We are creatures of habits. Even the most unpredictable among us likely has some behaviors and mindsets that are woven through whatever seeming randomness makes up their lives. The funny thing is that once we’ve developed these habits or ways of living, changing them is difficult and intimidating. So what do we do? We develop another behavior pattern, of course—the New Year’s Resolution. Every year we take time to reflect on how we’ve lived and the decisions we’ve made over the previous 12 months (i.e., our behaviors and patterns) and resolve to make changes for the better. We’ll lose weight, drink less, love more, run faster, swim farther, and do that really creative thing we’ve wanted to do since freshman year. And just to ensure the tradition continues, we also have a grand habit of abandoning these resolutions by mid-February, thus we then we have fodder for next December’s resolution list.
It’s a sad story, but also a true one. So let’s do something about it: Let’s create a habit of achievement. Will it be easy? No, of course not. But HOTSHOT readers are generally accustomed to taking on the not easy. Will it be rewarding? Absolutely, especially when compared with the alternative option of continual goal failure. The problem is not that people are lazy or don’t really want to achieve positive change in their lives. We believe a big problem is that we aren’t very good at setting our goals. To help, we’ve put together a list of tips on how to set achievable, meaningful goals.
- Develop SMART Goals – This simple acronym is a great guide to develop the right type of goal. Make sure your goal is S “I will lose some weight,” is not specific. Instead, make your goal, “I will lose 35 pounds by April 1.” These goals should also be Measurable. You can see the progress and rate of your weight loss. “I will weight train in the gym at least three mornings per week,” is measurable. You went or you didn’t, three times a week or not, and it was in the morning or some other time. Your goals should be Action-oriented. You should be able to look at your goal and develop a plan of processes and actions to get you there. In our weight-loss example, actions include exercise, grocery shopping, and healthy meal preparation. Goals must be Realistic. You’re not a professional recording artist? Selling a million copies of your soon-to-be-recorded album by June is probably not realistic. You want goals to be challenging, but still realistic. Lastly, the goal should be Time-bound. Your goals need a deadline. You’ll improve your 5k pace by x seconds by some specific time. Even ongoing goals designed to develop a discipline have time constraints, such as writing 1,000 words per week, going to the gym four times per week, and so on.
- Find a partner – We often hear about accountability partners for achieving goals, and we’ll talk about that in another post. However, that supportive, candid friend is also invaluable in setting strong, SMART goals. We often either over -- or under -- estimate what we can or will do. “If I set my mind to it, I can shave 40 seconds per kilometer of my 5k pace by March.” No, no you can’t. “If I try, I should be able to drop five pounds by June.” You could sleep til June and meet this goal. You need a friend to be a sounding board and to give you a more realistic view of your capabilities. Choose this friend well. You don’t need a sad-sack or a yes-man. You need honesty and candor.
- Write It Down – There appears to be some real power in writing down your goals. It’s a sort of declaration, a tangible statement of what you are setting forth to accomplish. It’s no longer an idea or a thought. You have given it substance. These written goals are a good visual filter for other opportunities or decisive factor for competing options. Should you do A? Does it hinder achieving your goal? How about choosing between A and B? Which one most helps achieve this goal? Having the articulated, SMART goal written in front of you is a constant reminder and motivator.
- Challenging, but attainable – If you don’t feel like your goal is challenging, then don’t make it a goal and just get it done. We need a challenge to feel like we’re accomplishing something worth the time and effort we’re putting into it. We do need to ensure a balance here, though. If our goal is too challenging, we may not be able to justify the cost. When you review your goals and feel that something is too challenging and you’re setting yourself up for failure, you’ll be glad you made specific, measurable, time-bound goals. You have at least three dials to turn and fine tune your goal. Is the amount of weight, time shaved off a run, or frequency of gym visits too much? Is your deadline approaching too soon? Keep it challenging, but make sure you can look at it with clear eyes and see a success through a good bit of effort.
What goal-setting tips have worked well for you in the past? How do you know when the challenge is too great or not stout enough? We want to help make 2018 a year of successes and achievements. Tell us what works for you and what you seem to struggle with in goal setting. We’re always available, so come see us: We’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If your goal is, “Run without muscle cramps as soon as possible,” work on your time-bound parameters, then head over here and pick up your order of HOTSHOT. It’s the only product scientifically proven to both treat and prevent muscle cramps. Nothing like a quick success to start the year off right!