At the time I signed up, I barely called myself a runner, so the thought of running 13.1 miles seemed crazy. I downloaded the Runner’s World app and plugged in my race date. It created a detailed plan of how often and how far I had to run. If I wanted to finish that race, I had to follow that plan. I couldn’t just run when I felt like it or run when I had time.

The only way I was able to run that race was to set a concrete goal and follow a particular plan.

Setting specific goals doesn't just apply to fitness. It can benefit all areas of life.

Here are some categories specificity will improve your life.

  • Faith - Well defined prayer leads to a well-defined faith. When I am specific in my prayers, I can be more attuned to when God shows up and answers them. When I pray general prayers, I have trouble discerning whether God has responded to them or if the provision is just a coincidence. When those prayers are answered, I can celebrate them.

What are you praying for? Be specific. Who, what, when, where? What promises in the Word of God are you applying to your situation?

  • Life - When taking on projects in my every day the place I like to start is with SMART goals. The acronym SMART stands for: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. One of the projects I that’s been on my to-do list for a long time is organizing my photos so that I can put them into albums. I love taking pictures, but many of them go unseen because they stay on my computer. I’d like to curate a "yearbook" and give a copy to each of my kids. While it's a big project, I know that once I complete it future years will be easy to create. I will likely not “find time” to work on it, so I’ll need to decide when I want it done by, how often I will work on it, and how often to accomplish this.
  • Community - Years after transitioning to a stay-at-home mom and moving to the burbs, I looked around and realized I no longer had a “crew.” I was lonely. I started meeting people but still felt a void. Once I determined what kind of friends I wanted, I was able to find them. Not only that, once I was able to identify what I was looking for, I was able to appreciate the relationships I already had.

Who are the people I want in my life? Other writers, other moms, other women of faith? How do I get those people in my life?

Being specific in these areas of your life does not mean that you have to be rigid. You can still be flexible or spontaneous within your particular ideas. Knowing exactly what you want and having a plan to achieve it not only increases the likelihood of success but it eliminates emotional decision-making throughout the process.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself that will lead you to achieve your goals.

  1. What is the goal? Don’t be afraid to sit with this and consider what it is that you need or want. Keep it simple and check that it is rooted in your values.
  2. How do you know when you achieve it? When a goal is measurable, there’s less guesswork involved in what it takes to reach it. When a goal is defined, you can track your progress. As you make strides towards your goal, you will be motivated to keep going.
  3. What’s the plan? Small, simple steps taken over time will take you further than a than a handful of big ones. Set dates and be realistic about the time it will take.
  4. How will you celebrate? Don’t let your achievements, answers to prayer, or the growth you've experienced go unnoticed.

When you have too many new goals at one time, it becomes overwhelming, and you may be tempted to give up. So start out with one or two goals, and as you progress in those through consistency, you can add more.

You can achieve your goals in your faith, life, and community when you get specific about what it is that you want.


Get specific about the things that matter to you.

Take the time to figure out what it is that you want and make a plan. I’ve made this easy for you to do by creating a free worksheet that will walk you through the steps I’ve shared. 

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For more on the topic listen to:

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Episode 59 How Specificity Improves Your Life

Join Elise Daly Parker, Kimberly Coyle and I as we examine why we often get mediocre results and give you some questions you can ask yourself to get you moving in the right direction.