Goal Setting Like a Pro
Believe it or not, 2018 is just around the corner, and resolution goals are upon us. I love the idea of reflecting on what we did well in 2017, how we hit or missed our goals, and why things happened the way they did. We learn more about ourselves, what's important to us, and how to set goals that we care about going forward. The steps below can help you realize what goals are important and how to be successful reaching them throughout the year.
Don't go into goal setting blindly. On a piece of paper make two columns. Write "strengths/goals I achieved" and "areas I want to improve" at the top of the columns. Now sit and think...Take some time on this and jot everything you can remember from January through December down on paper in the appropriate columns. A list might look something like this:
Goals I Achieved
- Setting up a regular exercise routine
- Allowing my body to rest when needed
- Qualifying for the Boston Marathon
- Keeping a gratitude journal throughout the year
- Going to three new classes
- Reading 6 new books
Areas to Improve
- Work on gratitude journal daily
- Create physical therapy routine in the mornings
- Plan one month ahead for work/play adventures
- Get faster in marathon time
2. Determine Your Motivation
This is a really important step! Often, I see athletes who have these big goals and are really excited about them in the beginning, but there is no other motivation than the attraction of the goal. For example, saying "I want to lose 20lbs" is a great idea. But why? Because you want to look better. Why do you care about appearance? Because I want more self-confidence/to improve performance/to feel more capable. What do these things give you? Self-confidence: I live more life because I feel confident to go do things on my own. Improved performance: I can excel in my sport which makes me feel accomplished, successful and strong and may take me to the next level. Capable: I can get on the ground and play more with my grandkids.
Motivation behind our goals is everything. If you have a goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon or to cut a second off your 40-yard dash, you have to know why you're putting in large amounts of work to get there. If you don't have a reason beneath the goal, you'll fall short or experience burnout almost every time. This part of the exercise should take some time. You will be reflecting on both your goals and your values. While it may be easy to associate some goals with very specific values, you might find that others don't really have a strong motivation behind them. Those may also be the goals you struggle with the most.
3. Get SMART
Now that you know why you are doing this, it's time to define your goal. Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely (SMART). Let's go back to our previous example of "I want to lose 20lbs". Is that a SMART goal? Nope. While it is measurable, we need more detail. By changing this statement to, "I want to lose 20lbs in five months by exercising 5x/week for 30 minutes each day, tracking my food intake and writing down my weight every Monday", we've defined what we're doing, how long it will take, and what routines we need to implement. Finally, is this achievable? Losing 20lbs in five months would mean we are losing roughly one pound per week. For a lot of people the answer is "yes, that's achievable". You get to decide if your goal is realistic, or if you are currently working with a coach, ask them to review your goal to make sure it is realistic.
4. Plan for Success
Planning and habit creation is the key to success. Based on our goal above, we know that we need to track our food daily and exercise five days a week for 30 minutes each day. How are you going to track your food? Paper, an app, photo journaling? And when does your exercise best fit into your day? Are you going to wake up at 7am daily to exercise, or will you workout on your lunch break? Does your schedule change from day to day, where exercise planning needs to happen each evening? These are all factors to consider in order to develop the plan that is most realistic and achievable based on your life demands.
5. Allow for Imperfection
I know, this is tough for me too! As much as we'd all love for our days to be exactly as planned, that just doesn't always happen. Plan as much as possible, but accept that some days you may be sick and need to rest. Or if your child breaks their arm on the playground, you may be spending six hours, unplanned, in the Emergency Room. A couple mishaps throughout the week will NOT ruin your efforts. Roll with the punches, and be flexible when needed. And if you find that your efforts to build your routine aren't happening regularly, you may need to revisit point number two again. We are constantly evaluating and prioritizing tasks throughout the day. If this goal is not within the top three on your priority list, chances are it will get knocked off. A motivation evaluation can elevate that goal's priority or prompt change to make it more meaningful.