What’s easier, setting goals for a few things to accomplish this month, or resolving that you’re going to do one or two amazing things all year?
I’m asking rhetorically. A career working with elite athletes has taught me that thinking of a goal as a single, major accomplishment you hope to achieve isn’t nearly as effective as thinking of each goal as a series of dozens, or even hundreds, of micro goals.
You can still indulge in the fun of daydreaming about the end result. But let’s first break down the steps for how to set goals that are so realistic that your daydream becomes reality.
Purpose and intent
Over the years, I’ve listened to a lot of people’s goals. Consistently, the best ones are those that not only make life better for the goal-setter, but that improve the lives of people around them.
Because of that, I encourage people to form goals that extend beyond themselves.
It’s not too different of a mindset than the “hero’s journey,” where the hero faces risks and difficulties in order to help the village back home. Sure, your fitness or health journeys may not save entire villages, but you certainly can frame your goals the same way.
Consider the greater purpose of any goal. If you want to lose weight or increase your endurance, who will benefit besides yourself? There’s always someone.
If you’re happier because you’re more fit, then the people closest to you will be happier. If you’re healthier because you’re making better decisions about food, then people around you might join you and adapt their eating habits. Positivity is contagious.
Map out monthly “micro” goals.
Once you’ve thought of your end goal and who will benefit from it, evaluate where you are today. Sometimes, we overreach, which distorts our perspective of how far we have to go.
For example, if I have a weight-loss goal but I don’t even eat fresh vegetables, then my first micro goal isn’t to lose weight; it’s to replace some of my junk food with fresh produce, even once a day.
If my goal is to run a marathon, but I don’t yet jog more than two miles twice a month, then my first micro goal might be to jog two miles twice a week.
Taking a realistic look at where you are now and where you want to be helps you to realistically see the steps in between.
“How can I mess this up?” Be honest.
You know yourself better than anyone else does. Just as important as figuring out how to make something work is acknowledging what’s going to get in your way.
Remember your vices from the outset. You know what they are. They’re the things that get in the way of the good things you planned to do. One person’s might be Netflix binges and chocolate; another’s might be social media; someone else’s might be work-related.
Whatever your vices are, by being aware of them, you’ll not only notice when they distract you (and they will, I promise!), but you’ll learn new habits to help you avoid them.
Hold yourself accountable – and share.
I tend to work in four-week blocks of micro goals. I try to figure out how long it will take me to reach each micro goal and I make corrections along the way. By mapping out what went right, what went wrong and what got in the way, I can better plan out the next four-week block.
For some people, sharing goals with someone they trust helps keep them accountable. There are plenty of members and staff at Forma Gym who would be happy to cheer you on.
Finally, always write down and track your goals, using whatever device, app or other method you’re most likely to follow. Take note of your successes, your challenges, the corrections, adaptations and surprises you encounter. Being able to look back on your progress (and your holdups) is just as important as being able to envision your future success.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to acknowledge your own achievements. Give yourself credit every time you hit a goal, micro or major.
Keeping track of the produce you substituted for candy or the miles you jogged all month is worth celebrating. Take credit for your hard work in preparation for your next miniature milestone.
Make a plan, stay optimistic, celebrate your successes and enjoy every win.