If you wanted to go on vacation, you probably wouldn't get in your car and drive without having an idea of where you were going. Don't get me wrong, spontaneous road trips are fun. But what happens when you run out of gas and realize you left your wallet at home? A goal with some planning goes a long way and ensures you get the most bang for buck.
When we decide our destination, we can work backwards to figure out the steps we need to take. When are we going? How much money do we need? What's the weather like? Who's going with us? Without knowing the destination, we can't answer these other questions. Life becomes a daily walk of chance. Some of us get lucky, but some of us don't.
So why does goal setting often fail or why do people choose to not goal set? This is a question I deal with all the time with my weight loss clients.
One common problem my clients face is they set realistic goals but they fail to plan. Just saying you want to lose 50 pounds doesn't actually do anything. If only we could close our eyes, click our heels, and magically be 50 pounds lighter! Without the planning, goals are just words. When do you want to lose 50 pounds by? How will you make time for exercise and meal planning? Who will be on your support team? What will you eat differently at home or restaurants? What will you do at a social event when you are surrounded by delicious treats? Planning and preparing for obstacles will help you reach that goal.
Another common problem is people set goals without a motivating vision. When I decide to go on vacation it's because I want to have uninterrupted time with my spouse to reconnect, make magical memories with my kids and rest. These all sound really good to me. When you decide to lose weight, it can't just be to lose 50 pounds. It has to be connected with a vision. What will happen when you lose 50 pounds? How will you be a better version of yourself? What will change in your life once you achieve this goal? If you decide you're going to make more money and have more sex -- you're probably more likely to lose that 50 pounds.
Unrealistic goals are another problem. I once had a client who lost 15 pounds in a month and was upset because she wanted to lose 30 pounds in 30 days. It took a lot of work to get her to understand that 15 pounds in one month is a fantastic accomplishment. Her unrealistic goal made her feel like she had failed -- when really, she was extremely successful. We were able to work around this but often times, we throw in the towel because we feel like we are failing when we don't reach a goal that was unrealistic.
And finally, I truly believe there is a difference between goals and sorry to put it crassly, but crap you gotta do. Goals enhance your life, they give you hope, and focus on your strengths and talents. When we set goals around priorities that push us toward our best life possible, we do them. But don't confuse crap you gotta do with goals. Can you set a short-term goal to clean out your refrigerator by Saturday? Sure. Will you do it? Hopefully. But that goal has a shelf-life and the truth is you could pay someone just as easily to come over and clean out your fridge. A winning goal is something that you and only you can achieve for yourself.
With the new year, this is a great time to check-in with yourself and remind yourself of the person you know you can be. Establishing goals that are consistent with your values and dreams will help ensure you end up where you want to go. Taking the time to prepare and plan for obstacles will provide you with a road map to get to your destination. Keep your motivation alive by having a strong, compelling vision in your head of what's going to happen when you reach your goal. And finally, making sure your goal is realistic will prevent you from feeling frustrated and giving up. You can't drive to Paris if you live in the U.S. So if you are taking a road trip, you might want to pick a different destination!
I sincerely hope whatever your destination is in 2013, you get there!