Setting goals can be a daunting task for some. For others, it’s easily done and just as easily forgotten. In this blog, I’m attempting to outline a few structures with tips on how to stay motivated and focused on your goals. The intention for this blog is to give you guidance on how to reach your goals as efficiently as possible while also encouraging you to build a happier, more balanced and less stressed self, overall.
Reaching goals is a process which includes assessing our current situation, brain-storming about where we want to go or what we want to achieve, and then setting progressive goals, scheduling in our plan of action, building in a reward system, and then regularly checking-in on how well our plan working.
Below is a 6-step process that you can follow and edit to suit your personal needs:
STEP 1: ASSESS. Know where your starting point is.
This is probably the most important part! I have an entire blog about how to assess your current situation that you can read here. Once you know where you are, you can then think about where you’d like to go, and then, how to go about finding the path to take you there.
STEP 2: THINK BIG! Plan where you ultimately want to go.
In the words of Steven Covey, “Begin with the end in mind.” (From The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) Some individuals may have their dreams already well defined in their minds. For those of you who do NOT, think about what you enjoy doing the most now or what you're good at and enjoy doing, how you can implement that more into your life or how you can make it lucrative, and where you can go with your passions. It’s okay not to have super specific career or skill goals—you can have ultimate goals for any facet of your life. Perhaps one day you’d like to own a home and have a vacation home, perhaps you’d like to retire at a specific age, perhaps you would like to have children on a certain timeline, or be in particularly good health at a certain age.
I recommend thinking about your career, relationships, health, and home long-term. Envision the person you’d like to be at the age of 60 and 80 years. What does that person look like, what do they do on a day-to-day basis?
STEP 3: WRITE IT DOWN. Make progressive goals.
So you know where you are, and you have an idea of where you want to go. Now it’s time to think about how to get from point A to point Z. In order not to get overwhelmed, and to keep yourself focused, think about things in chunks of time: weekly, 1-6 months, 1-5 years, and long-term.
Daily and weekly goals: this details how you’re going to structure your life on a daily basis. It makes you consider how much you can fit into a day or a week and how your day is going to serve your overall purpose. These goals may include training, practice regimen, private lessons or personal training appointments, classes or continuing education, sleep schedule, and nutrition/meals. Daily rituals are where long-term good habits can be established.
1-6 month goals: This next level of goal setting is a great place to implement the S.M.A.R.T goal setting technique, something I learned about through my contortion coach, Jacki Ward. You may have heard of this technique before, often used in corporate settings to help management and employees reach company goals. It’s also a great training tool for those of us who have career, fitness or other skill-related goals. There are a few variations on this method (as described here on Wikipedia), but here’s the version I use:
SPECIFIC: Make your goals very, very clear! The more specific you are, the better.
MEASURABLE: Be sure you can measure your ability by something, so you know when you have achieved your goal. For example, you may want to “eat healthier”, but this isn’t measurable. Maybe you want to keep your caloric intake to a specific number (this means you’ll have to track your calories), or perhaps you want to have at least half of your plate consist of veggies, or one meal a day be a salad. Maybe you want to “drink less coffee,” then you’ll want to set a goal on how many cups per day or week to stick to.
ACTION-ORIENTED: Your goals should be achievable through your actions. If your goal is “I want to be 7 feet tall”—realistically, there’s not a whole lot to do about that if you’re, say, 5 feet 2 inches. In other words, if there is something you want to become, make sure there is something you can do to get there.
REALISTIC/RELEVANT: A very important piece, especially at the 1-6 month level. Feel free to dream big for ultimate goals, but set yourself up for success when you’re looking at what you can realistically achieve in 1-6 months. Be sure these goals are relevant, as well, to your ultimate dream goals.
TIME-BOUND: Have a deadline, most of us need to have a little fire warming our buns to feel that urgency to stay on track. Do you want to complete this goal in one week, 6 months, 5 years?
Example: In Jacki’s class December 9th 2015, I wrote that I wanted to be able to do a 10-second handstand, at least once in a day (in other words I may not be able to repeat it over and over, to keep it realistic) by January 31st, 2016. Specific (handstand, balancing at least once a day), Measurable (for 10-seconds), Action-Oriented (I practice handstands daily, and have lessons weekly), Realistic/Relevant (I was already starting to balance inconsistently and had already been training to do them for over a year and they work into some of my dance/choreography goals), Time-Bound (by January 31st, 2016.)
1-5 year goals: Your 1-6 month goals should be working logically toward where you’d like to see yourself in 1-5 years. Perhaps you’ll want to own a home, or have a new home, in this amount of time, perhaps you would like to be promoted or grow your business to a specific degree by this time, maybe you’re in school and plan to finish a degree or two in this amount of time. If you’re a runner and are doing 5-10k races now, maybe you’ll be working on marathons or triathlons in this amount of time.
Ultimate goals: These have already, really, been defined in Step 2 above. Where do you see yourself at the end of your life? What goals do you have personally or for your family long-term? What are your ultimate health, fitness and career goals?
STEP 4: SCHEDULE IT IN. Keep a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly calendar.
Get out a calendar (I love using Google Calendar, though I write goals in a personal journal) and find space for everything you want to do. Give yourself deadlines, and look ahead to your monthly and yearly goals. Be sure to check your calendar regularly and continue to let it evolve on the daily and weekly basis until you find a good rhythm for your progress. Often we try to take on too much too quickly, so we set ourselves up for failure. Take a moment to schedule all of this stuff out: sleep, working hours (include commute time), family time, recreation/down time, exercise time and your personal practice/classes/self-improvement time. If you end up with a calendar where EVERY HOUR is spoken for, you’re scheduling too much in, and you need to re-visit the Realistic aspect of your goals. If you have giant gaps in your calendar, then likely you can afford to dedicate more time to your goals, and less time to, say, video games, Social Media, or TV. We all get 24 hours in the day.
AGAIN, BE SURE TO CHECK YOUR CALENDAR! Every evening around 8 or 9pm, I check my calendar to see what I’m doing the next day. I set my clothing out for my morning workout, and a change of clothes for later in the day. I remind myself when I should be going to bed. I also look at and plan meals for the next day. I make sure my lessons are planned for teaching, and so on. This also ensures that I feel I have all of my “ducks in a row” so I don’t lose sleep over anything I’m afraid I’ve missed. At the end of a week, usually on Sunday, I check the next week and make sure I know when I’m working, exercising, practicing, taking lessons, and so on—so that I continually update my calendar to organize all of the things that need to happen to keep myself on track.
STEP 5: SET UP A REWARD SYSTEM. Work hard, play hard!
Occasionally you want to recognize your progress and celebrate. Plan to buy yourself something awesome, take a vacation, or practice self-care in a way that will make you feel rewarded when you achieve a big goal. It’s okay to schedule these things in ahead of time too! I usually have a delicious meal planned weekly, I love making time for a long bath once a week or so, I’ll treat myself to a new outfit now and again, and my partner and I plan camping and hiking trips a few times a year. One of my big rewards was my motorcycle. Whatever you do, be sure you take time to recognize your hard work now and again!
STEP 6: RE-ASSESS REGULARLY. Is it working?
Be sure to re-visit your goals regularly. I re-visit ultimate and 1-5 year goals about twice a year, and I re-visit my daily, weekly and monthly goals often—I think about them on a near daily-basis because what I am doing daily is very much related to where I’d like to see myself in a year or two. If the plan of action you have set into motion is NOT working, think about editing your daily and weekly goals, and your schedule accordingly. Remember that if you have to edit it does NOT mean you are failing, you’re just working on becoming MORE efficient.
Identifying where you are right now is key for setting realistic short-term goals.
Knowing where you’d like to go will keep you motivated on the day-to-day tasks.
Making progressive S.M.A.R.T. goals is a way to avoid being overwhelmed, and will help you be consistent and efficient!
Be sure you can fit this all into a schedule that works for you on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.
Reward yourself, take time off, and practice self-care.
Make sure to re-visit goals regularly and make any necessary edits to your schedule as you meet goals and as your life evolves.