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As the holiday hustle slows and routine once again resumes, I have been doing a lot of reflecting and tuning in to what I hope to accomplish, feel and experience in 2017.
Have you stopped to think yet about what you would like this year to look like? What would success look like for you?
As I work on setting my intentions for the year I wanted to reach out and help you with setting your own goals as well. Goal setting should be fun and inspiring, although I know it can also bring up doubt and uncertainty… especially if you have fallen short of reaching your aspirations in years past.
Instead of coming up with an all-or-none resolution this year, I encourage you to strive towards progress by following these 5 goal-setting strategies as your guide.
Top 5 Goal Setting Strategies to Create Goals that are Worth Striving for:
1. Be clear on your vision and your “why”
Let’s be honest…Setting a goal to give up gluten, cut down on your alcohol intake or eat more veggies isn’t all that compelling in and of itself. Neither is simply stating that you want to lose 10lbs or be more physically fit. When we set goals in this way our minds instinctively focus on everything that we need to give up in order to achieve them!
Instead of committing to a goal only because you feel like you “should” or because it would be “good for you”, we need to shift your focus to one that is more positive and inspiring.
Why do you want to be physically fit or gluten-free? Perhaps you want to feel energetic and confident instead of sluggish or self-conscious. You may want to alleviate your anxiety, improve your mood, eliminate your joint pain or clear up your complexion. You must deepen your awareness and maintain focus on your “why”, as it’s that motivation that will carry you through the necessary steps that are required for you to reach your goals.
Instead of starting out by making a goal, I suggest that instead you begin by dreaming up a vision of how you want your life or health to change. How do you want to feel? Why is that important to you?
Now you can work backwards to determine which goals you would need to create and attain in order to make that vision your new reality.
For example, if your vision includes to feeling energetic and pain-free while also reaching your healthy body weight, you may still end up setting a goal to lose 10lbs by going gluten free and eating more veggies. However, through this process your focus shifts from the tasks (which alone may feel like deprivation) and allows you to tune into your vision of health (which is what will keep you going when the excitement of a new year fades).
Don’t set your goals in a way that leaves you dwelling in deprivation! Instead, make sure that you clarify your vision and WHY your desired outcomes matter to you. This enables you to set meaningful goals that inspire and propel you forward to becoming a happier, healthier version of you!
2. Goal Setting – Get Specific!
What exactly do you want to accomplish and by when? A goal to “become physically fit” or to “get healthier” is not specific and is missing important details that transform it to becoming actionable and measurable. How do you know once your goal has been attained? What qualifies as success and do you know what you’re aiming for?
There are 4 important characteristics that your goals must contain:
Specificity – what exactly do you want to accomplish? For example, if you want to improve your running this year you may decide to set a goal run 10km consecutively without walking. If you would like to be even more specific, you might set a goal to run 10Km in under 40 minutes. Be clear on what exactly you want to accomplish so that you know specifically what you’re working towards.
Measurability – how will you know once your goal has been reached? Adding a quantitative element (think duration, distance, weight, speed) to your goal helps you to know whether or not it has been reached. Some goals are more challenging to make measurable quantitatively, such as the decision to go gluten-free. In this case you may choose to evaluate whether or not you reached your goal based on whether you adhered to it over the course of a pre-determined time frame (for example: to be gluten-free for at least 6 weeks).
Positivity – instead of using words like “lose”, “debt” or “decrease” that trigger feelings of deprivation, use positive and affirmative language whenever possible. Here are a few examples:
I will be energetic and confident at my new weight of 135lbs by March 15th.
Instead of: I will lose 10lbs by March 15th.
I will have a positive net-worth with $1000 or more in my bank account by June 30th.
Instead of: I will pay off $5000 in debt by June 30th.
Do you notice how the shift in the words that are used can create a more positive and excited feeling when you’re reading your goals?
Time-bound – what is the deadline for you to reach your goal? A deadline should be chosen that seems reasonable and accomplishable, yet still provides a challenge. Remember that your deadline is simply a target and that you shouldn’t give up on your goal if you haven’t yet reached it by that date! Simply assess what is and is not working and reformulate your plan with a revised deadline, keeping up a consistent effort in your pursuit!
3. Select a breakthrough goal and create a plan
If you could instantly achieve any of the goals on your list, which one would have the greatest impact on your overall life?
For example – perhaps you have goals in the categories of health, finances and relationships. When you assess the impact that each of your goals would have if accomplished, you realize that by achieving better health that you would also have more energy while at work and more confidence in your relationships. In this case your health goal should be labeled as your “breakthrough goal” because achieving it would create the most forward momentum in your life. Your breakthrough goal is the one that you should direct the most action, attention and consistency towards achieving.
Brainstorm at least 25 actions that you can take that will move you towards the accomplishment of your breakthrough goal. Once your list is complete, prioritize those actions based on which ones will gain the greatest rewards for the effort invested. Finally, schedule each step into your calendar and take action on your plan!
4. Write down your goals and review them daily
It’s important to write down your goals and to review them regularly. Although the process of writing down your goals improves the odds that they will be attained, less than 3% of the population actually takes the time to complete this small yet significant extra step.
The intention of writing down your goals is to keep them on your conscious mind. Therefore, you should keep them somewhere where they are visible to you and that you can review them daily. This can simply be on your night table to review before bed. Perhaps you may also set them as the backdrop on your phone or tape them to your bathroom mirror.
When you review your goals each day, devote an additional few minutes to close your eyes and to visualize yourself as though you have already attained them. Visualizing your goals as complete activates the “reticular activating system” in your brain, which is responsible for filtering which of the sensory information from your environment reaches your conscious awareness. By aligning this gate-keeping region of your brain to your goals you are telling it that information that may help you to pursue these goals is important and that it warrants conscious attention. You may start to notice that you pay more attention to healthy recipes and health articles on your Facebook feed, in part because you have programmed your brain that this information is important for you to receive!
Reviewing your goals and visualizing them as completed also helps to keep you rooted to your “why” and committed to achieving them.
To take your goal setting a step further, I suggest making a vision board of images and quotes that embody your aspirations that you can review as part of your visualization. Feeding your mind with powerful words and images that connect you with your vision is an incredibly powerful way to help you maintain your inspiration and motivation in pursuit of your goals!
5. Don’t Go It Alone!
There are people who have already accomplished what you are setting out to do or who have the same vision for him or herself. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those people to ask for help or support!
Hiring a professional or investing in a membership or program can provide accountability and shorten your learning curve, ensuring that you see results for your efforts as quickly as possible. Signing up for a yoga membership, attending a personal development seminar, buying a self-help book, hiring a financial advisor, signing up for a diet program or a scheduling a consultation with a naturopathic doctor are just a few ideas that can help you create momentum towards your vision and reach your goals as soon as possible.
Now it’s time to brew yourself a mug of tea, pull out a notebook, turn on some relaxing music and create a beautiful vision for your life in 2017! I can’t wait to see what this year unfolds for you!
You may also enjoy a post that I wrote last New Year on how to set goals that are fully aligned with how you want to feel in the year ahead. It includes a 10-minute exercise that walks you through a goal-setting visualization process I think you’ll enjoy!
Happy New Year!
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