Goal setting isn’t just about looking ahead to a proverbial “better” time in the future. It’s also about taking pause to observe both where you are now and how you got here. We recommend a three-part plan for optimal evaluation. Understanding your current situation on a holistic level and in an honest way is the first step toward creating the lasting change you want in the new year.
First, unplug from social media and communication for a couple of hours and head out the door for a long walk or run because it stimulates creative thinking. When you’re back, take some time to write out your thoughts, where you see yourself now, and why you feel you’re here. Finally, talk it through with a close friend or training partner (it’s good run conversation).
We are so caught up in all our adulting that we may not always take the personal creative time we need. Here’s your chance. During the Dream Big! phase of your new year’s goal setting, let your mind wander freely. Write down any and everything you could possibly dream of wanting. The dreams can be as simple as buying a new Chemex to make coffee or as complex as learning to fly a spaceship. The point is simply to write them all down.
Once they’re on paper, take a break. Hey, maybe go for a run. When you come back, it’s time to approach your list with a practical, action-oriented mind. Here’s what you need to do: Cross out the totally outlandish, not-going-to-happen-in dreams (for example if you’ve never flown a craft of any kind before it’s unlikely you’re going to fly a spacecraft anytime this year or, um, ever). Next, on a fresh piece of paper, start organizing the remaining dreams in an order that feels attainable to you. What do you want to accomplish first? Last? Why?
It’s time to get down to business and transform your semi-organized list into solid S.M.A.R.T goals. If you’ve read much about goal setting, you’ve probably heard of the acronym, S.M.A.R.T. It stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time.
You want your goals to be clear. Ambiguous goals are hard to measure. And if you want to attain your goals, you’ll need to measure the what, how, when, why, etc. At the same time, you want your goals to be realistically achievable within a set time period. (Also, just because it’s the new year it doesn’t mean all your goals must be accomplished by the end of 2018; some goals are going to take you several years. These are multi-part goals.)
Also, when it comes to “realistic,” don’t sell yourself short. Big, out-there dreams can be realistic, too. Never run more than 20 miles but want to complete a 100-mile trail race by the end of the year? With the right plan, who’s to say you can’t? These are your goals after all.
Plus, we like a blend of easily achievable goals and big lofty goals. Feeling accomplished from reaching an easily-attainable goal will help fuel your fire to aim even higher.
Goal setting is about personal growth and development, not self-criticism. You are where you are, you are who you are, and it’s important to remind yourself that you are OK and you are enough. If you want to lose 10 pounds in the new year, include why, and make sure it’s a positive reason. No abusive self-talk allowed.
A lack of accountability is probably one of the biggest reasons we let our goals fall by the wayside. So, get ahead of yourself by coming up with a plan to combat a backwards slide later in the year.
We suggest a two-part system: a personal check-in you do once per month (this can be as simple as reading and writing in your journal or as complex as a form you fill out; do what fits your personality) and a buddy plan where you check in on each other’s goals and talk them through on, say, a run.