Setting goals… where to begin?
If you don’t know where to begin with goal setting, don’t worry. You are not alone.
The research shows that most people (up to 70%) give up on their New Year’s resolutions by the 22nd of January. Isn’t that a shocking statistic? I’m sure you’ve seen this. Go to the gym in January and you will see more people than you have ever seen. The gym will be overrun with determined looks and sweating bodies. As soon as February rolls along the gym quietens substantially, and by April the gym is a ghost town.
Why is this the case? What is it about setting goals on New Years that makes them so hard to achieve? Below are the five things most people do wrong.
One is, people set goals that are too vague.
Let’s look at an example, I want to lose weight! – This is probably the most common goal. What’s the problem with this goal? It’s too vague. How do you know when you have achieved this goal? Do you want to lose 10kg, 20kg, 40kg, or just a trim around the waste? This is important because as you go through the year you can measure your progress. Let’s say after 2 months you’ve lost 5 kg, you can say ‘Oh wow, I’ve got another 5 to lose for my goal.’ And you are going to feel motivated. You are going to feel like you are making progress.
The first thing you have to know when setting goals is to make the goal clear and measurable. If you want to improve your golf game, what handicap would you like to achieve. If you want to upskill yourself in an area, what clubs can you join? How often per week do you want to practise?
The second problem people face when setting goals is that they focus on the process, not the end result.
What does this mean?
Let’s say again, that you want to lose weight. And then you decide that you want to run 10 km per week and that exercise will get you to lose your weight. You start running every day and it feels terrific, but then after 2 months of running you get blisters on your foot, and you can’t run anymore. Most people stop running and don’t achieve the goal. But the goal was not to run, the goal was to lose weight. If you focus on achieving the running, you lose sight of the goal. If your goal is to lose weight, then you can do so by swimming, riding a bike, eating healthier…
There are many ways to skin a cat, don’t get too focused on the process, but rather focus on the outcome you are trying to achieve.
Three, the goals are too impossible to achieve
I’m guilty of this one. Before I really understood goal setting theory I would sit on the morning of New Years, put on my superman undies and dream. The one year I said I want to write 5 books this year. I didn’t have a title for any of them, I didn’t even know what I would write about. Now, let’s break it down quickly. 5 books a year would mean I would have to write 1 every 2 or so months. A usual book is about 60 000 words. Which means I would need to write about a thousand words per day. For a seasoned writer a thousand isn’t that much, but for a beginner that is a near impossible task.
So what happened, after January passed and I didn’t make any progress on my books I stopped thinking it was possible and I gave up on that dream. And it happens so often when people put a too high goal in place. When they don’t make enough progress they give up.
Rather start small, gain confidence and then grow your dreams as your competence grows.
Fourth, they don’t chunk their goals
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Think about your goal, it’s got many aspects to it. If you want to write a book, there are many things you need to do. You need to get a front cover, find an editor, get a mentor, decide on a title, chapters, messaging, you have to write… There are different portions to writing a book and doing any goal. Break it down into the different elements and it won’t feel as overwhelming.
Lastly, the goals are not tied to any timeline
When do you want to reach this goal? It’s important to have a time limit because that will provide you with some well needed motivation. It’s amazing how full the gym gets just before the holidays… because people are under a timeline to get the washboard abs before summer. So if you want to write a book, when do you want to start? When do you want to design the front cover? When do you want it to be finished? Edited? Published? Figure out the timelines for all the aspects of your goal so that you have some motivation.
In summary, if you want to set goals for this New Years, and have a chance at completing them there are five things you must do;
1. Set clear and specific goals
2. Focus on the outcome, not the process on how to get there
3. Set realistic goals and then grow your goals as your competence grows
4. Chunk your goals into bite size chunks
5. Set realistic and motivating timelines to your goals.
Lastly, enjoy and celebrate when you have achieved an aspect of your goals.
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