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Tips for Setting Goals


Setting Goals

It’s the New Year it’s time to make New Year’s Resolutions or instead New Year’s Goals. What’s the difference? Resolutions vs Goals. I like looking up definitions of things so how about we start there. 

Resolution: a firm decision to do or not to do something. 

Goal: the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.

With those definitions in mind I’d like to suggest a shift to creating goals instead of resolutions. A resolution is simply saying you will or won’t do something but doesn’t really take things further. Resolutions also don’t offer a lot of grace. For example, if your resolution is to stop eating sweets and then you have a single bite of cake at a friends 21st birthday a resolution says you failed. Instead if you had a goal to only eat sweets for special occasions and that one bite was the only sweet thing you had all year, I’d say that’s a win. This is why a few years back, I switched from making resolutions to creating personal goals. Goals are more concrete and if written properly are more achievable with a higher success rate than merely making a new resolution. So here are my three tips for goal setting.

#1 – Be Realistic

The new year comes with so much positive energy. It’s a fresh start and excitement is high. But writing a goal to hit the gym seven days a week when you work full time, volunteer at church, have four kids running in four different directions, not to mention a spouse to spend time with, seven times a week may be a little unrealistic. Any good fitness instructor, shoot dare I say even The Rock, would say you need a rest day. What happens if you get sick, injure yourself or simply don’t have the time. It’s inevitable that you’ll miss going to the gym one week. What happens then? Did you fail? Do you quit?  

Here is what I’d like to suggest. Instead let’s tweak that goal to be more like I’ll workout on average 5 days week. First of all did you see the change in the word from “hit the gym” to “workout”. This in itself gives you grace. Maybe you don’t have time to get to the gym but you do have 30 minutes to get in a run around your neighborhood. Boom! You completed your workout for the day. The term “on average” gives you some grace as well. Some weeks may be more some may be less as long as you stay in the average range and hit about 20 days a month you’re winning! 

One last suggestion, if you’re unsure if your goal is realistic or too far over the top, ask a friend or my go to … cut your goal in half.  

# 2 Make it Measurable 

The best way to stay motivated and moving forward with your goal it to make sure its measurable. If there is no way to measure your progress, how will you know if you’re hitting the mark? Weight loss goals are the easiest example here but also the one most people regularly struggle with and then give up. So here is my advice. Find more than one way to measure your goal. Sure the number on the scale is great but try taking tape measurements or photos of yourself. I personally have to take pictures and I add a clothing size to reach, because I have never reached my scale goal. But guess what, I did back myself into those size 10 jeans I wanted to wear. I count that as a win! Goal accomplished. However, if i had only focused on one method of measurement and didn’t hit that scale number I would have felt defeated and most likely given up on pursuing any further fitness goals. 

Another tip on measuring … break it up into bite sized chunks. Sometimes a “lose 50lbs” seems so big and unattainable. Start with 5-10lbs. Celebrate the win when you reach it and then reset and go for another 5-10lbs. It’s the whole “how do you eat an elephant” method, one bite at a time. 

# 3 Who’s the Boss

No, no, not the TV show with Tony Danza. I’m pretty sure I just aged myself there but it was one of my faves. When I say who’s the boss I mean make sure you can control the outcome. Sometimes we have these great goal ideas but the outcomes can’t fully be controlled by our own efforts. For example making a goal to be on a top 10 list or have your photography featured in a magazine is more of a hope or wish. Why? Because no matter how great your work may be you can’t control the outcome. The judges or voters are the ones who decide the outcome. I’m not saying you shouldn’t pursue being on top 10 list or featured in publications, I just don’t think it makes a good goal. Make sure you control the ability to succeed or fail when writing your goals. 

Let’s rewrite that goal to look something like this instead. Produce 10 pieces of art to be submitted for the top 10 list and/or the feature publication. Now that is a goal you can control. 

Bonus Take Time to Review 

This isn’t a goal setting tip but it is essential to the process. At some point don’t forget to review your progress. I promise this step is essential. I’ll give you a personal example. A long time ago I started one of those 12 week fitness programs. After taking my before pictures and began the program. I was doing awesome! I kept up with the schedule, pushed myself during workouts and was eating pretty good. When I hit the six week mark and took my mid-point pictures. Here is where things fell apart. I wasn’t feeling like I was making any real progress. I didn’t look any different in the mirror. Sure the weights I was using increased and I could run longer and faster but I couldn’t see a change. So guess what I did? I quit! I gave up on the goal.

Now this fun little fact will really let you know how old I am. Those six week mid-point pictures, remember those? I never looked at them. Mainly because this was before digital photography and I had to finish the roll of film in order to get it developed and then wait a few weeks for them to get processed. When I finally finished the roll and got the pictures back guess what I saw? A HUGE difference between my start point and six-week check-in. I was so sad and mad and frustrated with myself. I was making progress. A change was happening. I was succeeding. But because I didn’t stop to properly review my goal and check-in on the progress I quit thinking I was’t making a difference based upon how I felt. UGH! Please don’t skip this step. Take the time to review your goals. 

Alright, there you go. If you’ve still been making resolutions you’ll consider switching to creating goals. I hope as you do, you’ll keep these three goal setting tips in mind as you move forward in the new year. 

Setting Goals