Have you ever given up on a goal before you even set it? Maybe you found it so daunting a task that you gave up before even giving yourself a chance? You’re not the only one.
Sometimes we give up on our goals early because they are too large and too broad from the get-go. If you’ve read any articles on wellness or personal development, you’ve probably read that goals are a great way to feel motivated. And while goals can be difficult to reach, they can also be tricky to set.
How do we go about setting a goal and then make it stick? In just a few easy steps, you can set yourself up for success. The key is to be realistic. Not by setting the bar low for yourself, but by breaking up a big goal into smaller, more manageable parts.
The first step is to get out a pen and paper or open your note-taking app. Ask yourself, “what is my goal?” Be as specific as possible. Write the goal down at the top of the page. Next, ask yourself, “when?”– again, be very specific– and write down the day of the week and the time of day that you’d like to have your goal achieved by, also the start date when you’re going to work on it. Consider how long, how often, where you’ll be completing this goal and working towards it. The location is very important. Write it all down!
Here’s an example: “My goal is to practice yoga twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 7:30 am for half an hour in my living room.” See what I mean by specific?
The second step is to ask yourself how likely or confident you feel about carrying out your plan. Use a scale of 0-10, where ”0” means you’re not at all confident and “10” means that you are very confident.
If you find yourself at a 7 or 8, ask yourself, “what could raise my confidence?” and “what obstacles are getting in the way?” I like to call this the crystal ball approach. You take a look at the goal from various angles without judgment. When we have insight and we can identify obstacles, we can work around them and fine tune our initial goal to set ourselves up for greater success.
Go back to the goal at the top of your page and begin to break it down into smaller steps, including the preparatory steps you may have to take to make that goal happen. For example, if your goal is to do yoga twice a week, include specifics like get the yoga mat out of the closet and put it on the living room floor, prepare a glass of water, make sure the room is tidy, put on some music, and don’t forget the aftermath, roll up the mat and put it back in the closet. You may find you need to extend the time required for your goal to 45 minutes to include these steps. Visualize yourself going through all these steps as if you were actually working toward your goal. As you go, go back to your original goal and make any modifications you need to.
The third and critical last step in goal setting is one that will seriously impact your ability to meet goals. It’s the commitment part that helps us feel accountable to ourselves. Research shows that if we share our goals or even check in with someone as we work towards our goal then we are more likely to meet it. This could look like telling a family member, friend or even your therapist about your progress toward your goal. Again, write this down because this is a powerful part. Here’s an example: “Next Wednesday I am going to tell my therapist when we meet at 10 am about how my goal to practice yoga twice a week is going.”
Once you’ve got the goal set and you’re ready to put your plan in motion, try to give yourself some credit for setting your goal. Acknowledging your achievements, i.e. giving yourself a pat on the back, increases the likelihood of a positive result as you move towards your goal.