We’re surely all guilty of setting ourselves goals and having the best intentions of sticking to them, but letting them go by the wayside. Counting up all the world’s made and unkept New Year’s resolutions might be enough to make one lose all hope in humanity. But fear not. It is possible to create goals that you can stick to. You just need to keep some key things in mind to make and follow through on your goals. You’ll be smashing those targets in no time.
Why create goals?
If you know what you’re aiming for, whether it be lifestyle goals, health and fitness or in your career, setting clear goals makes them a lot easier to reach.
High Country Haven founder Rachel Meadows says they are also a way to prioritise and solidify what’s important to us.
“Creating goals for ourselves helps in focusing our energies for a deliberate and conscious effort towards a lifestyle and way of living where we make the most out of what we have and who we are,” she says. “Considering firstly what matters to us, our values and the people we care about.”
How to create goals that are easier to keep
There are a few things you can do to make goals that you are more likely to stick with. Your approach to your goals will depend on the particular area of your life you are focussing on, whether that be your physical or mental wellbeing, your career or your family life, and it will also depend on your lifestyle. But if you stick to these guidelines as much as possible, you’ll be much more likely to achieve those goals you’ve had on your list for a while but haven’t managed to tick off yet.
Set SMART goals
Setting goals that follow the SMART guidelines will help you create goals that are easier for you to define and therefore easier to see how you can achieve them. They also add a layer of accountability to your goals.
Specific: What exactly do you want to achieve? How will you do it? This step takes the vagueness out of the equation, which sometimes gets in the way of us doing the things that need to be done.
Measurable: How will you measure progress towards your goal? How will you know once you’ve achieved it? Saying you are going to “get fit” is vague, but saying you want to be able to run 10km is something you can easily measure whether you’re there or not.
Achievable: Is your goal attainable for you in your given circumstances? Avoid setting goals that are way out of reach.
Rachel says that while setting goals that are ambitious is great, they also need to be possible to reach. “The goals needs to be realistic and achievable so that we do not set ourselves up to fail and get disheartened,” Rachel says. “We need to consider barriers to change and how we can get around them.”
Relevant: Is the goal relevant to you and your higher level goals? Does it make sense within your lifestyle? Setting goals that are relevant to the kind of life you want overall makes more sense and will motivate you to strive for them.
Time-based: What is your timeline for reaching your goal? It is easy to say “one day I’ll get around to it” and it never ends up happening. Put a date on your goals to avoid this trap. This gives them a sense of urgency and makes you accountable.
Break it down
So you’ve set your SMART goals, now what? Your goals at this stage might still seem a little obscure and you may not know where to start. That’s why we need to break them down into smaller, more manageable blocks that will make them less daunting to achieve.
“It is important to create goals that are broken down into smaller, clear steps,” says Rachel. “It helps to achieve goals when we think in detail about what we need to be doing differently from what we usually do.”
Setting and achieving goals also releases the feel-good chemical dopamine in the brain. When you have this positive energy flowing through your body it can act as momentum to help you keep on achieving these small goals bit by bit until you reach your ultimate goal.
Start with a list of tasks like you might do at work or for chores around the house. Set yourself a reminder or calendar appointment to help keep you on track. If you struggle to find time to achieve the task you’ve set yourself in the given time, consider blocking out a particular time in your day or week that is dedicated to that particular task.
It is also good practise to think about what challenges you might come up against and what you will do to overcome these.
Review your goals regularly
Without reviewing your progress towards your goals, it can be easy to lose sight of how far you’ve come, or perhaps the need to reassess some of your goals.
“Reviewing goals regularly help keep us on track and accountable to our aims,” Rachel says. “We may want to adjust them if we find they are not working as hoped. We need to be kind to ourselves when change gets difficult or we have got off track.”
Set regular check-ins for your goals. Depending what they are and the timeframe you’ve set yourself, it may make sense for these to be weekly or monthly. These regular sessions should help you assess how you’re doing and what you can do to improve.
Remember: Don’t be hard on yourself. Life changes, your goals might change too or things may stop you from getting exactly where you want to go.
But if you have a clear focus, create specific and attainable goals, break them down and regularly review and reassess, you’ll be well on your way to achieving what you set your sights to.