In order to change or improve, we have to know where we are going and how we are going to get there. Seeing or wanting something is not enough to make it happen. It is so important to know what you’re working toward, which is why goals are so important. Goals keep us honest and on track to obtain the things we want most. Without them, a desire is only a wish. When goals are properly mapped out, they become a plan.
There are different ways to go about setting a goal, but the way that I have found to work best is making smaller goals that will lead you to the end goal. The reason this works so well is that smaller goals give us a chance to reward ourselves along the way before we see the ultimate reward at the end. Our brains respond to rewards in such a positive way we usually end up forming habits. This makes it easier to stay on track and continue to live up to our goals for long periods of time. So, after you reach a goal, small or large, you should reward yourself for completing that phase. This will show your brain that if you stick to a task you will experience pleasure along the way, instead of just at the end.
With that in mind here are some ways to map out your goals successfully.
Whether your end goal is to lose a certain amount of weight, begin to exercise regularly or start a meditation practice, it is important to take it one step at a time.
Presume you want to start running three days a week because there is a charity 5k approaching. You don’t just shoot for running the full 5k if you’re not familiar with running. That could cause injury and frustration. The goal is a 5k, but say you run for 1 minute and then you walk for 1 minute until you complete the 5k distance and you do that 3x a week for 1 week. Then the following week you run for 90 seconds and walk for 60 seconds 3x a week for 1 week and you keep increasing the distance. Your goals are small, but ultimately they lead to you running the full 5k.
While you’re setting up your small goals inside the bigger picture you also have to remember to reward yourself. Like I said before, make sure your set as many rewards as you do goals. If you reward yourself at the end of every small goal, you will start to form a habit out of it. Your rewards should never take away from your end goal. So, if your goal is to eat healthier, the reward shouldn’t be to treat yourself to fast food or a cheat day. That will take away from what you have accomplished; instead, treat yourself to a massage or a new piece of kitchen equipment. Keep all your rewards in line with your goal so that you are always motivated and focused toward the end. There are plenty of healthy ways to treat yourself when you are trying to improve yourself.
Still playing off the idea of running; exercise goals can be more challenging to stick with because they require you to be in the mood and have the energy to do them. So, while you have the big motivation of running in a charity 5k, you don’t really want to train for it. This is where the small goals enter. A few tricks are to lay out your workout clothes the night before or in a place you will see when you get home from work. Then have your post-workout smoothie all ready for when you get back. These small goals this are a way of tricking your mind into knowing when it is time to get in the mood for a jog. Also, make sure that you set up for a reward for yourself at the end of the week, 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days. The more time you have committed to this goal, the more special the reward should be. See the next example for clarification.
If you want to start meditating every day, then decide to meditate every day at the same time for 5 minutes. Then after a week of meditating for 5 minutes straight, reward yourself with a relaxing bubble bath with some good quality bath products. Then, maybe you up the time to 10 minutes. After 30 days of meditating for 10 minutes every day, still treating yourself to a bath, at the end of the 30 days you also treat yourself to a nice dinner out at a health restaurant. Continuing this trend, you up the time again and this time it is 15 minutes and the end of the another 30 days you treat yourself to a massage. So you have now spent 60 days meditating every day and you have formed a habit and rewarded yourself along the way.
This is where your dreams and reality can start to clash. It is an admirable goal to want to run 10 miles a day or only eat raw foods, but can you do it? Can you sustain your goal for the long term and will it really be the healthiest choice for you. If you have set a goal that at the end of the day is not in your best health interest, then that is not a realistic goal. As badly as your ego wants to run those 10 miles, your body, mind, and spirit might not. If you find that your goal doesn’t make you feel good, then it is time to shift gears and try something else. Maybe your body is perfectly content with eating cooked foods or running only 5 miles a day.
It’s all about the time you have to devote to your goal, how your body is reacting, and if you have the spirit to maintain it. My biggest advice to my readers is never compare your goals to anyone else because they are not the ones who will have to put in the work. You are the one who will be eating the foods or running those miles at 4 a.m. Never look at what someone else is doing when you are setting your goals.
Never ever be negative when you are setting a goal, even if you think it will have a positive outcome. When a negative comes first, you will always end up with less. So, be positive when setting goals. It comes right back to being realistic. If you know you can do it, and you trust in yourself, then it will happen. Positive goals lead to healthy outcomes and better results. The same goes for your rewards. If you didn’t meet your goal, never punish yourself, EVER. Just don’t reward yourself for that period of time. Then you try again make sure that the next week or month the rewards are even better than the previous try. Don’t punish; just make reaching your goal irresistible and that will keep you motivated.
Perhaps you missed a day of running or meditation that week. That means at the end of the week you don’t get your reward. You have two options: you can either meditate twice in one day or run on a different day, or you can make the reward that much better for the following week to keep you to your goals. If you are too hard on yourself, it will lead to frustration and you might give up. So keep it positive so you can keep going.
Write down everything! It doesn’t matter if it isn’t pretty, writing it all down is just one extra reminder of your goals. It keeps things organized and straightforward; you don’t have to worry about what comes next because you have a physical road map on how to get there. I find that making a calendar can be really helpful; it is a great visual.
This to include:
Just like that, you have established a plan for meditation for the entire year. The goal is clearly defined: the smaller goals all help to accomplish the main goal and the rewards do not interfere with the main goal or the smaller ones.
Even though your goals and rewards might be completely different, the outline of what you need to do will be the same. Setting your goals this way gives yourself more to look forward to, and then the end result will make reaching your goal a whole lot easier. So, whether it is starting to run, making a budget to pay off debt, meditating, or eating healthier, there is always a way to make it easier. The possibilities for this system are endless.