How to set goals and achieve them

It's not all buzz words and motivational lingo.

Words by Hollie Azzopardi
What are your goals?
The wellness-world is rife with ‘goal talk’ – everything from vision boards to goal-setting diaries to motivational podcasts, and it can be seriously hard to keep up.
There is real merit to setting goals and working at achieving them, including added motivation, inspiration and all of those feel-good hormones when you achieve something you set out to do.
But how exactly does goal setting work? Is it all buzz words and motivational lingo?
There is a lot of conflicting advice out in the great goal-setting abyss – some people swear by telling everyone their goal as it holds them to account, while others prefer to quietly work away at them in the background.

What ACTUALLY works?

I’m here to break it down for you.
There is no ONE right way to set goals. Just like there is no one right way to exercise or be a good parent (or dog mum), because everyone is so different. Just because something works for your best friend, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you. And that is okay!
Here are some quick tips when it comes to setting goals that work REGARDLESS of who you are.

How to set goals and achieve them

Get Specific

We are all familiar with the SMART goal setting method, right? Setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-related.
The more specific you can define your goals, the easier they are to action. This helps you to break down giant goals into smaller, more manageable ‘bite size’ chunks, to chip away at gradually.
For example, your goal may be to ‘exercise more’. But how much more? What type of exercise will you be doing? Will you be exercising morning or night? What time? What days? Getting down to the nitty gritty will not only make action steps much easier for you to develop, but it will really help you stay on course.

Allocate Time Blocks

Too often we set ourselves up for failure. How often do you tell yourself “I’m giving up x next week” knowing damn well that there is a highly likely chance we will fail. A week is not long enough for us to make any real progress when it comes to goals. Even a month is pushing it!
Set goals in 12 week blocks. A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology shows that, on average, it takes approximately 66 days for humans to form a new habit. And majority of the time our goals will be set around breaking or making habits – so set yourself up for success and give yourself at least 12 weeks to get there.
Sound too easy? PERFECT! This brings me to my next point… 

Goals should feel achievable

How many times have you set yourself a huge-ass goal, when deep down you know it is highly unlikely you are going to achieve it, and then when you don’t, you feel completely guilty for not succeeding? Goals should leave us feeling inspired, excited and motivated! If your goals are leaving you exhausted or guilty, it is time to reevaluate.
Goals shouldn’t feel impossible. Yes, there should be a level of discomfort, but that should absolutely be outweighed with motivation and action.
Review your goals and determine your confidence level on achieving them. Feel too easy? The goal can probably be stretched a bit. Feel way out of reach? You can probably bring the goal back down to earth.
Feel comfortable, with a bit of pressure, but mostly excitement and motivation? Perfect!
If any of your goals feel way out of reach, and your confidence is hindered, it is time to reevaluate. Why is this goal important to you? Why is your confidence lacking? Work on that!

Reward yourself

Set yourself milestone goals.
For example, your 12 week goal may be to run a half marathon, but your milestone goal is after week 1 you will run 7km 3 days a week.
Once you have ticked the milestone goal off, celebrate! Buy yourself a new pair of trainers, or treat yourself to a night out. Something that keeps you motivated and inspires you to keep going. Yes, goals are important to keep us on track and motivated, but they should also bring us happiness and add value to our lives, so celebrate your successes.

Set goals in the positive

Rather than saying “I won’t eat chocolate” update it to “I will eat less chocolate than the previous week”.
Language and the way we speak to ourselves is SO important. The minute we tell ourselves we ‘aren’t allowed’ to do something, the more tempting that thing becomes (which is why diets never work!)
Changing our language to the positives is a far gentler approach and sees more positive results long term. Be kind in the way you speak to yourself.

Don’t set goals in stone

Remember, goals are not set in stone. If four weeks into your journey you realise the goal isn’t for you anymore, get rid of it! It isn’t giving up or failing if it hasn’t truly added any value to your life. We are already living such full lives of stress and pressure – adding our own pressures on top of it is never going to be helpful. You should genuinely look forward to working on your goals. If not, change it up!

Do you set goals? Why/why not? What are some ways that work for you?

Remember that goal setting is such an individual experience, and there really is no right or wrong way. If you have good intentions, work hard and put in the effort, you will reap the rewards – and not just the ones you set as a milestone!

About Hollie

Hollie Azzopardi, how to set goals and achieve them
Hollie is a wellness coach, health writer and speaker committed to inspiring people to live their healthiest, happiest and best lives – with a focus on achieving optimum wellbeing by aligning mind, body and soul. She is particularly passionate about mental health and the key role this plays in ensuring a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
Instagram: @hollie_azzopardi

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