Setting realistic and achievable goals is an important step if you hope to achieve success. Goals give us purpose and direction, but the wrong goals can also set us up for failure. To help you make 2018 your most successful year yet, follow this 6-step goal-setting guide:
Set a SMART goal
Use the SMART approach to goal setting, which is an acronym for:
Specific: You need a clear endpoint, figure or marker to work towards. Running a race is a terribly vague goal. Running a 5km race in 25 minutes is far more specific.
Measurable: The specificity of your goal also ensures that it is measurable. For example, while it’s great that you lost 2 kilos of body fat, your goal is 5, so keep going to achieve success.
Achievable: Do you have the time and resources to commit to the attainment of your goal? Can you afford a gym contract and healthier food options? Do you have the time to dedicate to training for an hour, 4-5 times a week? It’s worth establishing these parameters upfront before committing to a specific goal.
Realistic: Are your expectations realistic? Can you really lose 20 kilograms in 3 months? If your goals are unrealistic, it’s unlikely that you’ll achieve them and you’ll end up abandoning them.
Timely: Working toward open-ended goals with no deadline is a sure-fire way for your motivation levels to wane and drift over time.
Interrogate that goal
Once you’ve determined your goal or goals, make sure it’s the right goal for you. The reason why you want to achieve a goal must hold substance to be effective.
Many of us fail to achieve success because we choose to do things that we don’t like doing to achieve an outcome. Obviously, achieving goals you actually want to accomplish in the first place will set you up for success, rather than abject failure at the first stumbling block.
During the interrogation process, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why did you choose that goal?
- Why do you want to achieve this goal?
- How much do you really want or need to achieve this goal?
- What will happen if you don’t achieve your goal?
- Am I making this harder than it needs to be?
- How will your efforts to attain this goal fit into your current lifestyle and situation?
- Do you have sufficient time to dedicate to achieving the goal in the timeframe you’ve set out?
Set a new goal (if required)
Go back to the drawing board, using the SMART principle to define a goal that holds substance and intrinsic value in your life. Be sure to define your big, overarching long-term goal, and other smaller, more immediate and easily attainable goals to keep you motivated and progressing.
By breaking the larger goal up into smaller steps, or mini-projects, each of which need to be completed before you can move on to the next, you constantly achieve new goals and create a lifestyle whereby consistent action is taken towards the overarching objective, even if you’re not actively thinking about or focusing on achieving the bigger goal.
Plot your timeline
Ensure that your goal has a realistic timeframe and that you set yourself a specific end date.
Create a plan and system
Following these goal-setting principles also helps to define an actionable plan, because, without a plan, goals are merely wishes. This workable plan should give you the blueprint to how exactly you will achieve your goals. This may require the assistance of a qualified professional, such as a personal trainer or dietitian, but the investment will be worth it.
Ultimately, though, the most successful plans are those that seek to establish and entrench systems, rather than doggedly chase goal-oriented outcomes. Ultimately, your system becomes what you do each day to progress towards your ultimate goal. The key here is to determine whether, if you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get the results? If the answer is ‘yes’, then you’ve successfully done what so many people fail to achieve, which is to make their goals attainable through a change in lifestyle, rather than short-lived quick fixes.
Follow the systems with perseverance and persistence
Having set your goals, formulated a plan and established your system, it’s now time to work towards achieving these outcomes. But before you start, let go of your attachment to the goal itself. That’s because the only thing we can control are our daily actions; what we eat, how and when we train, how we handle our stress, and whether we sleep enough.
We should always remember that we have complete control over our daily actions and that it is our daily actions that determine the eventual outcome. By focusing on what we do daily, the goal is no longer the most important element in your day-to-day approach, but rather how you plan to achieve it and how well you stick to the plan – doing what you need to do when you should, as best you can.
Fixating on future-based goals takes your focus off the present and what you need to be doing now to succeed. In the end, it is the process of preparation toward a goal, and the benefits thereof, rather than the attainment of the goal itself, that holds the greatest value in your life.
Get a copy of our January/February issue for a complete Goal Setting Guide – on sale 18 December!
Author: Tanja Schmitz
Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.