The Art of Goal Setting

New year, new you right?  As we enter the new year it got me thinking, we all have goals and things we want to accomplish in life.  The hard part is following through.  We all have reasons and excuses on why we can’t do certain things.  Part of what makes it easier to give into those excuses is poor goal setting.

Coming from a corporate background I have learned that the art of goal setting is not just fluffy pretty goals that make you sound ambitious or determined.  The art of goal setting is subtle and specific.  Here are some things to consider when setting goals that will not only make you more confident about hitting them but make them more achievable.

  1. Identify your long term goal.  Is it to lose 100 lbs?  Get a promotion at work?  Knowing the big prize at the end of the road can help you stay focused on the tasks at hand.
  2. Break that big goal into mini goals.  Just like you don’t pick up an entire steak and eat it, you first cut it into manageable bites.  Do the same with your goal.
    1. These mini bite sized goals should be around specific behaviors that lead to your end goal.  I say behaviors because those are the things in your control.  You cannot control something abstract or that involves other people but you can control what you do, say, and think.  Ex. Instead of saying Lose 10 Lbs, say cut out soda intake, or only have dessert 3x per week instead of nightly.  The first is an end game but has no direction at hitting it.  The second options are specific things that will help lead to the end game of losing 10 lbs.
  3. Reward yourself!  Have things that you will do along the way to recognize your own accomplishment.  As you hit each of your mini goals you should be proud and celebrate.  That is one more step toward your long term goal!

I also like setting SMART goals for my mini goals especially but your long term goal should SMART too. SMART is a mnemonic acronym to help you remember aspects of goal setting.  Here it is broken down:

S- Specific: This means that your goal is something that is distinct and controllable. If you can’t name the area you are wanting to work on it can be hard to work on it.

M- Measurable: There should be some measure of success.  Whether it is one you set yourself or one that is pre-established.  But without a success measure identified ahead of time you could end up going in the wrong direction.

A- Achievable:  Is this goal something that is realistic?  Something you’re in control of?  For example, the goal of “becoming more popular,” is a terrible goal.  For one it focuses on something that you have no control over.  You cannot control if people like you, plain and simple.  So making your goal center around something outside of your control makes it unrealistic and unachievable.  Make it instead on things you can control, like treating people with respect and acknowledging everyone who speaks to you.  Those goals are things directly in your control and can help influence people’s opinion of you.

R- Relatable: Does this mini goal relate to the main goal?  Examine how it helps or hinders your main goal.

T- Time Bound: Set a timeline for yourself.  Open ended goals give you room to push off the work of achieving them to a “better time.”  There is no better time.  There will always be excuses so set a reasonable timeframe for you to achieve the goal.

The thing I like about SMART goals is that it naturally helps you select behaviors and things within your control for your goals instead of indistinct and abstract concepts.  This alone is the biggest thing in goal setting.  Goals help us by giving us a direction to use specific behaviors for the purpose of achievement.

Another way to look at it is like a fill in the blank.  My goal is to ___________ by doing __________________.  From there you make your mini goals: Mini goal 1 – ? will be centered around specific aspects of the second blank.  For example:

  • My goal is to lose 100 lbs by living a healthier lifestyle.  (A healthy lifestyle will then be made more specific with my mini goals.)
    • Mini Goal one: By the end of January I will not eat out more than 1x per week.  (This is specific, I’m able to measure my success, it’s achievable and in my control, it’s relevant to my overall goal, and I have a specific timeframe to achieve it.) 
    • Mini Goal two: By the beginning of January I will ensure that my meal plans and grocery list include plans for 3 meals and 2 snacks per day for each member of my house. (Again, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. )
    • Mini Goal three: By the end of January I will hit my step goal of 11,000 steps per day at least 6 days per week by walking walking in place 10 minutes an hour between 9-5pm. 
    • Mini Goal four: By the end of February I will limit eating out to no more than 3x per month.  etc…

As you go you will notice that some mini goals are related to each other.  You’ll also notice that Mini Goal one and four are related.  I didn’t just set a goal for myself to rarely eat out.  Instead, I set a goal to start scaling back and am slowly going to walk that goal back until I achieve my end game of eating out being a treat and not a rule.

Remember the only thing holding you back is often you own limiting beliefs.  Try to take the negative self talk out and instead focus on things you know you are in control of.  Share one of your goals in the comments!

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