I am someone who LOVES to reach for my dreams, create goals, and make plans. But setting realistic goals is a skill I have fought hard to learn. Previously, each plan I would make suffered from a major flaw – they would be extremely unachievable. I would pretend that it’s realistic to fit in 26 hours of work in a 24 hour day. When someone (like my Mom or Tim) would point out to me how unrealistic my goals and plans were, I would pull out my very details schedule that has what time I need to make any movements in order to “prove” that it was possible.
Without fail, they would respond with: “Steph, you know you could have just been doing x,y, and z instead of making this ridiculous plan? Then you would have probably five hours put in already”.
I would never listen though. I would go ahead with my unrealistic schedules, and try to force 26 hours of work into my 24 hour day – only to be majorly discouraged when I would fall behind. This would lead to a massive loss in my motivation and confidence. Often, it would take weeks of self-care to recover my ambition, only to start the circle all over again.
It took me so long to understand that those around me weren’t just annoyed with my need to plan everything, but were, in fact, trying to help me get to my goals.
So I did some research into how someone can set goals, create plans, but not stretch themselves too thin. I tried multiple different goal setting methods and followed multiple different pieces of advice. Finally, I found a routine that worked for me! I still set really high goals – which I don’t think will ever stop – but I am way more realistic in the execution.
With the New Year creeping up, I have been non-stop thinking about what my goals are going to be for the next 365 days. I don’t necessarily believe you should wait for the New Year to start reaching for a goal, but I do believe it offers you a great opportunity to reflect, think, reset, and adapt. It allows you to think about where you are and compare it to where you want to be.
And to figure out a way to get there.
With that, I want to share my goal setting exercise to plan your 2020 resolutions!
Before you can even plan a resolution, you need to think about what it is that you really want. Often, the reason people fail to meet their goals is that they were not specific enough. Take a moment to really think about what it is you want to change and exactly how you want to change it. Reflect on your last year – is it up to par with your standards? What exactly is not where you would like it? What do you want to change? Be specific with your answers.
Maybe you want to read more. That’s great, but how much more? How many books are you reading now – what do you want that number to jump to? Will you have to read a book a month or two books a week to get there? How are you going to get these books? (Lets be real, if you have this goal, you probably have a “to-read” pile higher than your head in your bedroom.)
Maybe you want to lose weight. That’s great, but how much? Would you be happy with five pounds, or are you looking to lose fifty pounds? Maybe you don’t want to lose weight at all, but want to gain muscle. How much muscle? What do you want your body to look like? What healthy habits do you have to create to get there?
Make sure whatever you decide on is realistic to you. Your friend who is single, childless, and works part-time may be able to read 150 books in a year, but that may not be realistic for you. You probably have different lives, different schedules, and different priorities. Making a goal that isn’t realistic to you is a quick path to failure. This doesn’t mean that you can’t dream big, but it means you can’t expect to fit 26 hours into a 24 hour day.
Take your “how much” answer and make it into your goal, such as: “I want to journal an average of five times a week” or “I want to gain 3 inches of muscle on my thighs”.
In order to really stick to a goal, you need an emotional connection to it. This doesn’t mean you need some kumbaya magical connection, you just need to really want it. So, take a piece of paper and write your goal on the top. (You can also do this in your phone’s notepad too.)
Underneath the title of the goal, write why you are trying to achieve it. Why do you want to start a YouTube and post three days a week? Or, why do you want to spend one day a week reconnecting with a friend or family member? Why do you want to throw out ten items in your house each week to begin minimalism?
Really do some soul-searching to answer your “why”. Write how you think achieving this goal will make you feel; how it will make others feel; how it will change your life, your health, or your environment. Why is this goal so important to you? If you’re thinking your goal will bring you an increased income, what will that money add to your life? Connect with that. Dig deep into your goal to find the emotional connection.
For example, you probably don’t want to lose weight just for the sake of losing weight. Maybe you want to lower your blood pressure, or maybe you want to be able to run for more than 10 minutes, or maybe you want to feel healthy in your skin.
Once you have a few good points, save the note in someplace safe. This will be very helpful to look back to in those moments where you feel like you are losing motivation.
Next, you will need to think about how you’re going to reset your life. When you make a life-impacting goal, it usually requires one of two things: (1) doing a complete 180 in your life, or (2) pushing yourself harder to do more of what you’re already doing. However, both of these types of goals require you to think about how you’re going to do them. How are you going to change your habits to suit your goal?
What is standing in your way currently that has prevent this goal from coming true previously? Often, as much as we don’t like it, the answer is ourselves. It could be our habit to scroll mindless through the Instagram vortex, or our habit to sleep more than we need, or our habit to just give into laziness and watch Netflix all day.
Once you’ve discovered your barrier, think of how you’re going to replace this barrier with a solution? You may have only one solution needed to reach your goal, but you may also have five or more depending what the goal is.
If you want to practice the guitar for one hour a day but have a baby who is more dependent on your than your spouse, ask your spouse if they will take the baby on a walk for one hour each day. That way you can get in some practicing and they can get in some bonding time!
This, in my personal opinion, is the most fun stage of them all. This is when you write your plan and put your solutions into action! You’ll need to write a “Due Date” for each goal. If you divide your goal into sub-goals, you should also write due dates for each sub-goal.
If your overall goal is to lose fifty pounds, you may want to set sub-goals of each two or ten pound increment to keep you on track. You could also set sub-goals that include signing up for the gym or a healthy food subscription box.
Be realistic with your timeline. It takes a lot of hard work and determination to break habits. If it was easy, you would have reached your goal already.
When you have your due dates decided for your goal, assign some check-in dates. This will help you stay on top of things and not be ignorant of whether or not you’re actually working hard enough. You can’t pretend you’re on track to read 100 books if you’re checking in to see you’re four books behind!
While executing your goal, it is extremely important to not be too hard on yourself. Keep yourself disciplined, but don’t treat yourself poorly. It’s okay to fall behind a little bit – you’re attempting to change your life! You’re not going to be perfect, especially at the beginning. Perfection is unattainable!
Instead, strive for progress. If you are having a hard time continuing, read your WHY note, watch some motivation videos on the topic of your goal (anything by Tony Robins will help, he’s fantastic!), and understand that slow progress is better than no progress. If you keep working at your goal, you will get there!
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