The idea of positive change can be thrilling: you can start new, and the possibilities are endless! All we have to do is decide to make a change. It’s that easy, right? If we’re determined to implement change in our lives, we can traverse the space between where we are and where we want to be with ease. No muss, no fuss!
Sometimes, no matter how determined we are, life gets in the way of our good intentions. With the new year approaching, we are filled with the adrenaline of hope…and maybe some extra Christmas cookies. We set lofty goals. Then, when our normal schedule resumes, we’re faced with reality. Follow-through can be hard, and if our goals are overly ambitions, we may find ourselves discouraged.
The good news? There’s hope. We can set ourselves up for success in achieving our goals by following a few key steps.
Step 1: Prioritize
Instead of starting with 50 goals, start with one. I know this can be hard, and I’ve been guilty of having too many goals at once, especially in the gym. I wanted to lift more weight doing “X,” and have better technique doing “Y.” Oh, and I wanted to improve my technique doing “Q” and learn how to do “Z.” It was challenging to divide my time between each goal, my body was sore, and I struggled to maintain consistency long-term. We’ll call my experience, “Goal Overload.”
What tends to happen with Goal Overload is that your efforts are scattered. You try to focus on so many things that you struggle to give each area the attention it needs. This typically ends with disregarding some of your goals or quitting altogether. In short, Goal Overload is overwhelming.
The solution? Start with one goal. Ask yourself, “What is the most important thing I want to change, adjust, or accomplish?”
Step 2: Carefully Craft Your Goal
When choosing your goal, consider making it measurable. This is how you’ll know when the goal has been achieved.
For example, perhaps our goal is to spread joy to others. While this is a great desire, we don’t really have a way to measure whether or not we’ve achieved our goal. How do we decide who is joyful? How many others? How often? Currently, the goal lacks specificity and a way to measure success. It also presents a challenge because we can’t control how others feel or respond to our actions. We may have a general idea of what tends to make people happy, but whether or not it does is outside of our control.
We can address these issues by adjusting the goal: “I will meet my neighbors by taking a dozen cookies to a new household twice a month during 2020.”
Let’s evaluate this new example based on the three criteria we discussed:
a) Is it measurable?
Yes. We know that if we take cookies to two different households each month, we’re on track to achieve our goal.
b) Is it specific?
Yes. The goal indicates a dozen cookies, two times a month for the whole year.
c) Is it within our control?
In my case, yes. I have access to the tools necessary to bake cookies and take them to my neighbors. If someone isn’t home, I could move on to another house to help ensure I meet someone.
Step 3: Establish a Deadline
Once you have chosen your first goal, determine by what date you will achieve it. Do you plan to lose five pounds by March 15th? Are you going to write a rough draft of that book you’ve been planning by July 20th?
When you set a time by which to achieve your goal, it allows you to plan your steps to make it happen.
Step 4: Plan Your Course of Action
Now that you want to lose five pounds by March 15th, you can make a plan of action. This plan may include nutrition adjustments, an exercise regimen, etc. Ask yourself, “What will I do to get from here to there?”
Your plan might look something like this:
+ I will exercise for at least 30 minutes, three times a week.
+ I will reduce my soda intake to one a week.
+ I will cook dinner at home at least three nights a week.
When preparing your plan of action, select three to five steps you will take toward achieving your goal. Be realistic. This is an important part of setting yourself up for success. If you typically drink three bottles of soda a day, it may be a stretch to illuminate it cold turkey. Perhaps start with cutting back to two a day. When you are successful, adjust your plan of action to one a day, then maybe three a week, and so forth. Start with small, achievable steps. This way, you will experience success as you charge forward. You can make your action steps more ambitious as you progress toward your goal.
Step 5: Keep Track of Your Progress
If your goal is to lose five pounds, set a time to weigh yourself throughout the process. By doing so, you can assess whether your plan of action is working. When you weigh yourself every two weeks, or once a month, you measure whether or not you’re making the desired progress. If not, you can re-evaluate your plan of action to see if adjustments need to be made.
Step 6: Prepare for the Moment of Decision
Set yourself up for success by preparing for the moment of decision. Does part of your plan include going to the gym in the morning? If so, pack your gym bag and your lunch the night before, lay out your clothes, and get up when the alarm goes off. Hitting snooze gives yourself time to debate whether or not you actually want to get up. Don’t give the half-asleep you time to question the goal-setting you and your new resolve. (I know this is often easier said than done, but you can do it!)
Are you going to eat healthier? Prepare for the moment of decision by putting nutritious foods in your shopping cart. When cravings come, it’s harder to eat something that’s not in your pantry.
Another strategy in preparation is writing encouraging notes to yourself and putting them around your living space, such as, “You got this,” “Rise and shine,” “Keep it up! You’re doing great!”
Keys to Goal Success
When setting your goal, make it achievable for yourself and your schedule. Select something that is important to you and determine why you are pursuing it. What do you hope to accomplish through it? Once you have your goal and your reason why, write them down. Put them in a place you will see and remember them. Measure your progress, periodically evaluating your plan of action. If needed, make adjustments, and keep on trekking. After your new plan has become a natural part of your schedule, or you have achieved your goal, consider setting a second goal, and so forth.
As you embark on this journey, know that a great distance is overcome one step at a time.