Goal Setting – Part One
We all have things we want to do in life. It could be big, like saving enough money to retire at 45. Or it could be small, like having the kitchen stay clean for more than an hour. These life ambitions, big and small, help to direct us and give our life purpose. Without them, our lives would grow stagnant, our daily routine would lose meaning, and we would stop growing. While these ambitions are essential, many people do not give them enough thought. Instead, they keep them in the back of their mind, a constant, nagging desire that slowly eats away at their happiness. Not because they cannot have those things, but because day after day they make no real progress toward what they want from life. Life gets busy; we get stuck in routines. And more often than not, we let those life goals float on in our mind space, never making those ambitions concrete.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish” -Antoine De Saint-Exupéry
If you are ready to stop wishing, then it is time to make a plan. Once you make your life ambitions concrete, you can start laying the path to your goal. Like good ol’ Antoine said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” But just because you have a goal, does not mean you are going to reach it. Not all goals are created equal. To set yourself up for success, make sure you create a SMART goal.
When setting up your goal, be specific about what you want. It is the difference between “I want to be fit” and “I want to run a 10k in under one hour.” The more specific you are, the more likely you will be able to hit your target.
Having a measurable goal means you can actually measure your progress. It requires you to think about what it will look like when you reach your goal. It also shifts the focus onto things you can actually control and quantify. Saying you want to be happy isn’t something you can measure. Saying you want to spend two evenings per week working on a hobby you love is something you can measure. Take your goal out of the abstract and turn it into something you can grab onto.
Is your goal attainable? Or are you doomed to fail? Take a long, hard look at your goal, and really weigh whether your goal is something that can be attained. Setting a goal to lose 80lbs this year is probably not attainable if you only weigh 170lbs to begin with. Is it impossible? No. Is it healthy and sustainable? Also, no. Set goals that are realistic and attainable to you.
Once you have an idea of what you want in life, take a step back and make sure that goal is relevant. Your main questions should be “Why do you want this?” and “Will this goal actually help you achieve it?”
It is important to set time limits for yourself. Who do you think will be more likely to publish their novel? The writer who has a deadline to meet next year? Or the writer who never gives herself a deadline? The one with the deadline will be more likely to actually finish! The same is true of you: if you give yourself a deadline, you will probably meet it; if you don’t give yourself a deadline, it will be all too easy to put that project on the back burner. Give your goal a timeline to better hold yourself accountable.
Switch Your Focus To Behavior
Okay, you want to lose some weight or get in better shape. Before you start establishing your smart goal, we’ve got one more nugget of wisdom for you to digest.
Let’s talk about mindset. Anyone who has ever started a diet knows that the moment you actually start, all you can think about is what you can’t have. It becomes all pervasive and sometimes even drifts toward obsession. Even while preparing your lunch, your mind is thinking about what you want/can’t have for dinner. It is an awful feeling, and it makes it really hard to make any real progress. If your goal entails eating better, a rule you might establish for yourself could be “No more junk food.” Yes, this will help you be healthier. However, now your entire focus is on what you can’t have. It is a super negative mentality, and it straight up sucks to dwell on what you cannot have. And if you do give in to your temptations, you utterly fail because there is no wiggle room; it becomes too easy to start telling yourself “I’ve already failed, what’s one more bag of chips gunna do?” This makes it much easier to keep on failing until you have totally abandoned your goal.
To avoid this negative mentality pitfall, instead focus on a behavior that you can control. Instead of saying “no more junk food” establish the rule that you will prepare five dinners per week from fresh ingredients. You still will be working toward your ultimate goal of eating healthier, but instead of focusing on the negative, you’re focusing on something you can actively do. And there is even a little wiggle room built in. This allows you to relax and take it easy every once in awhile, making your goal much more sustainable in the long run.
And that is what we want: something sustainable. Most goals are not sprints. If they were, so many more people would be accomplishing their goals because it is easy to keep something up for a short period of time. Instead, most goals are marathons. They take a whole lot of time and consistency. Your goal should be something that you can realistically sustain for a long period of time. Because, guess what? Reaching that goal is probably going to take a long period of time. And that is okay, because you are worth it.
Putting it all together
Take a long hard look at your life ambitions. Give it some deep, critical thought. You only get one life to live, so stop taking life day by day and hoping at the end of it you will have reached your goals. Instead, take your life into your own hands. If you want something, make a plan. Find a way to reach that goal. Even if the steps you take toward your goals are small, they are still important! Progress is progress, no matter how small.
Ready to get started? Follow the link to access a SMART goal worksheet.