How to set goals and actually achieve them

New Years Resolutions – haven’t we all started the new year off fresh, full of energy and with new goals, dedicated our time to those goals in January… Only to completely get back to our old antics by the time February comes around?  If you are anything like me and many others, you probably answered yes. There are many things that can make you lose your motivation along the way, but having a well thought out goal is the best start you can give yourself.

To help you set and achieve your goals, there are three questions you can ask yourself. 

What do I want?

This sounds like an open door waiting to be kicked down. But surprisingly this is a step that is often overlooked, causing you to lose motivation quickly. Before you can start working on your goal, you need to determine what it actually is that you are working towards. Maybe you would like to get in shape more. Think about what this means to you: is getting in shape more being able to run 10k? Or getting stronger and being able to do a pull up? Or does it mean losing weight or gaining more muscle mass? Or maybe getting in shape means having more energy in your daily life. All of these goals are great things to work on. The key is to formulate your goal before going in further into your motivation and strategy. 

It is important that the goal you just formulated is something you are excited about. Think about reaching your goal somewhere in the (near) future. Try to really visualize this: what does it look like? And most importantly: how does it make you feel? How excited are you about your future self reaching this goal on a scale of 1 to 10? 

Why do I want this?

Once you have figured out the “what”, it is time to think about the “why”. Having a clear view of the “why” behind your goal is one of the best ways to keep working on it and get back to it if you lose track. The more personal meaning a goal has to you, the more likely you are to achieve it and incorporate it into your lifestyle. In a world where everything is shared and compared, it can be difficult to focus on yourself. Find out what you really want for yourself, and make sure it is not something others want for you or even something that others might want for themselves. So write down your goal and ask yourself: what is the reason I want to achieve this goal? The answer to this question always needs to have to do with you. Maybe the first reason you can think of to get in shape is so your friends or your partner will like you more that way. If your “why” has to do with other people, try to ask yourself the same question again until you find your real motivation behind your goal. Think of what reaching this goal could bring you. For example, getting in shape could give you more energy and make you feel better in daily life. If you can’t find this reason, maybe this is not something you actually want for yourself. Then you can always go back to reformulate your “what”. If you have figured out your “why”, write it down. This way you will always have something to remind you of the reason you are doing this: you. 

How will I do this?

Congratulations! You have successfully set your goal. Now comes the part where you start building towards it. When working on a goal it is important to have a strategy. To find out your strategy, start by listing of all the actions you can do that will contribute to your goal. All of these actions will become your smaller sub-goals. The reason for dividing your goal into smaller goals, is that living your daily life with the constant thought of “I need to get in shape” running through your head can be very overwhelming, causing you to not be able to work on it at all. Taking simple actions and setting them as your daily or weekly goals will allow you to celebrate small victories every day or every week, helping you stay motivated. This list of small sub-goals can consist of simple actions and habits, like going for a walk every day, including vegetables in each meal you cook and drinking enough water every day. This is also the moment to evaluate if your goal and actions are realistic. By setting the bar too high, you will likely just end up demoralizing yourself. Possibly, working out every day or cutting out your favorite snack completely are not realistic actions, leaving you feeling disappointed in yourself. Set your goal and actions to be something you are sure you can do, finding the right balance between challenging and realistic.

Another key part of your strategy is dealing with obstacles. Because you can’t control all of the obstacles that will get in your way, but you can control the way that you deal with them. This part of your strategy is yet another list: a list of the things that could get in your way or sidetrack you from your goal and daily or weekly actions. This could be not having groceries in your fridge, being tired after work, or social pressure from friends. Then think of a way to deal with these obstacles: having nutritious meals in your freezer, doing a short workout in the morning before work, motivating your friends to go for a walk with you, or deciding that seeing your friends is also part of a balanced and healthy life. When any of these obstacles pops up, you will now be able to recognize it and deal with it.

It is important to realize that you can always decide that a goal you have set no longer fits you and your values. Maybe your priorities have changed or working on your goal has not given you what you were expecting. Remember this is human and don’t be too hard on yourself: if you notice this you always have the chance to sit down and re-evaluate your goal, your “why”, and your actions.

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Auteur

Nienke van Keulen

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