For some people, setting goals comes very naturally and they have no trouble articulating what they want. But for a lot of people (including myself) it can be really challenging and confronting. I remember being asked what my 5 year plan was so many times in my early career and my mind was always completely blank. I had no idea, how could I possibly know what I wanted my life to look like in 5 years time? I also hated the idea of locking myself into anything, I preferred the idea of going with the flow and seeing what came my way rather than purposely pushing my life in a certain direction.
Goals don’t have to be big and life-defining, your goal might be to get through one of our challenges, run a certain distance or cook at home 3 nights a week. And you can change your mind if you decide this goal is no longer for you! I’m not here to teach you about SMART goals, I think we all know enough about those. I’m here to share a few things I’ve learnt about setting goals and staying on track so that you actually achieve them.
Attach a feeling to your goal
If your goal is to run 10km, think about how you will feel when you achieve this goal. You might feel proud, excited, happy, alive; you can use as many different words as you like to describe how you will feel. The feeling you attach to your goal will become a much bigger motivator than the end goal itself, so working this out early makes a big difference. Then whenever you can’t be bothered getting up to run, or you’re tempted to stop and walk, you can remind yourself of how you are going to feel at the end when you hit that goal.
Work out why you have set this goal
Spend a little bit of time reflecting on why you have set this goal and what makes it important to you. If your motivation is clearly defined and comes from within rather than being dependent on external factors, you’re much more likely to get to this goal. Make sure you’re not trying to prove anything to anyone other than yourself and that your goal aligns to your personal values.
Set mini goals along the way
This is key! Our end goal is often so far out of sight that it becomes much too easy to fall off track along the way. Setting mini goals that are easy to achieve is a great way to stay consistent and enjoy regular hits of dopamine on your way to the end goal. The stepping stones are just as important as the finale so pat yourself on the back every time you tick one off. The thought of running 10km might sound daunting and impossible at the start, but running 3km and building up from there sounds completely achievable. Every run you do on your way to that 10km goal is an achievement and deserves to be celebrated. The little kick you get out of finishing each run helps to motivate you and gives you the incentive to get through the next run.
Write it down or make it visible in some way
You’ve probably heard the advice that you should tell someone else your goal, but if this is a little scary, writing it down for yourself is a great alternative. Once it is out of your head and written down, the chance of you actually achieving this goal becomes much greater. Write down your mini goals too and cross them off as you achieve them. When I followed our 10km running program, I stuck it to the fridge and crossed every run off. This was incredibly satisfying and definitely got me out of bed on many mornings when I wanted to hit snooze.
Be kind and realistic with yourself
This is very important. Only speak to yourself the way you would speak to your best friend and focus on what you can control rather than getting caught up in the things you can’t. You might need to be a bit flexible with your goal because sometimes life gets in the way. Bad weather, sickness, work commitments and social events can cause obstacles but that’s ok! Be rational and ask yourself if you can modify your goal or stepping stones to allow for this obstacle. You are much more likely to stay on track if you can avoid negative thoughts and feelings towards yourself.
Achieving goals is as much about setting the right goal for you as it is about how you get there. Set goals that align with your values, know your ‘why’ and celebrate the little wins along the way.