I was a competitive swimmer for 10 years and in that time, my life revolved around three things; 1) eating and sleeping, 3) committing myself to grueling training 25-30 hours per week, and 3) setting goals that pushed me every day, in and out of the pool.
In the Fall and Spring, when new swim seasons began, I’d write down new goal times for my events – the 200 Butterfly, the 400 IM and 1650 Freestyle.
Goal-setting was a constant measure of my growth and success.
My coach would squint his eyes at the times, pause and either scratch them out and write down a faster time or nod his head in approval. Afterwards, we’d strategize about the level of commitment and training it would take to swim this fast by the end of each season.
To track my progress and stay on track towards my goals, I’d write down workouts and make note of my practice times. I’d gauge progress by measuring race times at meets every few weeks – or sometimes the improvements I was not making. I’d look back at practices and performances to analyze how I could improve or find a way to change what was not working.
When I stopped competing after college, I had built drive and discipline that helped me jump into the working world, but the most important lesson I learned through my journey was how to set goals, create a plan, and work hard to achieve them.
When you set realistic and attainable goals, you are less likely to lose sight of them to overzealous resolutions that may nip at your motivation.
My goals weren’t to swim in the Olympics or be an Olympic medalist.
I was realistic even when I was young; I knew the Olympics weren’t in my future no matter how hard I trained. But, this didn’t stop me from setting goals that aligned with my swimming abilities and training environment and were of significance to me.
In college, I set a goal to win my best event, the 200 Butterfly at the Conference Championships. I placed fifth my sophomore year and then shifted my approach to training and most importantly, my mindset and won the event my Junior and Senior year.
It may have not been the Olympics but it was MY Olympics.
It was not easy. It was not without set-backs and tears and challenges, but I had written this goal down and wanted it more than anything. But by setting additional mini-goals to help me build a ladder to that peak I was aiming for, I stayed motivated and hungry.
The key to goal setting was that I knew I could not, and would not stay motived during the grueling training periods if I set too lofty of goals that even when I made progress, still felt far out of reach.
Instead, I set micro-goals to motivated myself and like a checklist, I would knock one off at a time.
It’s nice to say things like “shoot for the moon,” but if you don’t know how you’re going to get there – by building yourself a ladder with small attainable goals – then you probably will never reach the moon.
WHY DO MOST NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS FAIL?
Have you heard that by the end of January, 40% of those who choose to set New Year’s Resolutions have broken them?
Do you know why this is?
It’s because people are rushed and overzealous in their goal setting.
If you want to set goals, don’t be hasty to jot them down or speak them out loud.
And don’t blurt it out after too many glasses of champagne on New Year’s Eve or share a goal that you haven’t put much thought into.
What are you willing to commit your time and energy to?
What are you willing to commit 100% of yourself to?
What is meaningful to you?
Because if you aren’t completely committed to your goal(s), you may just end up in the 88% crowd that lets their resolution go to the wayside.
Another reason why resolutions fail is for lack of motivation and accountability.
WHAT IS YOUR MOTIVATION?
To be motivated, you need to find what will motivate you to stick it out until you reach your goal.
Write it down, put it out in the open – whether it’s taping it on the refrigerator or dangling a carrot if you reach your goal – just do it.
If you want to lose weight, it’s not a speed race… it’s a marathon. What measurable ways can you motivate yourself to stick with it? Weigh-ins with a trainer or friend? A food diary? Joining a weight loss group for support?
What are ways you will stay motivated to achieve your goal?
CREATE A CIRCLE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
The more people who know your goal, the more accountable you’ll feel and less likely you are to quit early.
Letting others know your resolution(s), gives you the social support system you need when you hit a road bump or feel like an uphill battle has turned into Mt. Everest.
Share your resolutions in a like group on Facebook, with your sister, Father, spouse, best friend. The more that know your goal, the more accountable you’ll feel.
WHY DO PEOPLE MAKE NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS?
Richard Wiseman, a psychologist and author, discovered that 52 percent of people making New Year’s resolutions were confident they’d stick it out. Yet only a scant 12 percent really did [source: Eisenstadt].
You might wonder, but why bother making a New Years Resolution at all?
People make New Years Resolutions out of hope. For hopefulness. They want to be better, to do better, to live better.
You may want to lose weight, to eat more healthy, to get a grip on your finances, save more, yell less at your kids, to get a handle on your anxiety or make self-care a priority.
Resolutions stem from experience. What has happened in the previous year that makes you want to change or do better?
UNDERSTANDING THE SMART GOAL SYSTEM
SMART Goal Setting helps you create an action plan to your resolution. When you begin thinking of a resolution or goal, the best way to stick to it, is to create a plan with action steps about how you’ll work your way to achieving it.
SMART goal setting stands for:
- S – Specific: clear and defined goals
- M – Measurable: include precise amounts, dates and so on to measure your success
- A – Attainable: make sure it is possible for you to attain your goal. Be realistic.
- R – Relevant: Set goals that are relevant to your life. If savings $3K will help you fund your emergency savings which you do not have right now, this is a relevant goal.
- T – Time Bound: Create a deadline to achieve your success. What is a reasonable time frame?
For instance, your goal this year is to save $3,000. While this is an excellent goal, but how are you going to do this?
Write down what you are saving money for and what you will do with it once you’ve saved it using the SMART Goal-Setting method so you define the purpose of the goal, meaning, action steps and a timeframe to hold your progress accountable.
- S – Save $3K in 2017
- M – Reduce grocery spending, cut entertainment expenses and eliminate TV, saving $250/month
- A – These are all budget items that are overspent on, making it easy to cut them when you begin meal planning instead of going grocery shopping every few days. Look for cheaper entertainment ideas, free options or use coupons to cut entertainment expenses from $200 to $100 per month and cut TV cost and instead use Netflix to reduce from $80/month to $9/month.
- R – You do not have an emergency fund set aside, all these savings will fund this.
- T – By saving $250/month, this equals $3000 for the year. Much easier to do than trying to sock it away in two or three months when cutting expenses or working overtime isn’t possible or realistic in such a short time-frame.
Here is a 2017 SMART GOALS Action Plan Form to plan for your goals.
If you take the time to plot goals that have meaning to you, you stay committed to achieving them, and follow the a plan with attainable, action steps – you will achieve your goals.