The Secret Of Setting Your Goals Right
It’s the time of year when optimism strikes and we think to ourselves: our New Year’s resolutions will totally work out this time.
But what if this year really could be different?
There are some secrets how to setting goals, so you aim and achieve what you initially wanted.
Choose a goal that matters, not just an easy win.
Our brains are wired to love rewards, so we often set simple goals that make it easy to check off boxes. Did you go to the gym today? Check. Did you write in your journal? Check.
A meaningful goal — one that truly inspires you to change — requires going deeper. Give yourself permission and time to think about what it is you want to experience in your life or what’s getting in the way. Think about what you want in the coming year, then ask yourself why you want that — three times in a row. For example, if you want to quit smoking, ask why do you want to quit? Then, if you would like a better body shape, ask how am I going to feel if I managed to improve it? You get to something that just feels so obviously important to you. It really drives home why that goal matters, and that motivation can bolster you as you work toward the goal.
Focus on the process, not the outcome.
When we set goals, it’s easy to fixate on that magical ending when we’ve reached the goal and everything is better. But we can’t control outcomes, and we certainly can’t will them into existence (though this writer has tried, many times). We have to inch toward them, one choice at a time.
Small changes can pave the way for bigger changes. Ask yourself, what is the smallest thing I can do today that helps me reach my goal? For example, if you’re not feeling very fit and confident, you might accept someone’s invitation to go to the gym, Pilates, ballet class or say decided to start a new program with your personal trainer. From there, just follow the breadcrumbs — one small choice after another.
You can make very, very small changes that are consistent with your big goals without having to understand how you’re going to get to the endgame. If you make daily choices that are consistent with your goal over and over again, you will eventually reach it — though it may look nothing like what you expected.
Frame your goals positively.
How you describe your goal makes a big difference. Focusing on what you want to bring into your life — not what you want to avoid — will make you more likely to actually pursue it. Any sort of avoidance is going to trigger inhibition systems, whereas positive goals are going to trigger approach and reward motivation.
Think about what you want to foster in yourself or what you want to do more often. That positivity can help motivate you when you find yourself slipping. Saying ‘I don’t want to be fat anymore’ gives you no positive motivation to draw on when you just ate the second box of donuts. Be nice to yourself. It works.
Prepare for failure (in a good way).
Moments of failure are inevitable, but most of us abandon the goal entirely when minor failures and setbacks start piling up. We give up on getting fit when we miss the training class, or we forget about losing weight after a night of burgers and milkshakes. In that moment when you fail, often the first instinct is to push the goal away. It’s so uncomfortable to be in that place of self-doubt or self-criticism and guilt.
Your task is not to avoid failures, but to plan for them. Ask yourself, how am I likely to fail? For example, if you’re likely to choose unhealthy meals when you’re hungry, carry a light snack that can tide you over. Psychologists call this an if/then contingency plan, or “if this happens, then I’ll do that.” It’s a mental plan for how you’ll react to things that might trip you up.
When detours and roadblocks come up, remind yourself why your goal matters to you. Those simple reminders about why it’s important can buy your motivation and keep you headed in the right direction.
See you at the studio!