Goal Setting the S.M.A.R.T. Way!!
How often do we set ourselves New Year's Resolutions and find ourselves still having a long ways to go when November rolls around? Or maybe we've had the SAME resolution for the last 3 years..a rollover resolution if you will. What's the reason you haven't met this goal? Is it unrealistic? Have you stayed on track for a few months, not seen progress, and then gave up? There are MANY pitfalls when setting goals for yourself and they all lead to the same things...frustration, confusion as to where it went wrong, disappointment, anger maybe? "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Don't be insane!! Change that approach, adjust your method, and crush those goals!! Here's how....
Step 1 - Make that goal SPECIFIC!! Saying "I'm going to get healthy this year" is just a ridiculous goal. I'm sorry but it is. What's healthy?! How are you going to know when you get "healthy"? Healthy looks extremely different for many people. I've seen very healthy people out running triathlons that don't LOOK the part when you hear the word "Ironman" and i've seen very "fit" looking people who would struggle to get through a workout and who's blood work is barely this side of "acceptable". Don't fall victim to setting a generic goal you won't know when you reach. Instead, make it something you will KNOW when you've accomplished. Good examples are: "I'm going to fit into those size 10 pants I wore 5 years ago" or "I'm going to be able to run my first 5k race without stopping" or "I'm going to get my cholesterol back into the "acceptable" range". These are all goals that are SPECIFIC!
Step 2 - Decide who's going to be a part of helping you achieve this goal! Do you have a significant other? You can bet they're going to be a part of it. Tell them your goal and make sure they are on your team to help you reach it. Keeping you accountable is great but even just reminding you from time to time of what your goal was can make a huge difference. Is your doctor a part of this goal? Maybe he can give you tips on what will work the best to help you reach it. How about your fitness trainer? Often times instructors can make adjustments to workouts or give you homework that can help maximize your progress towards that specific goal. Figuring out WHO is involved in helping you reach that goal can ensure that when you run into roadblocks or have questions you know who to go to in order to get the answers you need to continue forward.
Step 3 - How are you going to MEASURE your progress? This is probably the most simple step but it's very important! If you don't have a specific way to measure your progress how are you going to know you're making any? If your goal is fitting into those pants, measuring waist circumference or thigh circumference can be your way of checking progress. If your goal is being able to run your first 5k, measuring how far you can run before taking a break is your standard. Whatever your goal, figure out how you're going to track it!
Step 4 - Make that goal ACHIEVABLE! Let's be honest, saying you want to play in the NBA by the end of the year when you're 5'1" and have no hops is probably not going to happen. The same thing goes for saying you want to lose 30lbs in the next month, also probably not going to happen. Make sure that the goal you set for yourself is do-able. Not sure?? Well guess what, you should have just developed your "team" in the prior step and I can bet one of them can tell you whether that goal you have set for yourself is a realistic one or whether it needs to be adjusted so you aren't setting yourself up for failure.
Step 5 - Is your goal RELEVANT? This is your WHY!! Why are you doing this? Is it for yourself? If it is, you're ahead of the game! This is an "intrinsic motivator" and it's the most powerful kind! It's what will keep you going on those days when you really don't feel like it. If not, is it because someone else wants you to do it? This is an "extrinsic motivator" and it's not nearly as strong. Maybe you THINK it's for yourself but it's really because of an outside force? Sometimes it's hard to tell. Wanting to lose 20lbs. so you can be more attractive to your significant other or get more dates is an extrinsic factor. However, wanting to lose 20lbs so you can be more self-confident and indirectly be more attractive can be an intrinsic motivator! Trying to lower your cholesterol because your doctor said it's at a dangerous level is an extrinsic factor but stopping to think about it and deciding you want to lower your cholesterol so you can be around longer to see your grandkids is an intrinsic one. See how just changing your thinking can ultimately change your motivator? Your mindset and your driving force are your most powerful tool when attacking those goals. The stronger your WHY the more successful you will be!
Step 6 - Your goal needs to be TIME-ORIENTED! Tomorrow easily turns into next week which easily turns into next year. Without having deadlines for yourself you are setting yourself up for failure. SET A DEADLINE! Olympic athletes aren't training for the olympics SOMETIME in the future. They know exactly when the big day is and they know exactly when all the time trials along the way will be. This is what gets them out of bed on those cold dreary mornings when they really don't want to. Those ticking minutes, those days ripped off the calendar. They can see that date approaching and it drives them to work harder and make sure they're ready. It's the same for all of us. Knowing you have something specific you're trying to accomplish by a certain date can be a great motivating factor.
Step 7 - Develop your plan of attack. This is when you need to start writing everything down if you haven't already. I'm serious, do you have a piece of paper out in front of you right now?! Ok, that's better. Set that main goal and write it at the top of your page in big letters! Now right below it write down the date you want to reach that main goal. Ok, now that you have your baseline let's start breaking it down. Set some small goals. If you're main one was to lose 20lbs in the next 6 months let's break that down to losing 3.3lbs by the end of the month. Having small goals along the way is a MUST and keeps you on track. Alright, now that you have your goals planned out let's write down what it's going to take to get you there. Maybe making it to 3 exercise classes a week, drinking at least 100oz. of water each day, eating out no more than 2 times each week, and going for a walk every evening after dinner. Now you have your daily and weekly goes to keep you on track.
Step 8 - Put it into action. Write these daily goals down somewhere you can see them every day and start getting to work!
Step 9 - BE FLEXIBLE! There may be times when you don't hit that goal for the day or that goal for the week or month. Don't fall victim to the all or nothing attitude. Nobody is perfect, everyone has off days and weeks and doesn't reach benchmarks they set for themselves. Take a minute and look at what may have hindered you in your progress and where you can do better. Reset those goals, and move forward again working harder. In the grand scheme of things you're not going to care once you reach that big goal if it took you 6 months or 8.
Now get out there and crush some goals!!