Setting Goals and Sticking to Them

young fitness woman runner athlete running up on stairs.

We are months into 2019 and chances are you’ve already abandoned at least one of your New Year’s resolutions. Or maybe you didn’t even set any because you are tired of failing year after year. The reason most of us don’t reach our goals is because we set ourselves up for failure from the beginning. I was no different.

Every year I made it a goal to finally lose the extra weight I was carrying. I would start out strong, working hard at the gym, eating healthier, drinking lots of water. Inevitably, a few weeks or even just days into the goal, I would find myself overwhelmed, go back to my old habits and abandon the goal altogether. 

Two years ago, I finally was able to break that cycle. Since then, I’ve been able to help over 180 clients put the principles I’ve learned into practice and reach their goals as well. I want to share what I’ve learned along the way in the hope that it will help some of you achieve your goals, whatever they may be.

3 Steps to Success

The same principles apply whether you’re trying to lose weight, start a business, be a more patient parent, write a novel or do whatever it is you’ve been dreaming about doing.

1.Identify and define your goals. The tendency for many of us is to write a long list of all the things we want to change or start doing, and then try to do them all at once. This quickly leads to burn out.

It is best to narrow it down to one or two specific goals that really get you excited. When deciding on a goal, it is important to identify why you want to reach that goal. The reasons you come up with — and attach emotion and meaning to — are the things that are going to get you through the days you feel like giving up. 

It’s most effective to write those goals out in positive language as if they already happened. Writing statements like, “I am at a healthy weight and feel great in my clothes. I eat to fuel my body and have plenty of energy to keep up with my kids,” help us focus on creating that new lifestyle. Statements like, “I don’t want to be overweight. I am tired of wearing clothes I don’t like. I am sick of missing out on life because I don’t have any energy,” put our focus on fixing problems. There will always be problems to fix and staying in a problem-fixing mindset doesn’t allow us, or inspire us, to move forward and create something new.

2. Be brutally honest about your current reality. You need to know where you’re starting in order to map out the course you need to take to reach your final destination.

If your goal is weight loss, you have to get on the scale and find out how much you currently weigh. You’ll also need to take measurements so you have a base for comparison along your journey. 

With my clients, I use something called a structural tension chart that outlines the gap between current reality and the desired outcome. This acts like a rubber band being pulled tight: if you let go of one end when there is that tension, the rubber band flies forward. Likewise, if you let go of your current reality or lose sight of your desired outcome, you lose the necessary balance to succeed.

3. Create action steps. In almost every case, the reason we fail at something is because we have not put the proper structure in place to help us reach the desired outcome.

We can set a goal to run a marathon, but if we only jog a mile or two here and there, we will never be able to run the full 26.2 miles. A daily plan of action is required. That daily action is something that we have to commit to doing every day, even when we don’t feel like it. Large achievements are built on small, daily, consistent action.

Success Requires Support

The last principle I would like to mention is, in my opinion, the most important. When you are trying to accomplish something you have never done before, you need a mentor. Someone who has been where you are trying to go can offer invaluable advice, guidance and direction. They can also offer accountability and help you make course corrections as you work toward your goals. 

I would never have been able to lose 68 pounds and keep it off for the past two years without the encouragement and help of a mentor. That same mentor continues to help me stick to my goals and build what has become a successful and incredibly fulfilling career. So, pull out that crumpled up list of New Year’s resolutions and take a deeper look. As C.S. Lewis once said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” It’s not too late to start over and apply these new principles to your old goals. Maybe, just maybe, this is the year that you can finally say “I finished!”