Your Best Year - The Ultimate Guide to Setting and Achieving Your Goals
Every year you say you’re going to get healthy. Join a gym, start eating salads for every meal and DEFINITELY drinking an adequate amount of water every. single. day. Or maybe this is the year you want to get out of debt. Start taking every extra penny you have starting January 1 and make massive payments every month.
Do you see the pattern emerging? Goals are great but most of us are approaching them all wrong by pouring 150% for the first few weeks and then struggling to keep the momentum for the rest of the year.
But this year it’s ACTUALLY going to be different. I promise. Why? Because I’m going to help you!
STEP ONE: Get the downloadable goal setting guide. You can use it digitally with a PDF editor, or print it out, grab a pen and start writing away. Why is this important? Writing down goals increases the likely hood that you will achieve them by 1.2 - 1.4. I think we can all agree that if the simple act of writing something down gives you the extra edge it’s worth doing.
I built the goal setting guide to go along with this post as a way to organize and map out a PLAN to get where you want to go. In this post I will give a few of my real life examples - and then the rest is up to you.
And if you’re stumbling upon this post in March, or June, or heck even October — know there is NO BAD TIME to start setting goals. Yes a lot of people do this in the new year but mid year is a great time as well. Or next Monday. Or also two Thursdays from now. Or just start TODAY. As in literally whatever day it is that you stumbled upon this post - RIGHT NOW is the perfect day to start setting some goals. Ready to get started?
What are the benefits of goal setting?
I think if you’ve gotten this far then you understand the why goal setting is important. But if you' still need some convincing here are a few benefits to spending some time actually setting goals.
Allows you to prioritize. In the age of information over-overload it’s important to be able to deflect the distractions. CLEAR goals allows you to confidently say no to things that are getting in your way.
Speaking of confidence, correctly set and executed goals increase confidence. By setting out to achieve something and then working hard to make it happen, you create confidence through experience.
Gives you direction and a sense of purpose.
Allows you to look back and realize how far you’ve come.
2018 was the year I finally built a business. After years of dreaming and wishing I got serious about goals, set some pen to paper and made things happen. My path may have taken some twists and turns but I achieved the ultimate goal of establishing myself as a fitness professional — that happened! This process is based on the things that worked and the lessons learned that ultimately became the framework to plan out my next year. So what comes first?
Get everything out on paper | Brain dump
First you have to do a brain dump — get everything out of your head! No matter how big or small, random or intentional.
At the beginning of this year I was a mess. I had so many goals. I was all over the place.
I wanted to be a trainer, be a freelance writer, create recipes, review studios, create and sell a workout program, and write guest posts for other websites. Oh yea and hold down a full time job, be a good partner to my husband which included helping him reach his goals, make time for exercise and healthy eating, maybe run a half marathon? Cook all meals from scratch, go to the gym 5 days a week, come up with amazing workouts for my clients, post to social media multiple times a day and also make time for self care.
I’m tired just thinking about that list.
But making that list is important. Get EVERYTHING OUT. Like every little thing. Go ahead I’ll wait here.
It's ok to be aggressive. Write down things that scare you. That when you write them down you aren't even sure how to achieve them.
What things go together | Find the themes
Now look back at your list, are there any similarities? Maybe “eat better”, “learn to cook” “join a gym” are all on there. You can connect those 3 under the larger goal of “take better care of myself”, “improve overall health”. This part is up to you, and you can theme them however you want.
If you look at the jumbled mess that I brain-dumped in the previous paragraph, many of the things I wanted to do fell under the larger umbrella of “establish myself as a fitness professional - aka get a job!”
Top goal | What is MOST important?
If you have multiple “themes” on your page, ask yourself which of those is truly the most important. That becomes the top goal. Why only one? Why did we spend all that time writing things down only to narrow it down to one thing?
If you don’t prioritize, you wont be able to figure out when to say no. You don’t be able to take anything off your to-do list. If you don’t prioritize then everything is important and you end up a stress ball of anxiety.
It’s ok to keep it vague. If you make your top priority goal something large like that - you are more likely to achieve it. Why? There are so many ways you can arrive at that destination. It means that when things get hard you’ll get more creative at achieving your goal. When we get too narrow with out goals - there tends to be less paths to arrive there. What if one of those paths become blocked?
I could have made my goal [based on the above] something very specific like “Get a part time job training at Merritt Athletic Club” I could have, and I’m not saying that is a bad goal - but I left it open to possibilities that I may have not considered. In the end I DID apply to get a job at Merritt [a local gym in the Baltimore area for anyone reading this elsewhere] but they needed more hours than I could honestly commit. Where I ended up instead — run coaching at Charm City Run which is a PERFECT fit would not have happened if my TOP goal was so narrow.
You’re going to have to let things go in the process.
Not EVERYTHING can get done. This is a hard lesson many of us face these days. This was me at the beginning of last year. I had my brain dump but I naively made every single one of those a goal. Many days I would be filled with anxiety and stress because I could not cope with the idea that I wasn’t able to do it all. I figured the answer was obviously that I wasn't organized enough. If I could just come up with a SYSTEM to get everything in order I could obviously get everything done.
Wrong. You cannot fit 40 hours worth of work in a 24 hour day. I missed appointments. I felt like I was pulled in 50 different directions. I was checking things off of my list yes — but I was SO TIRED.
The answer - it turns out - is to say no. It's to let go of things. I let go of writing freelance for another website so I could focus on writing for myself. I let go of posting every week to once a month. I recruited friends to help me write Fitness Adventures so I could focus on better content for the year ahead. I realized that some weeks I may not get to the gym as much as I want and that some times we would get [healthy] take out for dinner.
This year was the year of learning to let go. Learning that if I let go of all the things I could do a really kick ass job at ONE thing.
No amount of organization can make up for too much on your plate. Go back and read that again. Let that sink in.
You have to let go of things that aren't helping you meet your goals. They are fringe. Decoration.
So let’s say - for the sake of this post that your top level goal is ‘feel better in my own body’. [see what I did there?]
Timing & action | The when and how
This is where we start to get more detailed. We figure what we are measuring against, a timeline, and all the steps we’re going to go through to get there.
How will you measure your success?
The key to achieving your goals, versus just setting them is making sure to figure out how they will be measured. How will you know when you have achieved them? THIS is where we start to get specific. “I want to loose weight” turns into “My pants will feel more comfortable” or “I want to loose 15 pounds”.
This may sound really basic but you would be surprised how many people start January 1st and write down “eat healthier” and then just wait and see what happens. How do you measure eat healthy?
What’s your timeline?
Two months? Ten months? The whole year? You have to know when your target is so you can track towards it. It’s ok to be a high achiever with your timeline but understand that time can be a moving target. If you are operating at full capacity and can only fit in two days of running a week - training for a marathon may be a possibility but maybe not this year. That’s OK! How about picking a distance that would require less of a commitment? OR if your goal really is to run a marathon, what else in your life can you work on this year so you may have more time next year.
Think about goals in the past you may not have achieved. Was it because you didn’t work hard enough, put in the effort or want it bad enough? NO! It was because you tried to fit 2 years of progress into 2 months? Common let’s be honest here.
Consider the fact that if your goals involve changing your habits - give yourself time to create them! It can take up to 66 days to create a new habit. That’s at least two months! And once the habit is formed guess what, you’ll probably want to start building another new habit on top.
To get healthier you’re going to have to start doing things that may be new, uncomfortable and take some getting used to.
Who can help you along the way?
Who in your life should be involved? Family, significant others, coworkers, mentors? and do what capacity? Do you need a personal trainer? Business coach? Work mentor?
When I was writing this post I talked with my husband a lot - because yes we set goals together. I asked him what helped him achieve his professional goals this year. He said seeing his coworkers achieve certain professional goals helped him realize he could also.
Find someone that is two or three steps a head of where you want to be. Not someone miles ahead. Two or three steps. This way it seems realistic that you can achieve their same progress. While there are people out there who you may look up to - trying to keep up with them is only going to make you feel frustrated and inadequate. It has taken me YEARS to solidify some of the habits that are really normal for me today - make sure you find someone who can help and won’t discourage.
Goal: I want to feel better in my own body
How will I measure this: I will keep a journal and mark down every day on a scale of 1-10 how much energy I have. I want to see this number increase over time.
Timeline: by September
Who can help me: My sister likes going to the gym so I can ask for her advice and my coworker Jen really likes cooking so I can ask her for recipes.
Break it up into chunks
Ok I’m going to say something that’s going to throw people. You DO NOT start at 110% on day one. You start where you are and build slowly.
We just talked about how it takes 66 days to start a new habit. The first 60 days of any new goal is what I like to call the “planning phase”. It may feel slow, and like a waste of time but the more time you spend laying the foundation the stronger you’ll be when it comes to execution.
For some people this might work on a weekly or monthly basis, or quarterly for goals with slower progression. I found that giving myself a goal for each month of the year helped me stay focused when new shiny projects would come up
This way each month is dedicated to a certain task, and you don’t have to worry about the overwhelm that comes with thinking you have to do ALL THE THINGS at one time.
These can be habits, tasks, of check points.
Goal: I want to feel better in my body
January I am going to price out gym memberships and start drinking one glass of water every morning when I wake up.
February I am going to start going to the gym for 30 minutes once a week
March I am going to evaluate my current water intake and see if I can add 1 more 8 oz glass each day.
April I am going to start increasing gym days to 2 times a week etc.
Remember — give yourself TIME to build habits. It’s much better to start slow and end fast then start too fast and burn out.
How will you handle roadblocks?
If you plan for everything to go perfectly — the minute things go off track your goals are going to follow suit. If you plan for roadblocks by creating a back up plan, you are teaching your brain to think of alternate options. For some people this is not automatic, and if that’s you when things get stressful it’s going to be impossible to come up with a new plan. If you practice being flexible when you’re not under pressure, the answers will come more easily and your brain gets better at coming up with new ideas. What are some common roadblocks you might encounter?
What about when I’m not motivated?
“I wasn’t motivated to go to the gym today” or “I wasn’t motivated to eat a salad today”. If you wait to be motivated you will never get things done. Understand that you aren’t always going to be excited to do some of these things.
Understand the long term benefits of achieving the goal.
Write it down on a post it note. Set reminders on your phone. It's so easy to get distracted and remember you need TIME to establish a habit so do everything you can to set yourself up for success in the beginning.
I don’t have enough time.
I hear this a lot, and yep I’m guilt of it to. If you want some of my best tips for being more productive on the daily you can get those here. Otherwise I would suggest doing a time audit with your day or whole week. Is it really annoying and a bit of extra effort? Yea it sure it but it will give you answers that I can’t. Keep track of how long all the tasks in your day ACTUALLY take. Not just how long you think they take. And I mean how long they take when you’re not multi tasking on your phone or watching TV.
Goal: I want to feel better in my body
Roadblock: My roommate/partner/family member loves junk food and always has it in the house. I can’t help but eat it and then I feel crappy afterwards.
Plan of attack: Talk to roommate/partner/family member and try to make a compromise. Can they keep “junk” at work only? Can we compromise on the types of snacks we keep in the house? Can we explore other options that might be more healthy but we both enjoy?
Roadblock: I have a really demanding job with long hours and am so tired when I get home.
Plan of attack: I have one off day a week and I am going to take a fitness class on that day and stay consistent for two months. Once this becomes a habit I will add in one additional day a week.
Check in and Reevaluate
This step is so very important. Goals are not a set it and forget it type of action. You have to consistently check in on your progress and here’s the most important part - MAKE ADJUSTMENTS as necessary.
Goal: I want to feel better in my body, measuring this by journal and goal timeline is September. I am drinking water [yay!!] but due to my workload at the office right now I cannot do more than one day of the week at the gym and can’t meet my secondary goal of increasing my days at the gym.
Reevaluate: #1 - give yourself props for the things you DID accomplish. Number two allow flexibility in the timeline. Your job is important and you’re going to the gym one a day week which is awesome! Sometimes life throws us restrictions that we cannot control. Maybe instead of going to the gym twice a week as your March goal you can look at your diet and see if you can make small tweaks there. This will get you to the same end goal, but down a different pathway. See what I did there?
Celebrate the small wins.
This part is not in the workbook. But it is worth mentioning that you should celebrate every step you take towards achieving a large goal, no matter the size. Every little check point that you get to is just as important as the big final goal. Remembering to drink water 3 days of the week when your goal is to get to 7 is WORTH celebrating. Going to the gym once a week when your goal is 3 times is AMAZING. Remember that you are always working towards that larger goal.
So there you go. My ultimate guide to setting and crushing goals to help you grow into the person you want to be. Don’t forget to download the free workbook that goes along with this post so you can hit the ground running with massive goals in 2019.
If you loved this content [and let’s be serious - if you made it all the way to the bottom I hope it’s because you loved it!] please please PLEASE I would so appreciate you sharing this out with a friend, family member, neighbor, coworker anyone who you think might also love this and find it helpful. I am not above begging!