“Happiness grows less from the passive experience of desirable circumstances than from the involvement in valued activities and progress towards ones goals” - David Myers & Ed Diener
People who set and pursue goals are more likely to succeed and experience positive emotions than people who do not. Plain and simple it’s the first step toward lasting change and greater fulfillment.
A goal can be seen as an explicit commitment that focuses our attention on the target. In doing so it opens us up to possibilities that may help us get there. It makes these possibilities relevant. Psychologists refer to this experience as throwing your backpack over the brick wall. It’s a leap of faith, a commitment to yourself and others of what you desire for your future.
So what are your health related goals? Do you have any? Have you written them down? Does anyone else know about them?
It you’ve answered NO to some or all of these questions, you’re not alone. Interestingly, most of us don’t set goals in any area of our life and even less of us write them down. Of those who set goals, the majority don’t know how to do it in a way that will increase motivation and chance of success.
So How do I set goals I can achieve?
I always tell my clients to make sure their goals are SMART:
Specific: Define exactly what you want to achieve. Rather than I’m going to exercise more, specify how much? When? What type of exercise?
Measurable: How are you going to measure your success? Make sure your goals are measurable so that you can objectively assess how well you are doing along the way. If you plan to increase the amount you exercise, specify how much time you plan on exercising in one session? What intensity? Keep a record of this.
Attractive and Accountable: To make goals more attractive ask yourself why you want to achieve this goal? How can you make it more attractive? I always tell my clients to make sure goals are set with a positive reference. Something they are striving towards rather than trying to avoid- “to have enough energy to spend quality time with my children”, rather than “ to avoid a heart attack”. This will significantly increase your motivation.
To increase accountability, ask yourself who knows about my goal? As a coach, I hold my clients accountable. Make your friends, parents & colleagues your health coaches. Tell then what you are going to achieve and when. If you’re game, put it on facebook. On twitter. The more people you tell the greater the chance of success. One of my clients who is an author uses this strategy. She tells her readers when the next book is to be released before she has even started to write the book. How’s that for a way to get you moving?
Realistic: Whilst I wouldn’t mind fitting into size 6 jeans, given the fact that this has not been an option for me since I was 8 years old- its probably not a realistic goal. Nor a healthy one for that matter. So make sure your goals are realistic…. and healthy! Ask yourself if you can really achieve the goal? If it appears too hard, too big, too far in the future – break it down into smaller goals that can be realistically achieved.
Time-limited: Set specific start and finish dates. Let others know. If you have lofty goals, as most of us do, break them down into smaller goals. Success breeds success. One of my clients plans to run the Blackmore’s marathon next year. Problem is they don’t run and the overall goal has always been too overwhelming. So we have broken down the goal into smaller more achievable chunks. Instead of running 42kms next September, they are starting with something they feel they can achieve over the next month- walking/ jogging 3 times a week for 20 minutes.
Is pursuing a goal enough to make me feel happier? You bet!!
To make this point, I think I’ll tell you a story…. It’s from one of my favourite books- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In brief, the book describes a motorcycle mechanic who joins a group of elderly Zen monks on their climb to a Himalayan peak. The motorcycle mechanic, despite being the youngest and fittest was the only member of the group who struggled with the climb and gave up, whilst the elderly monks made it to the peak, almost effortlessly.
Why? You see, the motorcycle mechanic had focused solely on the destination, the Himalayan peak. On achievement of the goal. In doing so he became overwhelmed by what lay ahead, how far he still had to go. He lost his strength, his motivation to continue. The monks on the other hand also kept sight of the goal. However the difference between them and the motorcycle mechanic was they only used the Himalayan peak as a point of reference, to make sure they were still on the right track. For the monks reaching the peak of the mountain was not the most important part. It was knowing that they were heading in the right direction. This allowed them to enjoy each step along the way.
Whilst it is all good and well to set and achieve goals, make sure they do not become Gaols!! The real role of goal setting is to set us free so that we can enjoy the present, knowing we are heading in the right direction. Until next time. Keep striving!!