How to set goals that don't make you hate your life (or yourself)

Think about all the times you set a goal for yourself and then didn't follow through. For most of us, there are a lot of examples on that list. Ok, now think about all the reasons it fell through. If I'm reading your mind, the reasons probably include things like "Too hard to...." or "Not enough time to..." or "Had to choose between..." etc. Right? And that's what it comes down to: trade-offs. The new habit isn't appealing and there's always a reason to not do it.

So here's my proposal to you: don't.

Yep. You heard me. Don't do the thing you don't want to do. At least not yet.

The fact is, you do the things you do throughout the day for a reason. And something inevitably falls off the list because a) it's not that inherently important and b) it's not that enjoyable to you. For me, that's learning a new language. Even just 10 minutes on Duolingo a night is just too much for me to handle. Because it's either that or reading or meditating or catching up with someone, and I choose the other options every time. Not really proud of it, but it's also super normal, and honestly, I don't regret it.

Ok, you might say, so then what? Are we just doomed to a life of mediocrity? Of course not, my friends! Instead of trying to force yourself to list out a bunch of goals and tasks that are nice in theory that you probably won't prioritize, here's an alternative plan.

1. Set goals that really matter to you!

You'll have to look at why you're setting the goals, and then take some time to explore the impact you think it will have across your life. What are all the benefits to meeting that goal? Yeah, actually write it down. Extra bonus: feel in your body if this feels like something you want to do or if it just feels like a hollow goal. Because that feeling is your first indicator of success.

2. Think about that infinite plethora of ways you could contribute toward that goal.

Make a list. Ask your friends what they've done that's worked for them. Google it. Not kidding, make a huge list. Because they're are 1,000's things that fall under "get healthy" or "lose weight" or "learn a new language."

3. Consider your actual habits and what's worked for you in the past.

I know I am much more likely to follow through on something if I have an allocated time in my calendar that I've paid money to attend. The most productive I ever was when it came to actually studying Spanish was when I signed up for a weekly class at the community college. Had to be there. Paid for it. I showed up. Think about the things that have worked for you in the past and note which ideas on that list you made in step 2 line up with your success strategies. Highlight it.

4. Pick the ones that seem easiest and most fun.

Hopefully something on your list pops out at you as fun and exciting. Highlight that one, too. Then also highlight the one that seems so easy you feel like it really doesn't even count. Those are your big ones to focus on right now. You can decide which one you want to start with. I'd say definitely do the really easy one, because why not, and then integrate the fun one if you feel like you actually have time and energy to devote to yourself right now.

5. Make it SMART and set some levels.

Yep, here it is. SMART. Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant and Time-bound. Think about your action, and answer these questions:

  • What are the physical actions I will take?

  • How will I measure if I've completed it or not?

  • Is this something I have all the resources I'll need to actually do?

  • Am I relatively certain that these actions will bring me closer to my goal?

  • What is the time-frame I'm giving myself to complete this?

Great. Now's where we get to the "don't hate your life or yourself" part of it, as mentioned in the title of the blog. Set levels for these. The first level should be just so easy there's basically no way you can screw it up, even if the entire Universe conspires against you. Something suuuuuper easy that you can count as a win for yourself when you do it.

The second level is the "I'm a badass, so totally motivated, and everything is working out perfectly!" level. This would be a stretch goal. Something that sounds really challenging. It should be both a little scary and also really exciting to think of achieving this one. Like, you're not totally sure you can do it, but you'd feel really accomplished if you did.

And finally, the middle level. Set something in between the two that will probably be where you land.

Let's take working out as an example since it's pretty popular.

Level 1 (easy): I will do 5 push-ups when I get out of bed every morning.

Level 2 (exciting): I will run 3 miles after work 3 days this week.

Level 3 (middle): I will run/walk 3 miles after work at least once this week.

Why does this work?

The hardest part of achieving goals is that you lose momentum. It's easy to give up when it's "too hard." You're looking for small wins that you can integrate into your life and know that you've done something positive for yourself over time. This is about the long-game. You don't have to make massive strides, you just have to keep going. So pick stuff you actually like and know that no matter what, you can do something. Back to our example, most weeks you can probably make it out to run a few miles at least once, especially if you let yourself walk when you need to. Some weeks you'll feel great and have lots of time, and then you go out more and feel super proud of yourself. And then some weeks everything sucks and you just do a few push-ups and call it a win.

Shoot me a note if you have questions on this one. I know it can be tricky to set goals, and especially the right goals for what you want. Always here to help.



© 2019 by Libby Meis

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