Quality goal setting is an art and a science. A strong goal inspires growth and challenges you to reach outside your comfort zone. But how to achieve a big goal? You have to set yourself up to succeed.
On Jan. 1st 2016, I declared my biggest New Year’s resolution yet, run 276.6 miles in a year — the number of pounds I was before shedding half my body weight, and a symbol of a journey that changed far more than the number on the scale.
I didn’t realize it then, but for this resolution, I was following a proven goal-setting formula.
Step 1 – Decide how you want to feel
In his book, “Awaken the Giant Within,” Tony Robbins says, “The only reason anyone does anything is to change the way they feel.” A common mistake in goal setting is to focus entirely on the doing or having of a thing. The real success of a goal lies in how you will feel, not only at the finish but with each victory along the way.
Before setting my goal, I wanted to feel strong and capable, increase my mental clarity, and ease the impact of stress on my emotions. I knew a habit of regular exercise would help.
Step 2 – Aim beyond your comfort zone
Quality goal-setting will force you to move outside of your comfort zone — otherwise it’s not a goal, it’s just an item on your to-do list.
Achieving a goal should take you on a journey of growth. When you set your goal, aim for a gut feeling of about 50 percent “what if I can’t do this?” and 50 percent “what if I can?”
Leaving your comfort zone may force you to feel emotions you usually avoid. It may sound strange, but these seemingly negative emotions are helpful guides. They provide insight into the areas of your heart most in need of loving attention. If you aren’t feeling emotions such as doubt, fear or resistance, you aren’t positioning yourself to grow.
Step 3 – Be very specific
“Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely day dreaming, but vision with action can change the world.” — Nelson Mandela
Your goal needs to be specific, measurable and have a deadline. With these parameters in place, you will know how focused you need to be to finish on time.
When I gave it a number, my desire to exercise more became a goal.
Step 4 – Make the next step easy
The moment you decide on a goal, commit to your decision with an action.
When I set my goal, I calculated what it would take to finish my running goal in a year: 1.78 miles per run with 3 runs per week.
At the time, I didn’t believe I could run 276.6 miles but I absolutely knew I could run 1.78 miles.
The three-day-a-week commitment allowed room for life to happen, as it inevitably does. I call this “creating space for grace” and it is an essential part of making a goal sustainable.
Step 5 – Track your progress
A study by psychology professor Gail Matthews, of Dominican University, found that writing down a goal increases your chances of success by 42 percent. A written goal combined with a system to track your achievements transforms your effort into visible progress — not just a bunch of busy work.
I tracked my running goal with a Google spreadsheet. After each run, I logged the distance. The spreadsheet displayed weekly totals, averages, the distance covered, and the distance remaining.
Watching those numbers change was hugely motivating. Even on days when I didn’t want to run, I could convince myself to do the minimum because I knew every effort made a measurable change to my tracking sheet.
On Day 1, I had no idea if my resolution was achievable. By working a step at time and focusing only on the week ahead, I achieved my massive goal almost two months early!
So, I ask you now: What do you want to feel in a year?
Planning to turn a dream into a goal puts you in the driver’s seat. Focusing on what success will look and feel like generates the momentum to propel you around obstacles. You may not achieve every goal you set, but unless you practice quality goal setting followed by focused action you will never experience the thrill of realizing how capable you truly are.
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