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Have you read Goal Setting: Part I?
Making The Plan
So, it’s that time of year. A time when we start thinking about fresh starts. New goals. Changing patterns. Being better. You’ve decided this is your year! You joined a gym. You threw out the junk food. You got a great deal on a used treadmill off of Craigslist that some guy bought last New Year’s and only used twice. You’re ready!
But did you make your plan? Or are you just winging it? Did you write it down? Or is it just in your head? There’s something powerful about writing your goals down in your own handwriting, and there’s a little more accountability when you put it on paper. There’s even more accountability when you share it with someone else.
We’ve all heard the acronym for SMART goals, right? Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Some authors even use SMARTER, adding “evaluated” and “reviewed”. These are excellent reminders of how to set better goals. Other than not having a plan, not tracking results is the other big reason we don’t succeed. Choose something important to you, something motivated by a deep pull within you. Make it trackable. Track it. And adjust as needed. Here are a few tips for getting your final plan down on paper.
Find your “Why”
Your goals need to come from a high priority place in your life. There should be value in achieving them. They should feel urgent. It’s much easier to commit to something that means so much to you. If your want for it doesn’t outweigh all the inevitable obstacles that will come your way, you will find it easy to put it off, which can leave you disappointed or frustrated with yourself.
Ex: If your goal is “I want to buy a house,” your why might be “I want to provide a safe place for my children to grow up.” The why feels urgent and important and will motivate you to keep going.
Pick your end goal and work back from there.
Ex: I want to lose 50lbs by the end of the year. That’s 52 weeks away, so I’m looking at around 1 pound a week to stay on track.
Now apply the acronym (Is this specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound?)
Ex: I want to save $10,000 this year. That’s $833/month or $417/paycheck.
Is this SMART? If not, adjust. We want you to push yourself, but setting goals too extreme just sets yourself up to fail and strengthens the belief that you’re not capable. We’d rather see you build confidence as you achieve smaller goals over and over.
Ask yourself how?
Every time you write a goal down, just keep asking yourself how, and then write that down and ask yourself how again and so on until you’ve broken it down as far as you can.
Ex: “I want to lose 50lbs this year.”
“by losing 1 pound a week every week.”
“by working out more”
“I’ll work out 3x a week”
“I’ll lift weights and do cardio”
“I’ll do a full body circuit and the elliptical”
“I’ll take that 8am weight training class and do the elliptical for 30mins”
You get the point.
Hint: The best exercise is the one you like. Because it’s the one you’re actually going to do. If you get down to your small steps and realize you’ve signed yourself up for something dreadful, then it’s not going to be sustainable. There are multiple ways to your goal. This isn’t supposed to be punishment. It should be enjoyable. You’re adding this in for life, remember.
Focus on and celebrate the process, not just the outcome
It’s great to have a long term goal broken into measurable smaller steps to track your progress, but science tells us that beginners should set more behavioral goals vs. outcome goals. Meaning, make your goal “work out 3x a week” instead of “lose 10lbs this month”. So once you get your plan broken down to the specific steps you need to do on a daily basis, just focus on completing those. If you focus on the process, the outcome will take care of itself. But maybe not at the exact pace you planned. Every body is different and responds differently. There is a lot of trial and error in the beginning at finding what works for you and what is sustainable. It’s much better to be checking off things and celebrating small victories, building confidence and knowing the results are on the way, than to work so hard and not see that number at the end of the month and get discouraged. Once you learn how your body reacts, then you can place more realistic expectations on outcomes in the future.
Track and Adjust
If I ask you two months from now how your goal is going and you respond with, “pretty good I think,” then you are not tracking your results. How can you know if something is working if you don’t ever measure its effectiveness? And if it’s not working then let’s figure that out so we aren’t wasting time. Let’s adjust. It’s ok to veer from the original plan. If you realize you’re not on pace, that’s ok. The whole thing isn’t shot. Don’t just give up. And you don’t need another Monday, or 1st of the month, or new year to start again. Just readjust your numbers and keep going, celebrating every achievement along the way. Plan ahead for this by asking yourself, “What am I going to do if I don’t stick to the plan?” and have steps in place for getting back on track. So what you gained back four pounds because you had three birthday parties in one weekend. Now you get to celebrate losing that weight twice!
Involve a support system
These people will help you when motivations drop and the inevitable obstacles arise. Select these people wisely, tell them what you’re going to need, how you like to be encouraged, and make sure they are fully signed on. Develop specific things ahead of time that they can do to contribute to your success. Actually write these things down and have them agree to do them when needed. Make sure you have more than one person in your corner.