It’s been proven that setting specific goals and holding yourself accountable to them helps you focus and makes it more likely you will achieve those goals. But not reaching your goals can be demoralizing. If you don’t manage to lose ten pounds, get that promotion, or take your dream trip, you can feel worse than when you started. Here’s how to tip yourself over the Goal line from demoralizing to success:
1) The most important thing you can do is set actionable steps for yourself. “Lose ten pounds” isn’t an action. “Run 10 miles per week,” “spend 5 hours exercising each week” or “eat at least 5 fruit/ veg every day” are good weekly goals. From there you can set actionable steps like when and where you are going to run and on which days, or when you are going to shop for groceries and what meals you’ll make. Set weekly actionable steps, and schedule them into each day so you know when you are going to do them. For lots of tips on goal setting and working your actions into your schedule, see this post.
2) Track your progress, and make notes. Use a tracking system in your planner, in a notebook, with an app, however you work best. But whatever you do, hold yourself accountable for your progress. If you don’t happen to meet your weekly goals, make notes why. Maybe you didn’t run 10 miles that week because you had the flu. Maybe you didn’t rock out that presentation like you expected to–note what happened so you can learn from it and do better next time. Tracking your progress isn’t all about ticking off the Done box; it’s also about learning from mistakes and setbacks, so you can overcome roadblocks and move forward.
3) Get help, ask an expert. If you have a goal, chances are you are doing something new or different from what you’ve been doing before. You’re not automatically going to know what to do. See a nutritionist, an accountant, a personal trainer, or someone who has done this before. Seek advice. Successful people have support.
4) Remind yourself why your goal is important to you. You want to get fit to live a long and healthy life. You want to become financially independent to enjoy your life now and in retirement. You want to start your own business, write a novel, finish your degree because X. Write that reason on a sticky note and put it on your bathroom mirror. Write it on the inside cover of your planner so you can see it often. Keeping in mind why your goals are important to you will help motivate you on those days when you just don’t feel like plugging away.
5) Reward success. Remember those actionable steps from number 1? Set yourself a reward you’ll redeem after you’ve achieved however many weeks of your actionable steps. For long-term goals, success isn’t always apparent. You have to chip away at it. Set milestones along the way (mini-goals) that you can reach, preferably every month, so you can see actual progress. When you reach your milestones, reward yourself with something small: a new notebook, a movie out with someone you like, etc. Give yourself bigger rewards for bigger milestones reached: a weekend away, tickets to a fun event. Tip: don’t reward yourself with food!
Reaching goals is challenging. It’s supposed to be. It’s a growth process, a lifestyle change. It’s not always easy, but it is worth it.