Set SMART goals
There are a couple of reasons why good intentions don’t always translate into the desired results.
The goals may not have been realistic in the first place. “I’d like to become an astronaut,” has a lot more opportunities to not work out than “I’d like to learn more about space and astronomy.” So, setting the goal of becoming an Olympic gold-medalist in distance running might not be realistic if you’re 45 and work at a desk 40+ hours per week.
More of us, however, recognize the limitations that our lives may put on our goals and tailor accordingly.
Where we get into trouble is that we don’t structure our goals in ways that will allow them to be successful. After all, even if you’re 16 and a strong runner, you won’t make the Olympic team without setting a series of shorter-term goals, and executable plans to achieving each of them. You'd also be well-advised to have some “if-then” alternatives for when things don’t turn out as expected (inevitable, right?).
So, we recommend SMART goals. SMART stands for — specific (and written), measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
Here’s an example of an ineffective goal: “I’m going to get it together and get fit.”
This is far more likely to serve as a roadmap to success:
“I’m going to get up 30 minutes earlier each day. On four of those days, I will take a walk of 25 minutes. The other three days, I will meditate and/or do yoga for 25 minutes.
"I will also do Step class twice per week.
"Finally, I will take my lunch to work four days per week so that I can control the portion sizes and the salt/fat/calorie content of the ingredients.
“The money I save on lunch will go for my gym membership and weekly/monthly rewards when I stick to my plan [event, day out, spa pampering, audio book, trip to the museum...make them non-food rewards].
“Following this plan should give me a net calorie deficit of 1,900 calories per week [using averages for a 160-pound starting weight], enabling me to lose 2.5 pounds per month, totaling a loss of 30 pounds by this time next year.”
That goal spells out exactly what you are going to do and exactly what you expect to achieve, by when. It becomes simple to see if you are on track, both in carrying out the steps outlined, and in the interim result.
This same method can be used if you are already relatively fit but want to take on a bigger challenge than you’ve done before — participating in some long distance event or preparing for an epic version of things you already do (taking the scouts to the Grand Tetons? Gonna need to train for that!).
It’s also a recommended way to achieve personal financial goals (creating that 6-month cash cushion that the financial consultants always talk about!), increasing performance at work (close one additional sale each month), knocking out household projects (get the basement cleaned out and finished into a useful space)...the list could be endless.
Bonus: achieving interim and long-term goals has a range of knock-on benefits, including reduction of the stress hormones associated with knowing that something needs to be addressed but hasn't been AND the thrill of victory, which is a physiological thing, featuring surges in “feel good” hormones like testosterone — in both men and women — and dopamine!
Where did 2015 go? Hopefully, it's been a collection of good times, good friends and a fitter YOU! No matter your fitness right now, though, you can always use a few extras in your toolbox. Or, maybe you're in the process of transforming yourself, and looking for concrete steps to help you reach your goals. We'd like to offer you 30 tips (and a bonus) to assist as we launch ourselves into 2016: