Goal Setting Strategies That Work
With the decade ending, we know you’re probably reflecting on your accomplishments over the past year and decade, as well as looking ahead and setting new goals and intentions for 2020. We want to help you reach those goals by helping you utilize some of the best strategies in the industry of success, and avoid losing track of resolutions as the year progresses.
Here are the best strategies to use when setting your New Year resolutions and goals for 2020.
S.M.A.R.T. Goal Setting
SMART goals are one of the most well-known strategies in goal setting, and for good reason. SMART goals allow you to create clarity around your goals and make them real by keeping a few important factors in mind.
Your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Specific goals help provide clarity around your goal. “I want to lose weight” means that you would be happy if you lost one pound, whereas “I want to lose 10 pounds” is much or specific and keeps you focused exactly what you want to accomplish. When being specific with your goals, think about things such as:
Why is this goal important to you?
What do you want to accomplish?
Who is involved?
Which resources will be required or are limited to reach it?
Where does it need to happen (if applicable)?
Your goals should be measurable to allow you to track progress and stay motivated. Making your goals measurable also lets you know when you have achieved your goal.
While goals are meant to stretch our capacities and help us grow, they should also be achievable. Take note of anything that may limit or obstruct you from reaching your goal, including education, finances, experience, or qualifications.
Relevant goals are the ones that matter now, and this can be the hardest piece of setting a SMART goal. You need to ensure that the goal is important to achieve and also aligns with your other relevant goals.
For example, having a goal to deadlift 500 pounds and having a goal to run a 5:00 mile are both great goals to have and may be equally as important to you, but whether they align with each other needs to be taken into account. Completing both of these goals during the same time may prove difficult. A goal should match and fall into your other goals, needs, and priorities.
There’s a saying that says, “The difference between a wish and a goal is a deadline.” All goals should be time-bound, providing some criteria for urgency and importance. When there is a deadline on a goal, we are able to focus rather than allow daily obligations to take over and our focus to drift.
Breaking It Down & The “2 Minute Rule”
Once you have a goal in mind, it can be overwhelming to put it into place or achieve it. For example, if your goal is to do a muscle-up, it can feel so far away from where you currently are in your skillset if you cannot yet do a pull-up.
Try breaking it down into a progression. Regardless if your goal is a fitness movement or a financial goal, identify the markers to let you know you are headed in the right direction.
For the example of getting your first muscle-up, a progression might look like this:
Build pulling and dipping strength movements (lat pulldowns, bent rows, dips, etc.)
Get first pull up.
Get 6 strict pull-ups.
Do 10 strict ring dips.
String together 10 kipping pull-ups.
Work on low-ring transitions daily.
First muscle up.
You should be thinking, “what’s next” to reach your goal, and it is often much smaller and simpler than you originally imagined. For this, we like to employ the “2-minute rule.” This rule states that building a habit and reaching a goal is a process of spending two minutes or less, especially when getting started.
This means that if your goal is to run a mile, utilizing the 2-minute rule might be as simple as just putting on your running shoes. When you can do this over and over without stopping (aka when it becomes a habit) then it’s time to add another 2 minutes of effort. Now you might run for just 2 minutes.
If this sounds silly to you, you’re not alone, but the research shows that we often believe to be capable of more than we actually are. Implementing small changes allows us to create lasting change by creating rituals in our day.
Using the same example, have you ever made the goal to run a mile without stopping? If you don’t run currently and don’t enjoy running, you might go out the first day in an attempt to reach your goal and run for as long as possible. You might even feel pretty good about your effort, but if you get shin splints, or something comes up the next day it’s easy to fall off the wagon and regress. But when your goal is to just put your shoes on at first, it’s difficult to fail.
This is the real goal for creating habits that last and reaching big goals: break your big goals down into small pieces that are impossible to fail at.
Habit stacking is a strategy best detailed by James Clear and BJ Fogg. The research shows that attaching a new habit to an existing habit not only helps it stick better than pairing it with a time or location.
The simple formula looks something like this: Before I do *blank*, I will do *blank*.
Here’s some examples on how to use pre-existing habits and daily tasks to attach new habits to them:
If you want to create a habit of taking your multivitamin more regularly, the stack might be: Before I have my morning coffee, I will take my multivitamin.
If you want to keep your home tidy and avoid the need to clean for hours on the weekend, the stack might be: After I shower, I will pick up my pajamas and put them away.
Avoiding Burnout with Upper & Lower Bounds
When it comes to health goals, it’s easy to hit the point of burn out, fall off the wagon, or want to quit when motivation fades. By using the strategy of upper and lower bounds to your habits, goals, and behaviors, you can better set guidelines for achieving sustainable goals without getting burnt out.
First is the upper bound. By setting an upper bound, you create a limit for your goal that must be achieved to be desirable.
It looks like this:
I want to lose at least 5 pounds.
I want to be able to do at least 10 push-ups.
I want to lose at least 2% body fat.
Next is the lower bound, which is important for creating sustainability. You might consider putting this in place if you know that you tend to go all-in on a goal and push too far past sustainability.
Implementing a lower bound looks like this:
I want to lose at least 5 pounds, but not more than 10 pounds.
I want to be able to do at least 10 push-ups, but don’t need to do more than 50 in one set.
I want to lose at least 2% body fat, but not more than 5% body fat.
This magic zone allows your goals to have guidelines without becoming overwhelming or spiraling out of control, helping them maintain sustainability.
What goal setting strategy works best for you? We find that utilizing a combination of strategies that are geared towards your unique pitfalls and obstacles is best for making realistic goals and habits that last.