It is now the second week of January. 2018 weekly planners are scarce, the gym is packed and budgets are looking pristine. Did you set the bar high for things to achieve in 2018? Or maybe you’re a dreamer, in a perpetual state of looking to improve your life. It’s never too late to set goals, and more importantly, to think about successful goal setting.
I had a professor in college who made each of his students write down their goals for the semester on day one. He would ask somebody to share their top three goals.
1. Maintain a 3.5 GPA
2. Get fit
3. Get more than 6 hours of sleep each night
He would stop the student and ask: “How are you going to maintain a 3.5 GPA?”
Student: “Study for each class throughout the course, and not just when there’s an exam”
Professor: “How are you going to study for each class throughout the course?”
Student: “Study each subject for 30 minutes a night”
Professor: “How are you going to study for each course 30 minutes a night? How will taking that 30 minutes out of your day affect the rest of your schedule? Which study techniques are you going to use?”
And so the conversation goes. Point being, how are you going to make these big goals attainable and sustainable? How will the goals you create shift your day to day life? You need to break them into smaller goals to really understand how much time and effort each goal will take on a daily basis.
Find your “why”
But before breaking each main goal into smaller subsets, perhaps consider the why behind each goal. To stay motivated and persistent with each goal, you need to understand why you chose this goal and how it will affect your life once you have accomplished it (or not). Next to each main goal write the why. Ask yourself, why do you want to get fit? What will be better when you are a fit individual? Why do you want to get more sleep? How will your life be better when you get more sleep?
Use the SMART acronym to make sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. When you are breaking each main goal into smaller goals, get specific. Under the “fitness” goal, explicitly state what being “fit” means to you. Put a measurable value to it. Make sure it’s realistic within the resources available to you, and set a due date. In fact, set multiple due dates throughout the year. You can do this quarterly, at the halfway mark, or monthly, depending on your time frame. I suggest setting an alert on your phone or on your calendar to remind you at the beginning of each month to check in with yourself. Not only will this keep you accountable, but it will allow you to reflect on the work you have already done and assess what is left to be done in order to reach your goal.
Verbalize your goals
Speaking of accountability, verbalize your goals with the tight knit people in your life. Communicating your action plan for what you want to achieve not only solidifies it for yourself, but it makes the people around you aware of what you will be focused on in the foreseeable future. The goal (no pun intended), is to have people who support you and can spark some encouragement when motivation is illusive.
Now that you have tailored your goals to be SMART, you have a timeframe in mind, and a solid support system, you get to put in the work! Take small action steps each day and document your progress, and don’t forget to celebrate each small achievement and give yourself a break when things don’t always go according to your plan.