I’m a planner. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll be able to tell you that I have a particular weakness for stationary which enables me to write lists, to-do notes or plan my time. So it may seem a natural progression when I confess that as well as planning my time, I also like to set goals. I usually spend some time at the start of each year setting goals for the next 12 months ahead. I don’t set new year resolutions as they tend to be things that I feel I have to do, or must do. Instead I like to set myself some challenges or goals that I actually want to achieve in the year!
But once you have set your goals, what then? I’ve read lots of articles and blog posts on goal setting but not too much on how to actually achieve them. For me it’s a two-step process. Setting the goal is just the first step. You then need to plan how you are going to achieve it and this can mean that you have to make some sacrifices or changes in your life. In order to explain myself more clearly, I’ve complied a list of my top three tips for achieving your goals.
1. Prioritise your goals.
If you are setting more than one goal, you need to decide which one is the most important to you and start to work on that first. It’s nearly impossible to work on several goals at once and so you might want to spread them out over the course of the year or whatever time you have allowed yourself. For example, last year I wanted to improve my health and fitness so decided I was going to address my diet and increase the amount of exercise I did each week. I knew that if I tried to tackle both of those things at once, it would become too much for me and I would be tempted to give up. So I decided to focus on my diet at first. I made some small, gradual changes and once they had become a part of my ordinary everyday life, I switched my focus a little and started to look at including more exercise into my week. I kept up with the diet changes as they were now a part of how I lived but was able to gradually increase the amount of exercise I did little by little. Trying to do both at once would have been unrealistic. Therefore I broke my goal down into smaller chunks so that it was more manageable.
2. Something’s gotta give.
In my experience, when you decide to work on something new, or have a goal to achieve, something else needs to go on the back burner in your life. I have lots of hobbies and interests that I like to pursue however I can’t focus on them all at once! Last year I was part of a community gospel choir and I loved it. This year however, I decided that I wanted to focus on my Masters degree and finish it off well. So, as sad as I was making the decision at the time, I decided to give up the choir for a while so that my MA could take priority one evening a week. I can always go back to choir once I’ve finished the MA, but if I really want to achieve the goal of completing my studies well, I need to sacrifice another interest for a while in order to do it.
3. Celebrate the small successes.
Sometimes when we are focussed on achieving a goal, we can spend so much time looking at the end product that we miss all of the little steps we take along the way to get there. This is true for me when I think about my running. I decided about two years ago that I wanted to start running so that I could participate in a 5k park run. I downloaded the NHS couch to 5k app and off I went. Sadly, I did not get on too well. I found it really tough to run even for 2 minutes at first and looking back, became my own worst enemy. Instead of focussing on each small step, such as running for 2 minutes and building up slowly to 3 or 4 minutes, I criticised myself for being unfit. It didn’t get me very far. Looking back, I should have celebrated when I ran for two minutes instead of sapping my motivation with negative thoughts. I picked up the running programme on and off over the next 12 months until about a month ago when I thought ‘ok, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it’. In short, I needed to prioritise this goal. I stopped going to the gym and decided to run in the park 3 times a week instead. I’m now up to running for 28 minutes! I’m not a fast runner by any means but I’m determined to celebrate every step that I’ve taken to get to this goal. I only have one week left on my training programme and then should be able to run for 30 minutes, after which I’ll do my first park run. It’s taken me a long time, but by prioritising the goal and putting something else on the back burner for a while (my spinning class at the gym), I’ve been able to make much more progress.
I hope that these tips have been useful for you. Leave me a comment below if you have any of your own thoughts to share on this topic.