Here’s a question for you: are you bad at following through on your health goals, or is it that you’re bad at setting goals?
In my coaching practice, many clients tell me that they’re bad at the follow through. They try a diet, they try to meditate, they try to exercise, and they can’t seem to stick to it. Now any sort of generalization like “I’m bad at keeping goals” raises some red flags, so my follow-up question is usually “well, what goals did you set?” The reply completely explains the source of the issue….
- My goal is to eat healthier.
- My goal is to start meditating.
- My goal is to do more cardio.
What do these phrases have in common? They are all vague and difficult to measure. There is no sense of time, and no action plan. Even someone with the best willpower might not be able to achieve these goals!
[Tweet “Want to start following through on your health goals? Start setting better goals.”]
The best thing you can do to boost your health is to start setting goals that naturally lead themselves to action. Today I’m going to teach you how to build a goal that’s designed for easy follow through.
1. Make it specific & measurable.
The goals I mentioned above were vague. Contrast them with goals like:
- My goal is to eat 3 pieces of fruit each day.
- My goal is to run for 30 minutes 3 times each week.
WOW. Now those are some goals I can get behind. They tell you exactly what is expected, and you know with absolute certainty if you achieved them or not. These are specific, measurable goals, and these two qualities are among the most important when it comes to setting goals that you can follow through on.
These goals also have a timeframe. Attaching time to your goal lets you actually schedule things on your calendar and measure your progress. Is your goal to do something daily? Weekly? Does it have to happen in the next month? Name it!
2. Do a feasibility check.
Perhaps I want to increase my cardio exercise, and I set a specific, measurable goal of going swimming 3 times each week. So far, so good – swimming is awesome cardiovascular exercise! But, here’s the thing. There’s no swimming pool near my house. I’m frankly not a very good swimmer, so if I was going to do this regularly, I would need a trainer. I would have to join a gym or club, which would cost money. And actually, fitting in 3 gym trips to my schedule really just does not work – I would rather do my exercising at home.
Laid out like that, swimming 3 times each week sounds like a pretty poor goal for me, because there are other ways I could increase my cardio that wouldn’t have nearly as many barriers like biking or running. But we do this all the time!! We set goals that actually aren’t right for us, and then feel disappointed when we have a hard time following through.
According to Jon Acuff, acquiring any new skill (and I would add habit) requires 5 things: time, knowledge, money, gear, and access to experts. You’ll dramatically boost your chances of following through with your goal if you limit how many of those you need to get going on building your new habit. Shoot for 1 or 2 from this list – maybe time and access to experts. Or money and gear. By measuring up your goal on these five criteria, and minimizing the number of insurmountable barriers, your goal will be a little bit closer to reality and a little less overwhelming to begin.
3. Check in on your why.
You created a specific, measurable goal that is grounded in time and seems feasible. But why is this your goal?
We so often forget to check in and make sure that we know why we want to achieve a goal. The plethora of information we are bombarded with on a daily basis makes this more difficult – there are so many articles telling us why we need to do X, Y, or Z to have the best life ever. It’s easy to lose touch with what our priorities and values are and how we want to live. Even though you are super pumped to start lifting weights at 5am, check in with why you’re doing it. Did you choose that time frame because it is the only time you can workout while your baby is sleeping? Is it because you love the quiet of early morning? Is it because pumping iron while listening to 50 Cent is the most cathartic activity you can find to manage your high-stress job? Name your why, so you’re that much more invested in following through and keeping the habit.
Choose goals that align with your values and priorities. Because when the going gets tough, it’s the why that keeps you going.
[Tweet “When the going gets tough, it’s the why that keeps you going”]
4. What’s your next step (or two or three)?
Now that you have the broad outlines of your goal, you’ve determined that it’s feasible, and you know why you are doing it…what happens next? It’s easy to talk about your amazing running career or your home-cooked meals, but talk is cheap until you actually do something.
So what’s the next thing that has to happen to achieve your goal? Do you need new running sneakers? Go grocery shopping? Clean out a closet? Write out the next three steps you need to take to make your goal a reality. Read here to learn more the whys and hows to set these small goals.
5. Go to your calendar.
Glad you found your next three steps! So when are you going to do them?
It’s time to pull out the trusty calendar, and get these steps on the books. This is the critical step. This is where you ground your dreams in your daily routine. The coolest part about getting your next steps in your calendar is that you realize that you’re not bad at following through with your goals, you just needed a little help setting it.
Adopting new habit is never easy. But by setting goals that are specific, are feasible, align with your values and priorities, and are in your calendar, you will dramatically boost your likelihood of success, and the entire process is fun instead of stressful.
What healthy habits are you trying to build? Head on over to Facebook, and let’s hear about your expert, totally doable goal!