How To Set Goals and Actually Reach Them
Happy November! It's so hard to believe that there are only 9 weeks left in 2015! Before you start panicking and running through your mental list of all the things that are coming up during this wonderful time of year, pause for a few seconds and take a deep breath (one day at a time)! Before we enter all the holiday craziness, let's take a moment to slow down and talk about setting a few goals. I know what you're thinking, "We are about to enter the busiest season of the year and you want to talk about setting goals?!" Although goals are typically associated with the start of the new year, setting them now can help you have a healthy and successful holiday season. Finishing this year strong will give you the momentum you'll need to go into 2016, and make it one of your best years yet! So yes, let's talk about goals!
Personally, I love setting goals. The idea of moving forward excites me and I become really motivated when I think about taking steps towards a more positive future. It’s also one of my favorite aspects of working with my clients. It’s fun to hear about their goals and dreams and then helping them construct an appropriate action plan so they're able to reach them.
Setting goals can sometimes feel very intimidating, especially if you've had negative experiences with them before (New Year's Resolutions, anyone?). Have you ever set a goal that you didn’t meet? Me too. It can make you feel like a failure, which rarely leads to success. So how do we move past this? How can we become successful at setting and attaining our goals, moving us closer to the ideal versions of ourselves we long to become?
1. Write a Vision Statement.
Start out by determining what exactly it is that you’re hoping to achieve by writing a vision statement. Define your destination. Who will you be when you're at your best? This is your wellness foundation. You will determine all of your goals based on your vision statement. If you need some directions on how to do that click here.
2. Set Medium-Term Goals
If you ever run in a half or full marathon, one of the things they'll tell you to do for motivation isn't to focus on the finish line. Instead, they'll tell you to focus on the half way point, the next mile, or even the next light pole. Successfully reaching short-term goals helps you maintain the focus and motivation to keep going. A few weeks ago, I talked about the difference between an Outcome Goal (a result of change) and a Behavior Goal (the action of change). So, for starters, let’s make sure our goals are behaviors rather than outcomes. As I've said before, outcome goals are not bad, they reflect feelings, needs, and desires. Here are a few examples of outcome goals:
- I want to lose weight.
- I want to have more energy.
- I want to run a half marathon.
- I want to lower my blood pressure.
- I want to have strong joints so that I’m able to run around with my grandkids.
Awesome. Now, let's come up with strategies (behavior goals) to get you to these outcomes. Ask yourself, realistically where would you like to be in 3 months? What types of things are you doing on a regular basis by that point?
Let’s say in 3 months You will be…
- Consistently eating the appropriate servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
- Getting an average of 7 hours of sleep each night.
- Following a running plan 4 days a week.
- Spending 10 minutes a day meditating.
- Consistently lifting weights 2 days a week.
Each of those are behavior goals that support the outcome goals above. So what are your 3 month goals? What behaviors will you be doing consistently in 3 months that will lead you closer to your vision statement? Once you've figured those out, let’s break them down even further and set some weekly goals to ensure that you get there!
3. Set Weekly SMART Goals
Take an honest assessment. Where are you now compared to where you want to be in three months? This is KEY!!! Don’t lie. Also, don’t beat yourself up. This is your starting point! The first step in the right direction is accepting and appreciating yourself where you are in this moment.
I’ll let you in on a secret… in order for you actually reach your goals, you’ve got to set goals that challenge you, but that you also feel are achievable. You must have the right amount of tension between those two elements. Often times it takes a couple of trials and corrections to find that sweet spot. This is incredibly important because, as the good saying goes, “Nothing breeds success like success.”
These weekly goals are experiments, not absolute solutions. A goal is one strategy to get you to your destination. So with that in mind, what behaviors do you feel confident about accomplishing this week that will lead you closer to your 3 month goals?
For example, I’d love to be doing yoga 2-3 times a week eventually. However, for some reason, I haven’t made it to a class in the past 3 months. So instead of setting myself up for failure and making a goal to go twice this week (not something I'd feel very confident about) I’ve set a goal to go once. And because good intentions usually get drowned out by busy schedules, I don't stop there. Not only will I go to yoga once this week, but I will go to yoga on Thursday morning at 9:30am at Shakti yoga. This is called a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
The S.M.A.R.T. acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Action based, Realistic, and Time bound. This means setting the goals and then planning out the exact time and method in which you’ll accomplish these goals. Studies show that if we plan out WHEN we are going to work on our goals, we are far more successful in completing them. For instance this week, a few of my goals are:
- I will drink a vegetable smoothie for breakfast on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 7am. (To get in a serving of vegetables first thing in the morning)
- I will run 3 miles on Tuesday and Thursday at 2:30pm. (This will help me get ready to run the Boulevard Bolt on Thanksgiving Day)
- I will go to the 9am yoga class on Wednesday. (This will help relieve muscular tension and joint pain, plus I'll feel mentally rejuvenated)
Each of those goals are S.M.A.R.T., support my vision statement, and will also lead me closer to my 3 month goals. Now, that I've decided on my goals for the week, I’m going to write them down in my daily planner and then put them into my calendar as I would an appointment. This has been something that has made a huge impact for me, keeping me accounatble throughout my own wellness journey.
Again, goals are experiments. If one of them doesn’t work for you, identify why it didn’t and then be prepared to come up with different solutions to your problem. And remember, small progress is better than no progress!
Here's to finishing this year healthy and strong! What goals are you setting to give yourself positive momentum for a successful 2016?