The Importance of Goal Setting

The Importance of Goal Setting

Many of us have different goals we would love to strive towards. The particulars vary a lot from person to person, but these goals all have the common aspect of being aspirational. They can often feel unachievable, or worse, feel achievable, but for some reason we have not yet achieved them. They can be large goals, like running 10 km, or daily items like reading every day, sleeping eight hours a night, or watching less TV. The most important thing to keep in mind with any of these goals is that they can all be broken down into smaller, more concise steps. This is where the importance of goal setting begins.

Most of us have probably heard of goal setting in one capacity or another. Often it is something that we do for ourselves at the beginning of the year; you know, those resolutions that we always successfully achieve each year and never forget about by March? 😉 Those are indeed a form of goal setting, and they are an excellent idea in theory. However, the reason most of us fail to accomplish them is that we only create the large overarching goal. For example, we may declare, “I want to lose 10 lbs”, and then we pursue our goal in one way or another. Maybe we try a diet, or exercise more, in an attempt to achieve this goal. This quickly grows old and we slowly fallback into our old habits, remaining right where we were until the next new year, when we once again declare, “I want to lose 10 lbs”.

A method to combat this is to take that big goal and break it down into smaller steps, until each step is so small that it can be achieved each and every day. A great acronym for this is SMART, or Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. These are the main principles that should be used when breaking down your goal into steps.  With this approach, there are two components: the goal and the steps. For the goal of losing weight, you could break it down as follows:

Goal: Lose 10 lbs in 2020

Steps: 1) Eat three healthy meals every day

            2) Exercise for 30 minutes every day

            3) Accomplish steps one and two five days a week

When your steps become daily, they become increasingly digestible (no pun intended). Suddenly, you are tracking your ability to complete your steps, not the large goal. This way, if you don’t lose 10 lbs, you can look back and find a reason, such as needing to exercise a bit more, or not achieving both goals for five days a week. This gives you a means to tweak your steps until you do achieve your goal. If you are accomplishing your steps, but not moving toward the goal the way you would like, then you need to increase the size of your steps or add more steps until you see the progress you want. This allows for positive feedback every day, as you can say “yes, I completed my steps today and that is something to be proud of”. This makes it easier to stick with the pursuit of your goals.

This principle of breaking down goals into daily steps can be used for any goal, and it gives a way to track progress and to see success every day. Most goals take a long time to achieve; that’s what makes them a goal and not just a task. This is also why they are so difficult to achieve. By breaking them down, we can see our progress immediately and get the positive reinforcement that can help accomplish our goals. During COVID-19, many of our daily habits have been changed. If you are like me, then you may feel stuck in some habits that arose during this time. Using this method of goal setting, we can take the small daily steps to achieve the large goals that have been so difficult to accomplish. Understanding how to set goals this way can make almost any goal achievable and can help you develop a plan to pursue that goal over the long term.

- Jeremy Mousseau, Family and Community Literacy Coordinator

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