Strategies for Setting Goals You’ll Want to Work Towards
Have you seen the newest piece of equipment at GF Strength and Conditioning? It’s meant to challenge, motivate and push us out of our comfort zone. Yes, you guessed it! It’s the humongous goals board and we are pretty excited about it.
What did you think when you first saw the goals board? Did you get excited about the opportunity to work towards something, did you get a little nervous about writing a goal on the board, or did you just wonder how long it took to hang it perfectly straight (I did!)? The way we think about and develop goals has a huge impact on how successful we are at achieving our goals. Goals can be energizing, but they can also be intimidating. It’s essential that we don’t let fear keep us from setting goals, because goals allow us to translate our health and wellness visions into realistic behaviors that can have a tremendous impact.
A common time for people to set goals is at the New Year. People start off the New Year with great intentions, but those intentions can only take you so far. It’s pretty common to see class sizes start to dwindle about 3-4 months into the year. This doesn’t mean that the people that stopped coming to class gave up on their goals. It probably means that they didn’t develop a goal that would set them up for success. We want you to come to class and find new ways to challenge yourself, at the gym and in your life, all year long. Here are some questions to ask yourself when developing goals to make sure you are setting yourself up for success.
Motivators — Why does this matter a lot to me, right now?
We all have different motivators and reasons for wanting to pursue a goal, so it is important to identify reasons that are strong positive motivators, for you, right now. Before writing a goal on the board, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who do I want to be?
- How does this goal connect to my values?
- Why do I want to accomplish this goal?
- What is important to me about this goal?
- How will working towards this goal make a difference in my life?
- How will working towards this goal make me feel?
Write down the answers to these questions and refer to them frequently. Your answers to these questions should invigorate and excite you. If they don’t, then you either need to dig deeper or rethink your goal. Motivation is what helps keep us going when times get tough and if you don’t have a strong motivation for a goal in the beginning, then it probably won’t be there in the end.
Find a method that works for you.
I go back and forth between writing everything down and using Google Drive to record our meal plans. I created a template that I insert the meals, sale items and grocery list into weekly. I like the Google Drive method, because I can access it from my phone for grocery shopping. I’ve also had way fewer “Crap I forgot the list moments!” since I started using this method. It can also be fun to involve friends and family by creating a shared meal plan folder. Life is much easier when we create community!
Outcomes — What results do I want to achieve?
An outcome is probably what most of us have written on the board right now- this is the end result, the bigger picture, our vision. We usually know more about what we want than about how we are going to get there. Outcomes usually reflect our feelings, needs, values and desires that can motivate and sustain behavior change. While outcome goals provide us with a vision and direction, they do not lead to behavior change. With a clear plan, however, we know what to do in order to achieve our desired outcomes and to make our goals a reality.
Behaviors — What activities do I want to do consistently?
Behavioral goals are the actions we will take to achieve our outcome goal. For example, let’s say you have a 3-month outcome goal to do at least 10 pull-ups in a row. How are you going to achieve that? This is where your behavioral goals come in. These goals should enable you to think about and identify the specific actions and behaviors you want to do next in working towards your outcome. They answer the question, “Now what?”
Effective behavioral goals:
- Break down large goals into incremental goals that meet you where you are currently at.
For example, if you currently do not go to the gym then you shouldn’t make your first behavioral goal to go to the gym 5 days/week. Be realistic about it. Starting with 3 days, then switching to 4 then finally 5 days would make it easier to integrate into your life.
- Are specific about the “how” and “when” details.
This is crucial because it gives you a timeline to accomplish the goal. For example, if you are going to go to the gym 3 days per week, what days and time will you go? Include that specific information in your behavior goal. It is like the difference between putting something on your schedule now versus “getting around to it” when there is time.
- Include only one measurable behavior per goal.
For example, “I will go to the gym 3 days/week and go to yoga 2 days/week” has two measurable goals in it. Split them up into singular goals. This makes it easier to measure and assess why something is or is not working.
Evolve as you work towards your outcome. Trial and correction, not trial and error, is how you continue with goals when times get tough. Goals are learning experiences. We don’t fail at goals, we learn from them. Setting weekly behavioral goals allows you to check-in with yourself and adapt your approach instead of give up on a goal. This is where keeping a journal really helps.
Strengths — What strengths, talents, and abilities will I draw upon?
We all have our own strengths that we can use to our advantage. It’s essential to recognize these strengths and determine how we can use them to help us achieve our goals. Take some time exploring what your own strengths are — you might even ask other people what strengths they think you have. Hey, a little positive affirmation never hurt anybody! Once you’ve identified your strengths, determine how you can draw upon these strengths to help you work towards your goals.
Another strategy to use, is the confidence ruler. Ask yourself, “What is my confidence level on a scale of 0 to 10 for achieving this goal (10 being the highest)?” Based on the number you chose, you can explore why you didn’t pick a lower number and what it would take to increase your confidence on the scale, go from a 8 to a 9. Generally speaking, if you are at a 6 or lower you may need to reevaluate the goal, make changes and design strategies so that you will feel confident in your ability to achieve it.
Challenges — What challenges will I overcome?
In a perfect world we could work towards a goal and not experience any challenges. But, as we all know, life isn’t perfect, so we must anticipate challenges. How we overcome obstacles makes a huge difference in our experience with a goal. We can set ourselves up for success by anticipating challenges we may face and developing solutions. For example, let’s say your behavioral goal is to go to the gym 3 days this week, but you know that work is really hectic at the moment and let’s just throw a sick kid in there too. Instead of not making it to the gym and forgoing movement that day, could you have some YouTube videos or 10-minute high intensity at-home workouts onhand? Instead of saying “I can’t make it to the gym today, so I’ve failed”, say “I can’t make it to the gym today, but I can do [insert workout here] instead.”
Supports — What support team and structures will I put in place?
Repeat after me, “I am not alone”. People are more successful at working towards their goals when they have a support structure. You can have social support and you can create an environment that supports your goals. For example, if you want to foam roll daily for at least 5 minutes, then take the foam roller out of the closet and put it where you spend most of your time. If you want to eat 3 servings of fruits and veggies a day, place a bowl with fresh produce on the counter. You are creating an environment that makes the healthy choice the easy choice.
When it comes to health, fitness, and wellness, people are generally accountable only to themselves – and that often isn’t enough especially when we are just getting started. Building in accountability through our social network helps us remain on track. Also, it’s just nice to have someone to talk to about our goals and challenges. The coaches at GF Strength and Conditioning are here to help you accomplish your goals, but we need to know what they are. Write them on the board, talk about them with us frequently, share your experience with the other athletes in class – we are all here for you.
Check-In with yourself — How am I doing with this goal
It’s helpful to review your goals on a weekly basis. You can do this while driving to work, before bed or in the shower. All you need is a few minutes to ask yourself these questions:
- What went well and what did I learn working towards my goal this week?
- Tip: Always focus on what you accomplished, rather that what you didn’t accomplish. Use reframing positive terms, even when it feels like you didn’t make progress. This will give you the confidence to keep going.
- What percentage of achievement did I reach for this goal – e.g. 100%, 75%, 50%, or 10%?
- What contributed to this level of success?
- What kept it from being lower?
- What could have made it higher?
- What do I like about this goal?
- What did I learn from this experience?
- What challenges did I face along the way?
- Do I think this goal is too ambitious, too cautious, or just right?
- When I think about this goal, what feelings does it stimulate and what needs does it meet?
- If I were to set a new, more ambitious goal, what would it be?
- On a scale of 0-10, how confident am I in my ability to sustain this behavior for the foreseeable future?
Your mindset is the most important factor in working towards your goals. How are you talking to yourself about your goal progress? How are you supporting yourself when times get tough and it seems like nothing is going the way you planned? These are the moments that make the difference. Remember, progress not perfection. Celebrate all the small steps you make along the way and for the love of God, please do not compare yourselves to others. We so often think that other people are doing something better than us, but we don’t actually know what’s going on in their lives. Only compare yourself to yourself, learn from your experiences and work to be a better version of yourself everyday.