I was planning on bringing you a recipe post today, but I woke up this morning to a broken air conditioner. If you’ve ever been to Florida in August you know there was no way I was going to cook with no air flow. Instead I figured we’d chat about goals. We all have dreams and goals, but life is pretty great at throwing us a detour and distracting us from what we really want. Today my distraction was the air conditioner, tomorrow it could be something else. But when we have clearly defined and measurable goals we set the groundwork and structure for following through despite what has been thrown at us.
Sometimes distractions and detours don’t come from the outside, but from ourselves. One of my strengths is list making. I could be a professional list maker – I have lists for my lists. Unfortunately, I haven’t always been the best at actually completing the items on them. My lists were too vague and there were no deadlines. I’m a dreamer and can get very distracted by new ideas so the lack of structure did nothing for my motivation. I have just as much fun creating lists as I do checking stuff off. I’ve learned to make my lists with a little more intention by practicing effective goal setting habits. Using goal setting techniques instead of piles of vague lists has helped to provide focus, structure, and motivation. Goal setting helps to create an awareness and recognition of where you are, where you want to be, and what tools you already have to get yourself there. Today we’re going to review common roadblocks to achieving goals as well as effective & structured methods to setting SMART goals.
Goal Setting Things to Think About
Some issues to be aware of so you don’t unintentionally derail your efforts.
- Avoid vague or inappropriate goals. They decrease motivation and feelings of self worth.
- Do it for you. Only you can control your own behavior. Your goals must be something that YOU want to pursue and achieve. Pursuing the goals that others have set for you can lead to resentment, poor performance, and decreased mood.
- Don’t beat your self up. We aren’t perfect. I 99% sure I saw this line on a daytime talk show, but a ‘set back is a set up for a comeback’. Learn from every experience, focus on your strengths, and do more of what works.
- Don’t focus on too many things at one time. Break it down.
- Don’t forget your motivation. What is the reason behind your efforts?
Identify Your Goals & Make Them Realistic
In order to set meaningful goals you must be aware of what your strengths and limitations truly are. Goals should be attainable but challenging. Having clear and measurable goals will help you to evaluate your performance and identify the steps you need to take for improvement.
If you have a hard time pinpointing and focusing down your goals into actionable plans, keeping a mental training log for 3-4 weeks is a great tool. It will help you to identify the beliefs, thoughts, and habits that impact your performance in the area that you want to change. Keep a journal or utilize a note storage app to record a daily inventory. In the 24 hours after each activity (the thing you want to change) write down your inner thoughts, feelings, reactions, strengths, and frustrations. Pay attention to your inner dialogue. Did you put yourself down? How did that affect your performance? What did you do that was particularly helpful or efficient? What led up to that moment? Also release any negativity into your journal. Use it as a place to let go of your frustrations and self doubt. It’s important to stay aware of all aspects of our experience. Use your journal as a learning tool to build the foundation for a stronger and more clear mental outlook. After 3-4 weeks review your log. What patterns do you see? What do you need to work on? What are you really good at? What relationship is there between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors/outcomes? Once you have identified areas that need to be addressed you can clearly define your goals.
Download this free Food and Sunshine template to get you started: Goal Setting: Mental Log
Still having trouble clearly defining your goals?
Try this exercise:
Write your answers to the following questions as they come, without evaluating or placing judgements on them. Afterwards review your answers, assign them into categories, and rank them by priority. Think about when you started with your current goal or activity.
- What inspired you?
- What did you want to accomplish when you started?
- What do you want to accomplish now?
- Where do you want to go in the future?
Change Your Outlook: Take Smaller Steps
Instead of looking at success like a win-loss column, try thinking about your success in terms of progress. Each time you perform your activity focus on the small steps & improvement that you made towards your goals. Regardless of the outcome, if every time you improve by 1% you succeeded. Break your goals down into three steps, or mini goals. Identifying mini goals helps to simplify your approach and reduce stress. Make your mini goals actionable.
This technique has been really effective for me in playing sports. Instead of evaluating my performance based on the score of the game, I keep a pace on myself by the progress that I make each time I skate. I pick three things to actively work on each time I touch the ice, and any small improvement in those three things equal success.
It’s important to keep checking in on our progress because the reality of life is that sometimes we just don’t achieve our goals. Whether it be the Olympic athlete who missed the podium or the college student who can’t pass chemistry, letting go of a goal is never easy. Continuing to pursue an unrealistic and unattainable goal increases stress and wastes time. It’s important to recognize your limits and let things go in the proper time. Depending on the person and situation, letting go can be experienced as a loss that needs to be grieved. Many highly competitive athletes have shown PTSD like symptoms after retiring or training down from their sports. As you learn to adopt a new lifestyle and focus on other things, many adjustments will need to be made. Being kind to yourself, allow yourself space to grieve, and reach out for additional support when needed.
Set SMART Goals
Use the SMART acronym to keep your goal setting simple and focused.
Who? What? Where? When? Which? Why?
Example: I will go to the gym and workout 45 minutes every Monday, Wednesday, & Friday for better health vs. get in better shape.
Define clear criteria for measuring your progress towards achieving each of your goals. Measuring your progress holds you accountable, helps you stay on plan, and gives you a sense of accomplishment and achievement that propels you forward.
Setting clear, wise, & specific goals within a time frame helps give structure for attaining your goals. Almost anything can be accomplished when you lay the framework in which to move from. I find that the more I intentionally take steps towards my goals, the more possibilities open up to me that were previously clouded. Success fuels more success, so making your goals attainable only helps you accomplish even more.
A goal is realistic only in relationship to the effort in which you are ready to perform. You have to be willing and capable of doing the work necessary to get there. Goals should not be so easy that there is little sense of accomplishment, but should not be so high that they will take forever to achieve. Challenging goals will inspire more motivation than a low set goal. Achieving that first goal will encourage more positive progress.
Goals need time frames to foster urgency and motivation to achieve it. Make it realistic and specific. If I tell myself I need to lose 10lbs I can put diet & exercise off day after day. If I tell myself I need to lose 10lbs in 3 months, I have a clear deadline encouraging me to keep doing what I need to do in order to accomplish it.
What goals are you setting today?