The Ultimate Guide to Reaching Your Goals
We all have a vision of how we want to look, feel, and act. Maybe you wish you were one of those yoga ladies who walks around with a green juice. Maybe you dream of crossing the finish line at a 5k, 10k, or even a marathon! Your vision for your healthy self is as individual as you are. I hope you’ll spend some time formulating that vision so that you can see, hear, feel, and taste exactly what success would feel like.
In this post, we’re going to take those dreams, visions, and maybe even secret wishes and get really specific about how to turn them into reality. Writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” Wishes are cool. We love to spend some time thinking about them and playing around with them.
But what if you could turn those wishes into reality?
Apart from those dreams, visions, and wishes that are physically unachievable by humans, smart goal setting, detailed planning, and a system of support and motivation can take you from thinking about getting healthy to living that vision of a healthy you that’s floating around in your brain.
Setting Your Vision
Ask yourself these questions...and take the time to write down your answers:
- What do you want to achieve? Be specific.
- Why do you want to achieve this goal? What specific, detailed, emotionally-charged reasons do you have? This is the heart of your vision, your finish line where you are satisfied with yourself and energized. Get in touch with those deep, emotional reasons for your success.
- What does this success mean for you?
- How might your daily life change? Surely whatever has captured your imagination here will have enough of an impact of your life that you could see measurable results in your attitude, confidence, or even physical appearance, fitness, or energy. I want to you get such a clear vision of life after success that you can practically touch and feel it.
- Now, we have this clear idea of success, so what is standing in your way? Something must be, since why else would you deny yourself the joy?
- Where do you struggle the most in trying to reach this version of you?
- What might require some extra planning and self-TLC?
- What needs to change about your attitude, environment, support system, lifestyle, finances to get you where you want to be? Let’s be real here. If you’re saying “lack of motivation,” I need you to go deeper.
- What demotivates or derails you? Do you just plain hate running? Is it out of your way to go to the grocery store instead of ordering delivery?
- What is the hardest part of staying on the path to success for you? Don’t let yourself get frustrated, apathetic, or even stuck not knowing what to do next.
- If you had the perfect life for reaching your goal, what would be different than your current situation? Would you have a nanny? Personal chef? Lipo (just kidding)?
- Let’s take it down a notch from your happy place. What could be done to make this easier and remove obstacles standing in the way of your motivation and ultimate success? Who can help you? What can you do to make things smoother?
- Most importantly, why haven’t you changed or succeeded in long term change in the past?
Setting Your Goals
When you begin to piece together your goals and plan, be both kind to yourself and realistic. Don’t commit to 5am workouts if you’re not interested in being a morning person. Don’t vow to eat hard boiled eggs if they give you the heebie jeebies.
What are the most important outcome of making this change for you? How can you get there in the most painless way possible? The secret to habit-changing success is to, get this, make it easy. You’re going to be actively negotiating with yourself while formulating your goals and plan. Negotiate a deal you can live with and still reach your goals.
As you list your most important outcomes of this process, think of them as your goals. Break each of the outcomes down into separate goals that you are invested in achieving. Each one should be distinct and have only one outcome. For example, “I will eat 4 servings of vegetables daily” as opposed to “I will eat better food and drink more water each day.”
The method that is most effective for goal setting is the SMART framework. SMART stands for specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound. Those elements come together to make goals that can be planned and measured and, therefore, lead to success. The more your goals follow this recipe for success, the easier they will be to plan, the clearer you’ll be on your progress or need to change things up, and the more motivated you will be since you know what you need to do to be successful.
Specific: Get very specific with the distinct goals you listed. For example, exactly how many servings for vegetables? How many minutes will you walk outside and for how many days a week? The more specific you can be, the better you can create a plan and measure your success.
Measurable: How will you measure your progress? For example, will you track servings or calories for food? Will you track minutes, distance, speed for exercise? Will you track meditation sessions or minutes? No matter the goal you are setting, you need to have a way to measure progress.
Actionable: Can you take methodical steps that lead you to success? Could you create a to-do list that eventually leads you to goal completion? The goal needs to be one where you know exactly what action to take to achieve it.
Realistic: Though we are translating your dreams, vision, and hopes into actionable goals, your goal needs to be realistic. Do you want to work out twice a day for six days a week? Cool. What about your job and commitments. Do you want to fit into a certain size? If one were to take measurements of you at your goal weight, would you even fit within those size measurements? Some of us will never be a size 2 because of our frame. Consider the availability of resources, knowledge and time you need to be successful. Is this goal something that, though possibly a stretch, can be reached?
Time-bound: Think about how long you will give yourself to achieve your goals. Is this a near-term goal that you will achieve in a week or month? Your goal may even be a small part of a longer-term goal. For example, your goal now may to be to lose 3 pounds in two weeks. The longer-term goal could be to lose 50 pounds in one year.
List out each of your goals and go through the progress on all of them. The clearer you can get the goals, the simpler it will be to assign the tactics you need to achieve them.
At the beginning of this post, I referenced Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s quote, “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” This is where we will make those wishes into reality with carefully planned tactics that will be a roadmap to your goal achievement.
Before we get to the tactics, I want you to think about your overall strategy for achieving each of your goals. Think of each goal as a result. For instance, in the old question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The goal is to eat an elephant, so the result is an eaten elephant. If you’re trying to eat an elephant, you don’t just go into that situation with a fork and hope for the best. You think of an overall strategy first. Let’s say the strategy is to catch the elephant while he’s sleeping and to start seasoning him in a way that won’t wake him. You’ll then start eating from the back to front so he’s less likely to notice you.
Great, there’s the game plan. You know the general idea of when, where, and what’s involved in eating the elephant. Now that you have a strategy, you need an exact plan, since that elephant won’t particularly like being eaten and you’ll have to be efficient.
The answer to the old “How do you eat an elephant” question is, as we’ve all heard, “one bite at a time.” Those bites are your tactics, the steps that you need to take to get the elephant – tail to trunk tip – into your stomach. Bite by bite, decided by your overall strategy, you eat that elephant until you’ve got yourself one eaten elephant.
We approach all goals in the same manner as the elephant. Some of your goals may even seem as hard as making lunch out of Dumbo. But bite by bite, you can accomplish anything. It simply takes a good SMART goal, a strategy, and the tactics to guide you.
For each goal, write a one to two sentence strategy. Keep it concise and, well, strategic! Like you did with writing your goals, imagine that you’ve handed the strategy to someone without context. Could they create a plan to execute the strategy from just what you’ve given them?
After writing a strategy for each goal, list out specific things you’ll do to achieve that goal. These are your tactics. Think of everything you can do to execute your strategy. How can you remove obstacles and barriers from your life to make way for goal attainment?
Here's an example:
Your goal is to eat five servings of vegetables every day for one month. Because that goal is specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound, it’s relatively easy to write a plan.
Your strategy could be to add vegetables to your meals by increasing servings in your current recipes and eating vegetable-rich foods for meals and snacks. Your strategy should be reasonable and achievable to you. It’s your strategy, after all.
Now comes the fun part – thinking of all of the ways you can use this strategy to reach your goal. Remember, these tactics are things that are easy when taken on their own. Make sure to only list tactics that you would agree to do and that don’t impose a burden or hardship. You want to select tactics that are so easy it’s silly not to do them. The power comes from the additive effect for doing many of these tactics over time to lead to change, bite by bite.
Think of tactics that can easily fit into your life and that can help you toward your goals. Anything you can think of that would help is fair game for this list. Be creative!
As you start to execute your strategy and add these tactics to your life, you will likely find some that you want to adjust or eliminate. These need to be tactics that you’ll actually do without anguish. You might also think of some more that you could add. The more tactics you have to choose from, the better. It’s like having a toolkit at the ready to reach your goals.
Making Your Plan
Once you have your goals, strategies, and tactics, it’s time to plan. Unfortunately, you can’t live in a bubble where you only have to focus on reaching your goals. Sorry. To be successful and efficient in achieving your goals, you need to figure out how your new tactics will fit in with your daily routine. What needs to change for you to do these tactics? Are there things you need to buy? Space you need to make? Schedule shuffling to do? How can you most easily and seamlessly incorporate these tactics into your current life?
As you figure out your new daily routine, you’ll have a new list of tactics to use to get life in order. Do your best to get those taken care of as soon as possible. We want to create lasting behavior change and health, not take over your life.
Though most days will be routine, making changing your health behaviors simpler, life can throw you curveballs. Work, school, kids, friends happen, as do holidays, vacations, and sickness. What can you plan now to keep yourself on track? Assume that you will be detailed and create backup plans for inevitable derailing situations now. Think of your tactics for these situations so your know immediately what to do when you need to enact Plan B.
Some situations to consider for your backup plans are:
- Parties and social events
- Getting sick
- Having time constraints with work or other commitments
- Lack of motivation and needing to get re-energized about your goals
- Other barriers to your success in the past
A Final Word
This may take you a while to complete. Take your time and be thorough and detailed. Planning out your path to success now, while you’re motivated, will save you from difficult and tempting situations, setbacks, and, let’s be honest, a little laziness, in the future.
Best of luck to you in achieving your goals! Hit me up in the comments if you need help.
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