The SMART way of setting achievable goals for 2021
I love going to the gym. I signed up in January and attended twice a week for years. It gave me discipline, taught me about resilience and helped me to feel generally healthier. Every new year my weight-lifting group would welcome about 10 or 15 new people. The pattern was always the same.
In January the class was so full we could hardly move about without hitting someone. In February we usually lost about 5-8 people. By March we were back to the usual number of attendees, plus maybe one or two survivors from the new year intake, who kept attending for many months.
I often asked myself, what was causing such a different commitment level among the persons attending the same class? There could be many answers as we are all different and we do have issues such as family, health and work matters which interfere with our free time.
However, one possible explanation is that perhaps for many of those new athletes, their initially great motivation decreased as time went by, and the less they attended their class, the harder they found it to regain the speed and excitement they had at the beginning of the year, so they quit.
My next question of course was, what is behind this motivation, what is the tipping point when we finally take action to get a result? I researched that and found out that most of us simply like to keep to what is familiar, even when it’s painful and we can rationally see that it is leading is nowhere in terms of our dreams and long-range goals. We get distracted pretty easily, too.
My other discovery was that when the pain of the current situation is higher than the pain of change, then we step into action.
You might have read the story of a woman who found herself unable to fit into the seats of an aeroplane and finally decided it was time to reduce her weight. The strong feelings that elicited her decision supported her in several months of determined action that brought her down to a reduced size and increased fitness level.
When we are faced with the stark reality that things are going to get even worse, we snap into action. But otherwise, we tend to push uncomfortable lifestyle changes to the ‘when I have time’ (read: Neverland). Therefore many of us, when magazines and media articles suggest new goals for the forthcoming year, just turn off and maybe pick up a chocolate bar to brush away that nagging feeling that something needs to be done. Does this sound familiar?
- ‘I don’t have the time and discipline to exercise/cook healthy meals.’
- ‘I don’t need a therapist, I can just read a good book and it’s actually cheaper.’
- ‘What’s the point of starting, I never achieve anything I set anyway.’
- ‘I tried everything but nothing worked, so I gave up.’
- ‘I can’t change. This is how I am. Hard luck.’
I can personally list so many justifications I came up with when faced with the necessity of making a change in my life. Because, let’s say it, change is often painful and requires work, mental resilience and vision.
Some might actually believe that setting goals is not for them. However… what would happen if we changed the way we set our goals, to exponentially increase our chances to achieve them?
The reason why we fail getting what we want can often be traced to vaguely set, generic goals. Let me show you a few examples.
- I want to lose weight/be fit
- I want to find work/get clients
- I want to feel good/happier
- I want to find a loving partner
- I want to become famous (yes, I hear that quite often!)
What’s wrong with these goals? As a coach, I can tell you that many clients come to me with goals like these - and they have six underlying issues that make them not achievable:
- They are too generic, so we don’t know what to do about them and we have no vision of the end result, therefore we lack vision, motivation and strategy. What does it mean to you to ‘feel good’?
- They don’t provide a clear idea of what/how much we want to gain. How many clients do you need to find next week? How much do you need to earn to pay your bills?
- They are not achievable. Do you really believe that you can create a six-figure income if you have no business idea, no clue about sales and marketing, no good product and no time to work on your goal?
- They are not set to happen in a specific time frame. Yes, you always wanted to become a singer, become fit, learn cycling or crochet, become a CEO, get your PHD, but by when did you want to achieve your dreams?
- They are not written down. A goal not written down is merely a wish. Unless you start taking solid action and taking notes about it, adding steps and actions in your planner, your mind can’t even start accepting the idea that you are moving towards the realisation of your goal.
It is also worth noting that sometimes there are deeper reasons why our already SMART goals are not becoming reality. This is because sometimes we are subconsciously self sabotaging ourselves, or thinking we do not deserve success, or carry on guilt about something.
In this case, hypnotherapy is a good way of going even deeper and finding out just what is going on that keeps stalling us. By talking directly to the inner critic, we can transform the trite dialogues we repeat in our minds and literally transform them. Then we can truly move on.
If you want to set a goal and achieve it in 2021, make sure it is a SMART one. Ensure it is based on these foundational aspects:
- It’s Specific. You want to lose 10kg, find five clients, date five people, read three books, sell two properties.
- It’s Measurable. Your campaign wants to reach 1000 people. You can exercise for a full hour and feel good. You spend four hours a week to nourish yourself/grow your hobby or talent.
- It’s Attainable. You are realistic about it. This is possible and other people with your set of skills have done it. You are grounded and you are capable of doing the hard work behind it.
- It’s Relevant. If your statistics show that high levels of engagement with your Instagram content are not bringing high levels of sales, but your Facebook lives are, there is no point in setting a goal to improve your Instagram engagement.
- It’s Time-bound. In other words you set a realistic deadline. Work out how long you will take to achieve it, cut it into chunks and divide them per 12 months. You can lose 2kg a month for 12 months, or find a new client a week for 52 weeks, and achieve your specific and measurable result if you work smart.
Once you have determined what you want to achieve in the specific, why you want it, how you will feel when you have it, and achieve a vision of what it will be like, and you know that your inner mind is aligned with it, you can say you have something big in your hands.
Because now you can sit down, alone or with your friend, coach or mentor, and work out a strategy, a set of actions that will lead you to achieve that goal. The next step is to list the steps you need to take in chronological order and then fit them within your schedule. This means to pick up your calendar, and start writing down what you will do, and when.
And here is the thing - it doesn’t matter if you want to run for President or simply improve your mental wellness in the new year - unless you write down your specific steps in your calendar you are more likely to forget about your goals and let your busy life take over - again. Your mind needs to know that you are up to something. It might be helpful to listen to hypnotic recordings to energise you every day and give you encouragement. The benefits are incredible.
Remember that whatever goal you have, your final purpose is to feel happy - which is the main reason behind all our actions when it comes to the crunch.
Here are some actionable examples you might want to start with.
You weigh 80kg and you want to lose 12kg and keep the weight off, but also develop an exercise routine of 30 minutes a day. 12kg equals 1kg a month, so you write down by January 79, by February 78, to be able to track your goal. You also add in your daily calendar 30” of exercise and possibly specify, Monday aerobics, Tuesday Zumba, Wednesday weight lifting, Thursday running, and so on.
Once you get 10 days straight into a new routine, things get easier and more familiar. An accountability partner who is doing the same things is of great help to achieve sustained emotional support. If after doing all the above there is reluctance, consider talking to a hypnotherapist in order to find out what your inner mind feels about your routine: you might be surprised! Maybe your mum used to tell you ‘In this family we are all chubby, it’s genetic and we cannot change!’ Whatever it is, we can change this with hypnosis!
You want to find 10 clients a month and you know that they respond well to Facebook lives. You add in your planner the number of lives you will do each week, prepare a content calendar for 30 days, schedule the release and prepare 30 Instagram and Facebook memes/posts to make the events known.
You want to feel closer to a loved one by spending more time together doing meaningful things you both enjoy. You add in your planner calm half-hour chats to find out what is mutually enjoyable, one hour outdoors or with no TV/media once a week, a service project every other month, 10 minutes a day just chatting.
For each goal you have, ask yourself what is the end result, why do you want it, how do you want to feel, when you have it, and you might find out that more often than not, goals are a means to an end and you can achieve the end with different means. Conceptually speaking, everything is available to you. Freedom, hope, happiness, meaning and purpose are the foundational rocks of our well being and can be found in the small things we tend to ignore or take for granted.
I always remember the guy who said he wished to buy a motorbike. Quite an expensive item to purchase, you might object. After thoughtful discussion with a coach it turned that the reason he wanted one was simply to feel free. The bike was the means to an end. What he wanted was not a bunch of metal but a feeling, and this is a shared trait of humanity.
Our actions are dictated primarily by how we feel.
When you establish your SMART goals, notice what kind of emotional state will be elicited when you achieve it, and how you can bring that state to you now, while you visualise the end result. The anticipation, excitement, motivation and energy will support you as you carry on with your work and adjust to the situation, while keeping your actions aligned to your goal. You know that when you achieve something, after much work, you feel happy and energised.
As your vision expands, keeping razor sharp focus on the end result, and on an effective strategy, you will experience much more joy and purpose from day one, thus fulfilling your initial goal of feeling happier, earlier.
It turns out that the energy goes into what you focus on.
So, focus on what matters most and you will not regret it.
Have a brilliant 2021, everyone.
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