Monday, February 10, 2014

Goal Setting Part 1 - What is a goal?

First, an apology for letting this blog flounder a bit. It's not a good excuse, but with the holidays and my busiest time of the year being tax season, I haven't done a good job with this blog. I hope you will stick with me as I get back into the swing of things, and get this blog rolling again!

What is a goal?

We think we know the answer to this one, right? It's something I want, you say. Well, kind of. A goal is definitely something you want. That being said, I really want to look like Dita Von Teese, but that's not going to happen, so that is not a goal. It's just a want. On the other hand, I really want to get my extra weight off, and I work towards that everyday. It's something I have acquired the skills to achieve, and something that is within my abilities. That, my friends, is a goal. Can you see the difference?

The true definition of a goal is: An observable and measurable end result having one or more objectives to be achieved within a more or less fixed time-frame.

Lets go into this a little more:

  • Goals are value based: Basically, you will find it difficult or impossible to follow a goal that is not important or meaningful to you. If you make a goal to walk the family dog everyday, but spending time with the dog is not that important to you, you won't feel driven to reach that goal.
  • Goals are specific and concrete:  A goal must state exactly what you are going to do. It can't be a vague wish or idea. "I want to lose some weight" is not specific however, "I want to lose 25lbs by my wedding date on August 16th" is specific. You have stated exactly what you would like to achieve. Specifics help focus and define the overall effort involved.
  • Goals are measurable: Lets stick with the last statement. Can we measure our progress on losing the 25lbs by our wedding date? Of course, and very specifically so, because we know exactly what we are reaching for. If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. Measurements help you stay on track, observe change, and know when your goal has been accomplished.
  •  Goals are realistic: "I'm going to climb Mt. Everest next week" is not a realistic goal for most of us. I know it's not for me. I don't have the slightest inkling what it takes to climb a mountain. While I'm sure I have the capability to learn, this remains a unrealistic goal for me because I can't learn all I would need to learn in a week. I also am not fit enough to even think of attempting it. Now, if I was to say "I would like to hike to Corona Arch next week", I know I could probably do that. I understand my limitations and abilities. I know what I am able to accomplish by next week. It might take me awhile, but I know I could get there. As for that 25lbs by our wedding date on August 16th(I'm already married if you're curious), That is realistic. 25lbs in that amount of time, could be done with a lot of hard work.
  • Goals are time-based: It's sometimes hard to set a time for a goal. That being said, be realistic when you do, and be flexible.  It's ok if you need to push the end date out a little bit, and it's ok if you reach your goal early! Just make sure that it is a realistic time frame. Normally, you can't lose 25lbs in a month, but you can in 6 months. Often times sooner. Always set a beginning and end date.
  • Goals are written down: Really! No, no, wait, maybe you didn't hear me... WRITE. IT. DOWN!! Seriously. It doesn't matter is you write it down in a blog, a napkin, or the bathroom door, just write it down. Put it somewhere where you can see it, and read it, and remember it. Writing your goal down makes it more concrete (Remember specific and concrete?), and encourages you to be more committed to it.
  • Goals are shared: Sorry, it's true. You have to tell someone. Telling people about your goal keeps you accountable. You'll be less likely to procrastinate or waver from your goal if people are watching you.
  • Goals are flexible: I mentioned this earlier. Things are going to happen, as the saying goes: S#!T happens, life happens, however you want to say it. It's rare that you can follow through on any goal without some setbacks and detours. But, these detours and setbacks don't have to deter you from meeting your goal. Instead, re-examine your plan, revise it or make a new one. You may find you can't reach your goal within your time frame or that your goal has changed. That's OK as long as you are not using it as an excuse to avoid something you really want to do.

Now that we understand what a goal should be, we can begin to form our own goals in our lives. This is what I would like you to do this week: Start thinking about something you would like to accomplish that is within your values. Something that is important to you. This can be a weight loss goal, an exercise goal, a financial goal... it doesn't matter.

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