Master the Art of Goal Setting

Deb Brown, NSCA Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Wellness Coach

Many people start the New Year with high hopes and a list of goals for self-improvement. Often, what starts out as a positive effort, ends in failure and frustration a few months later. By taking some extra steps and analyzing why and how you want to obtain these goals, the chance for success goes up exponentially. If you are considering making some personal goals this year, go grab a mug of something hot, sit down with this article and a blank pad of paper and invest in some thinking and planning time.

First, your goals should be specific and measurable. Saying that you are going to “lose weight” is nebulous. Instead, if you express your goal in concrete terms, you can measure your progress along the way. “I will lose 25 pounds” by June 1st, 2008 is very specific and something you can measure. You can also break this down into smaller mini-goals, which is a key tenet in any lasting behavior change. Second, your goals should be realistic. Think; REALLY think before you decide on a goal. Can you do this? Are you really committed to make this happen? Do you understand and accept all that it will take to attain this goal? If the answer is no or maybe, scale back the goal until you feel that you can definitely do it.

Next, take some time to understand your deepest motivations in wanting to reach your goals. Be honest with yourself. If your motivation is coming externally (from a spouse or friend), it will not be enough to sustain you as you are working on changing. If you are truly motivated internally and want to accomplish this goal for yourself, you will have more inner strength to stay the course, even when the inevitable roadblocks pop up.

After you have clarified and documented your motivations for change, write down all of the obstacles that are standing in the way of you reaching your goals; be very specific here. For each obstacle, come up with some strategies or actions that you will take when you hit one of those roadblocks.

Lastly, define your action plan: what are the specific steps that you need to take to get you from where you are now to where you want to be? Break your goals down into the smallest component parts that you can. For example, if you want to lose 25 pounds by June 1st, you will need to lose about 1 pound per week. That’s a realistic and measurable mini-goal. Create action items and assign dates to them. Make yourself accountable to completing these actions. Reward yourself when you do!

Now, look back over your goals again. Double check that you have not left any of the above steps out. Write down some affirmation statements. What will it look like when you have accomplished your goals? Enlist the help of supportive friends and family members. Keep track of your progress on paper. If you have a bad week don’t spend time looking backwards, figure out what you could have done differently and move forward. Now get started!

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