A Guide to Setting and Achieving Goals

A Guide to Setting and Achieving Goals

New Year’s resolutions and achievable goals go hand-in-hand. Or they should, at least. Although as many as 2 in 5 Americans make a New Year’s resolution, according to one commonly cited statistic, a measly 8% of people actually keep it. Why is this so? Often when people state their resolutions, they are expressed as a vague wish or an opinion (e.g. “I want to get a promotion” or “I should eat better”) rather than solidified as relevant, specific goals. Whether your resolution relates to your career, health, or relationships, we’ve created a step-by-step guide to help you define a meaningful goal and create a concrete action plan that will promote sustainable change to last through 2018 and beyond!

Step 1: Discover your Motivations

Explore your intentions - why is it that you’d like to commit to a particular resolution? Is it born out of joy and passion, or is it simply a task that’s prompted by a perception of lacking (e.g. “something is missing in my life”), or an avoidance and/or threat (e.g. the pressures of the workplace or family)? Clarifying your intentions will reveal if your goal is derived from development-based or fear-based motivations. Goals that align with development-based motivations are associated with personal growth, and they are not only more feasible to achieve, but they are also more likely to produce powerful, lasting change.

Need further guidance to see if you are on the right track? If you can check “yes” next to one or more of the points below, it could be a sign that your objective is associated with development-based motivation.

Is the goal...

  • An aid for personal growth and/or fulfillment of a need?
  • In alignment with your internal drive to reach your human potential?

  • A movement to express or receive love or to protect a loved one?

  • Motivated by intrinsic factors free of negative internal pressures and/or perceptions of deficiencies?

  • Influenced by healthy, positive, peer norms? (With this scenario, ensure you are pursuing it not simply because you feel you are suppose to or are under an agreement - you truly want to.)

  • Likely to promote pure joy, satisfaction, stimulation, and/or pleasure?

Another way to check your motivators is to examine how you have stated your resolution. If it starts with words such as I won’t, I should, I have to, or I don’t want to (e.g. become sick), evaluate how to you might be able to re-frame your thoughts in order to state your objective in a more positive light. Think about what it is that will lead you to greater well-being.

Now that you’ve delved into your development-based motivations, start drafting a corresponding goal!

Step 2: Create a S.M.A.R.T. Goal

After you have outlined a meaningful goal, ask yourself, is it S.M.A.R.T.? This acronym is widely used for goal-setting in the business world and in personal endeavors; the approach will offer framework to help you to further define your objective and organize your efforts.

Is your goal Specific?

If you are familiar with Zig Ziglar’s motivational speeches, you might remember the question he often posed: “Are you a wandering generality, or are you a meaningful specific?”  When it comes to your goals, this question matters! A goal should be clearly defined and in most cases, should be focused enough to answer the “W” questions (who, what, where, when, why, which). What do you want to accomplish? Where and when will your efforts take place? Make your goal as detailed as possible!

Is your goal Measurable?

Now that your goal is specific, assess if progress is measurable. Establish criteria and be sure to use numbers when applicable. This might mean times per week, distance, quantity, time duration, and/or another measure that relates to your goal. When progress is not subject to interpretation, accountability is possible. Not to mention, having criteria in place allows you the opportunity to experience feelings of achievement!

Is your goal Actionable?

By this point, you’ve established a goal that is specific and measurable - next, you will want to evaluate if it is actionable and attainable. To do this, make a list of anything you might need in order for the goal to be achievable. Here are a few questions you might address in the process:

  • Are any changes required to your environment?

  • Who will support you in your endeavor? Do you need a health coach to help you stay accountable? Will a co-worker or friend join you? Would it be beneficial to join a support group?

  • How will you log your progress? Will you keep written logs, pin post-its at your desk, or use an app?

  • Can you picture yourself succeeding in this endeavor? Identify your strengths - how can you leverage them to impact your success?

  • Do you foresee any obstacles and what are your ideas for countering them? What is your commitment level to this goal?

Is your goal Realistic and Timely?

Once you have determined that your goal is indeed attainable, firm it up with a realistic, time-bound action plan. One way to ensure your goal is realistic and manageable is to divide it into bite-sized steps or milestones. For example, your action plan could consist of a 3-6 month strategy that details weekly mini-goals. Once one milestone is conquered, you will move on to the next. By creating a long-term timeframe but also establishing manageable chunks, you will be less likely to get overwhelmed and more likely to stick with the plan. Be sure your plan for completion includes dated time frames and/or a concrete deadline; this creates a sense of urgency, ensuring you do not procrastinate.

Step 3: Reward or Reevaluate/Revise

Establish regular checkpoints to monitor progress toward your goal. If you find that you are on target, be sure to pat yourself on the back or give yourself a reward, acknowledging your accomplishments. Or, if you see that you’ve deviated from course or if you feel as though you are spinning your wheels, revisit your original objectives and reevaluate your strategy. Is there a more efficient approach to tackling the goal? Or does it make more sense to create a new goal? Revise your action plan accordingly. Remember that every “false start” or “failure” is simply a learning opportunity, a source of information that allows you to refine your processes. The only true failure is no start; if you’ve reached this point, keep at it - you are already steps closer to lasting change!

Need further help with goal-setting and/or an accountability partner? Ask one of the docs about teaming up with a health coach!

Medical Disclaimer
The information and reference guides in this website are intended solely for the general information for the reader. The contents of this web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice, diagnose health problems or for treatment purposes. It is not a substitute for medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. Please consult your health care provider for any advice on any exercise, medication, nutrition, or supplementation.

Amy FlahertyGoals