Practical goal setting
Goal setting is essential when undertaking any change. This article applies the process of goal setting to weight loss however it can be applied to any changes too.
Never underestimate the power of a written goal. Properly done it will give you your destination, your route and your motivation.
A note of caution
Like anything that is worthwhile, goal setting takes time and effort. After you have spent that time though you will immediately feel the power that a well formed goal gives you. They say that a journey of 100 miles begins with a single step. Think of your goal as the preparation behind that step.
To illustrate the process I'm going to use the mythical Sarah. Sarah would like to lose some weight and has been struggling for some time. She has never set a goal in the past and has found that she sets off well but seems to have a repeating pattern of losing motivation quickly.
The 'What' of goals
The first thing you need is your What. What do you want?
This MUST be stated in positive terms, in order to process negatives our mind first turns them into positives. If Sarah were to say “I want to stop being fat” her mind immediately begins to focus on being fat. Better would be to say “I want to be slim”. However that is too woolly, goals are how we give ourselves instructions and in order to make very sure we get what we want we must be specific.
There are many ways to make sure that our goals are 'well-formed'. You may have come across SMART goals before if you haven't now would be a good time to Google it to get a bit more information. To get you started SMART stands for:
So Sarah may set her goal as being:
I will lose 16 lbs in weight in three months from 15 January 2015.
This is specific and measurable and for most people it is realistic and achievable. By having an end date satisfies Time-bound too which makes it a SMART goal.
It would be fine for Sarah to talk about dropping a dress size too as this is also measurable.
There are many other ways to structure your goal besides SMART, but for most people working on their own this is as good as anything.
The 'Why' of goals
This is the part that most people don't do correctly and as a result lose interest or motivation. It's fine for Sarah to have her well-formed goal but if she doesn't know why she wants this she is setting herself up for failure. One day when she is feeling tired, sitting watching TV instead of going to the gym seems easier. Without her “Why” she will not go. As we all know, once you have made that excuse once it's a lot easier to do it the second time (“after all nothing awful happened when I didn't go last week”) and you are on the slippery slope.
Write your goal down at the top of a piece of A4 paper. Underneath this write “Why?” then ask yourself the following two questions: “Why do I want this?” and “What does having this give me?”.
You are looking for abstract words or short phrases such as “to feel good”, “to become healthier” or “confidence”. Write this down as well and underneath this once again write “Why” and as the same two questions of what you have just written.
Repeat this at least four times or until you begin to repeat yourself and once you have done this write down “How will this make me feel?” and answer that question.
This process will take time and don't be afraid to throw the piece of paper away and start again. Really dig deep for the answers, spending time here is what will ensure your success later.
Sarah's goal may now look like this.
I will lose 16 lbs in weight in three months from 15 January 2015
I want to look in the mirror and be happy with who I see.
I want to feel attractive.
I want to be in control.
I want Bob at work to notice me.
How will that make you feel?
As Sarah wrote this she was thinking about being teased at school. How the other children had made her feel unattractive when they made fun that she didn't have a boyfriend.
Up until this point she hadn't realised that she quite fancies Bob. Most importantly she realised (perhaps for the first time) that when she is around other people she feels small inside, like a little girl.
Sarah has learned that what she really wants is that 'big' feeling inside – that's what is important to her. Achieving her target weight is simply the process that will give her that feeling. This is something that is deeply personal and others probably won't understand it. To Sarah it is everything.
Sarah now has a purpose beyond losing a few pounds she wants to feel a certain way. This is her driver.
Sarah puts this list on the fridge and each morning she takes it down and reads it aloud and thinks about what this really means to her and pretty soon it's imprinted on her mind.
Next time that she fancies a snack that she doesn't really need she asks herself “what is most important to me, this biscuit or feeling big?”. When that trashy TV show seems to be calling louder than the gym she thinks about feeling attractive and by now she can already start to feel that 'big' feeling inside, her confidence is growing and suddenly it's a whole lot easier to put her coat on and go to the gym.
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