Goals range from small to large, short term to long term, work goals, family goals, educational goals, fitness goals, the list is endless. Sometimes you don’t even realise that you have set a goal, big or small e.g. I will get this report finished by 11am, I will meal prep for the next 4 days tonight, I will finish my degree and qualify as a doctor/vet/nurse/accountant (me in a previous life!!). Goals are what you reach for and are oftentimes what get you through every day.
If you are setting goals without realising it then why should I even bother sitting down and writing out some specific goals? Here is why you should:
- Goal setting allows you to develop a clear plan: Without a clear plan you may not know what you want to achieve and will therefore struggle to accomplish them. If you set a clear plan you create direction. If you create direction you can put in place actions to get you moving along the path towards accomplishing the goal. Whether long term or short term having a clear plan will allow you to reach your goal faster.
- Helps to figure out what you should prioritise: To put it simply, prioritising reduces time wasting. After you have set your end goal, you should then look at the steps that are needed to reach the goal. If you identify the steps that are needed as well as some of the potential roadblocks, this allows you to prioritise the actions that you must implement. Prioritising will identify distractions e.g. television, food, internet, training the wrong areas based on your goal etc. If you have set your goal and created the plan you are now aware of these distractions and can focus on actions and activities that will add value and reduce time taken to reach that goal.
- Increases ability to identify strengths and weaknesses: By setting that goal, you can identify where you need to work most to achieve that goal. If you struggle with a specific movement in the gym e.g. overhead squat and you have the strength to hold that bar overhead but cannot get into the correct position to squat, there is a good chance that mobility is a weakness. So if you have set a goal of a 50kg overhead squat and you are already strong enough (the strength) but mobility lets you down (the weakness), you are now in a position to prioritise mobility going forward and you can now develop a clear plan as to how improve your mobility e.g. focusing on mobility work for 20 minutes a day everyday while maintaining strength, so that in 6 weeks’ time you will be able to test that overhead squat and measure the progress. This identification of strengths and weaknesses can be applied to any area of your life and is a great tool to help you dial in on areas that need more work. The areas that need extra work will be the reason you are able to achieve your final goal quicker.
It is also important to be aware of the disadvantages that can be associated with setting goals e.g. additional pressure (by a workplace colleague, family member or yourself) to reach a goal, which may not be attainable. There can also be the sense of failure attached to not reaching that goal. Setting an unrealistic goal that you will never reach will generally lead to you not setting another goal as there was no sense of satisfaction and no reward. Therefore, it is important to keep it realistic, set reachable goals, bask in the glory of attaining the goal and then set the next goal. If you feel like the goal was met too easily then make it slightly harder. Refine it, reduce the target time, increase the target weight, increase the number of days you must exercise, increase your target sales number etc.
How do I figure out whether the goal I have set is reachable? One of the most effective tools I have come across is the very simple SMART model. Below is a quick breakdown of what the SMART model entails:
S – Specific: The more specific you are, the more likely you are to reach the goal. I want to earn loads of money vs I want to earn €10,000 per month for the next 20 years by developing a new app. The first goal is not specific, the second goal is.
M – Measurable: Break it down into small elements. By having measurable elements in place to track progress, you will be able to see if you are on track, if adjustments are needed, if you are ahead of schedule. If you are not able to measure progress, how do you know if you will be able to reach that goal. I would like to be healthy is a goal but how do you measure if you are on track. To make it measurable you state, ‘I would like to be healthy so to do this I will eat 3 different vegetables every day for the next 4 weeks.’ This is measurable as in 4 weeks’ time you can check if you have done so by looking at your food diary or checking your calendar to see how many days you have marked as successful days where you have eaten 3 vegetables.
A – Attainable: If the goal is completely out of reach and you have put in all the necessary work, then it can be very demoralising. Avoid that disappointment by setting an achievable goal. You can still aim big but have goals along the way that lead you to the overall goal. Establish a reasonable timeframe to achieve the goal. If you are systematic and continue to progress, the small goals that you attain will eventually add up to that one overall goal. However, if you are unrealistic at the start and set that bar a little too high, with too short a timeframe then it is likely to lead to disappointment. Disappointment which is avoidable if you set attainable/achievable targets.
R – Realistic: Set high goals, goals that will push you and make you work, but they still need to be realistic. Make sure that the goals you set are to ultimately realise your dream, whether work, sporting or family. Set a goal that requires work, that motivates you. If it is too easy, then there is no motivation to get it done.
T – Time bound: The best way to set a goal is to set a time frame or deadline for when you need to get it done by. This is likely to give you the sense of urgency that you require to achieve the goal. Break it down into stages. If you have a 1-year goal, set mini goals for 6 months, 3 months, 1 month even 1 week. This allows you to progress along the stages that are required to reach that 1-year goal.
When you are setting your goal remember the following:
- Write the goal down.
- Use positive language when setting the goal.
- Be as detailed as possible.
- Make sure that you have it on display in a place that you will see it every day.
Challenge yourself when setting your goals but make sure that at some stage, through hard work and consistency you can reach that goal, whether it is 1 day, 1 week, 1 year or 20 years from now.