Learn how to set a goal and stick to your plan.
Goal setting. Some of us take to it naturally, loving the sense of organization and accomplishment. Others of us are prone to procrastination and groan at the mere mention of goal setting, knowing we may not be the best at making commitments. But with some helpful advice and practice, anyone can learn how to set a goal and successfully keep it. Whether you’re trying to start a new exercise plan, follow through on a New Year’s resolution, or make meal planning a regular habit, here’s how to set a goal and make it stick.
Set Your Goal
Practice SMART goal setting. No, we’re not yelling in all caps. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Simply put, a SMART goal is the kind you’re most likely to achieve. If your goal is a big one (say losing 60 pounds, or winning a major competition), break it into several smaller building-block goals (such as losing 10 pounds at a time, or making the podium in a few local events). If you rarely ever cook, it’s unlikely that you’ll successfully tackle meal planning and meal prep for an entire month on your first try. Instead, try prepping two or three dinners a week for a few weeks to start, then upgrade your goal when you’re ready to take on more. Achieving incremental goals will fuel your motivation and provide milestones on the path to accomplishing your ultimate objective.
State Your Goal
Goal setting is only the first step. Once you’ve identified what you want to do, state your goal—to your family, to your friends, or simply to yourself. You can tell people your plan, you can post it on Facebook, or you can write it in a journal where you’ll track your progress. If you’re a visual person, you can create a vision board with images and quotes for ongoing inspiration. Whether you state your intention publicly or privately, be sure to spell it out, keeping your goal firmly focused in front of you. Sometimes, the act of putting it out there is enough to ensure that you’ll stay on target and follow through with your goal.
Now that you know how to set a goal and have yours clearly spelled out, you’re ready to get to work. Sticking with a goal isn’t always easy, so here are several ways to help.
Along with goal setting, practice goal scheduling. Book the time spent working toward your goal as an appointment with yourself. Just like an important work meeting, a doctor’s appointment, or your child’s soccer game, your workouts or time for healthy meal prep should be scheduled on your calendar. Otherwise, it’s far too easy to skip out on your plan and sleep in or order takeout instead. Block out all your time commitments—including the time it takes to meet your goal—to help alleviate the stress of competing priorities and ensure that you show up.
Consistency is key to making a habit stick. It’s also challenging, at first, to develop a new habit. But over time, with consistent repetition, you’ll start to reap the rewards of the goal you’re working toward, which will make you more eager to put in the work. It’s also helpful to plan the time spent on your goal at the same time every day or every week. That way, what once seemed foreign or awkward will soon start to feel like a part of your usual routine.
Invest in Your Goal
Buy the gear that will help you reach your goal in comfort and style. If your goal is fitness-related, we’re talking flattering and functional tech clothing, a good pair of running shoes, a BlenderBottle® shaker cup, and high-quality protein powder—or anything else that will support your effort. If your goal is nutrition-related, you’ll want healthy ingredients, kitchen tools to make cooking easier and more efficient, and sleek containers for food storage and transporting healthy snacks. Not only will the work you put toward your goal feel easier when you’re properly equipped, you’ll “owe it” to yourself to stick with your goal and get your money’s worth.
Make it a Family Affair
Recruit your spouse, siblings, parents, or children to join you. Or, if they’re not on board with goal setting, at least share your plan with them. Most importantly, explain why it’s important to you and how much happier and healthier you’ll feel while working toward your goal. That way, the time you spend at the gym, on weekend runs, or in the kitchen won’t seem selfish; rather, they’ll understand it’s a means to being your best self—and in turn, the best dad, wife, or son you can be.
Don’t Go it Alone
Goal setting is far more fun with friends. Pair up with a training buddy, and commit to being one another’s accountability partner. Join a local sports club or team to help achieve your fitness goal. Invite colleagues to join you for lunchtime workouts, or to bring healthy potluck lunches a few days a week. Propose a workplace wellness initiative to your company’s HR department. Invite your BFF to join you for Sunday night meal prep, and alternate using each of your kitchens. Not only will goal setting become a fun and social activity, your motivation will be higher when you’re not alone.
Simplify the Process
Plan in advance to make the work toward your goal as easy as possible. If your goal involves exercise, pack a bag at night with clothes and toiletries for the next day. That way, you can roll out of bed, go to the gym, and head straight to work without missing a beat. If you exercise after work, take your gear along so that you don’t stop by home and risk getting stuck on the couch. And remember your BlenderBottle® shaker so you’ll have convenient pre- or post-workout nutrition (the ProStak® is perfect for packing protein to go).
For meal preppers, planning is half the process. Bookmark recipes as you find them throughout the week. Pick your meals, make your shopping list, and try to hit the grocery store during off hours to save time. By Sunday night (or whenever you schedule your weekly meal prep), you should have your recipes, ingredients, kitchen tools, and containers ready to go. With all that in place, the actual meal prep process will be quick and easy.
Whatever your goal, there’s most likely an app to help keep you on track. Wearable fitness trackers from brands such as Fitbit, Jawbone, and Garmin log steps, pace, heart rate, and more, depending on the device. Or, download an app to convert your iPhone into a fitness tracker for free (check out Stepz, Walker, and Pacer). Meal planning apps like Wholesome, Yummly, FoodPrint, and on Cook Smarts can help you find and store recipes, plan menus, generate grocery lists, calculate calorie and nutrition information, and more.
Need an added boost of motivation? Nothing quite puts progress in perspective like the snap of a camera. Take a selfie when you first start a new exercise regimen, then take another each time you reach a milestone toward an athletic goal. You’ll have a before and after record of how far you’ve come, plus a clear visual reminder to keep up the good work.
Need a quick boost of support? Post pictures of your food prep process and completed meals on social media, and ask friends to share their favorite recipes and tips. When people engage, you’ll feel even more encouraged in your healthy eating goal.
Go Easy on Yourself
Setbacks happen. When it comes to goal setting, it’s practically a given that you’ll have a setback at some point along the way. And in the big picture of your life and your goal, a small step backward (or a single skipped workout or fast-food meal) isn’t a big deal. Know that no one is perfect, and sometimes other responsibilities and priorities force us to change our plans. Heck, sometimes we’re just tired or lazy—that happens to everyone! When you get sidelined from your goal, go easy on yourself. Then do your best to get back on track, and congratulate yourself when you do.
There’s No Day Like Today
Any day is a good day to set a goal. Goal setting doesn’t only happen at the start of a new year, on a significant birthday, or around some other major milestone. Goal setting can happen anytime, anywhere, any day. In fact, today’s as good a day as any to get started. And now that you’re armed with the advice you need to be successful, nothing should stand in your way.
Ready, set, set your goal!