Goal-setting—How to set and reach your goals

A study in 2007 by Richard Wisemen from the University of Bristol showed that 78% of those who set New Year’s resolutions fail, and those who succeed have 5 traits in common.* Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.

Goals—specifics vs. generalities

Businesses set goals to achieve growth or profitability over time, and competitive athletes set training goals so they’re ready for important competitions. Individuals may have big picture goals, such as eating healthier or becoming more active, but how can you make sure you actually get there?

Setting goals that are specific gives you a long-term vision and short-term motivation. When you set goals that are clearly defined it lets you set milestones and see your progress, giving you the self-confidence to carry on and achieve your objectives.

How to set personal health goals

Think about what your end goal is, and then put it into specific terms. For example, if you want overall health, what does that mean to you? Does it mean you can run five kilometres non-stop, or does it mean you reach a particular measurement such as a lower BMI? Whatever your final goal is, write it down in a journal.

  1. What is a reasonable amount of time to achieve this goal? For health goals, you should check with your doctor or London Drugs personal care pharmacist for guidance. Note in your journal the date by which you want to accomplish your goal.
  2. Set milestones between today (or your start date) and the date you want to achieve the goal. For example, if running five kilometres is your goal, and you’ve given yourself two months to do it, break the five killometres into smaller increments over that time period. That may mean you want to run one kilometre after one and a half weeks, two after three weeks, etc.
  3. There are certain things you know you’ll need to start doing to achieve your goals, and certain things you’ll need to stop doing to be successful. For example, to achieve your five kilometre goal you’ll need to start running on a regular basis. That may mean you’ll need to stop doing other things to make this happen, such as swapping TV watching time in the evening to run. You may also need to change what you’re eating to allow your body to literally fuel your goal. Break down the time between your milestones even further to create a step-by-step blueprint to reach your end goal.
  4. Reward yourself along the way! When you reach milestones, celebrate them. You could buy yourself new running shoes after you run your first full mile, or treat yourself to a deep tissue massage.
  5. Join social groups to help you stay motivated. You could download an app to track and share your results with others who have the same goals. Share your goals with your friends and family and let them know about your success and challenges along the way. Ask their help if you need it—like changing family pizza night to a family swimming night.
  6. Be flexible. Sometimes life can get in the way of achieving your goals. Don’t give up—just re-work your plan to allow for a new schedule. Your goals are important, and worth pursuing. Stay strong and you’ll realize them!

* Blame It on the Brain: The latest neuroscience research suggests spreading resolutions out over time is the best approach, Wall Street Journal, December 26, 2009

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