How to set achievable goals (I promise no corporate buzz-word bingo here)…

Before we head off to smash some goals we first need to actually set some. This may seem like a straight forward thing to do, yet given people’s whole lives can drastically change in order to achieve their goals it’s worth spending a little time to think about and understand what makes a goal…

There’s a good chance you’ve been asked about goals in the past. When sitting down with IMG_4730personal trainers, career coaches, managers or job interviewers asking about a person’s goals in life is a typical question. So what exactly IS a goal? A goal is defined as “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.” yet that doesn’t really help us to define a proper goal. I’ve found experiences from my corporate life help me most to define goals. A well known and well used model (among many others) is the ‘SMART’ model. Now bear with me here, for people outside the corporate world it’s very easy to dismiss ‘models’ and certain terminology simply due to buzz words. I get this, I really do, having come to the corporate world from a very different path to others. Yet trust me, read on and stick with it.

The SMART model that’s used for setting goals is basically an acronym, with some slight differences in some people’s interpretation. For me I use the following when thinking about my own goals…

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Achievable
  • R – Rewarding
  • T – Time-boxed

Let’s start with one of the most common goals people will set themselves when asked, it’s very simply I want to lose some weight’ this is not a goal. It’s a statement.

For it to be a goal you need to know when you’ve reached it. It needs to be specific and measurable. You need it to be achievable, as we don’t want to set ourselves up for failure, but equally we want to feel that buzz of bettering ourselves. You need to set yourself an amount of time so you can buckle down to meet that deadline and not let it drag on indefinitely.

Taking the spirit of that goal we can change it to meet the whole SMART model thing by simply adding a few words… ‘I want to lose two stone by the end of the year‘ is a goal. You can now see the structure and immediately begin planning on how you’re going to achieve it.

IMG_4729Setting goals is a hugely personal process. We are all different, hugely so, and what is an ambitious goal for one person, for whatever reason, may be impossible for another. Think hard when setting your goals, don’t cheat yourself of the feeling of achievement by aiming low yet don’t aim so high you set yourself up for failure and an opportunity only to beat yourself up over a missed goal.

There is zero shame in revisiting your goals. Life is fluid, with no end of changes and events happening that may mean a goal set in the morning may suddenly be unrealistic by the afternoon. So long as you’re being honest with yourself then adjusting your goals is not cheating!

Now, once you’ve set a goal two things are going to happen. You’re either going to achieve it, or you’re going to miss it. I’ve written before on perceived failure, if you’ve not read it now is a good time to. Dust yourself off, revisit the goal, tweak it if you need to, and try again. Perhaps that particular goal needs to wait until another goal is met first? Either way missed goals can and will happen.  That said, the feeling of reaching a goal would not be as sweet without a few missed ones along the way.

On the other hand, if you’ve achieved your goal, then celebrate! Reward yourself, take time to soak it in and recognise what you’ve done. It’s all too easy to reach what you’ve been striving for and shoot on past it without taking in how far you’ve come. Something I frequently say to people I’m supporting on walks is to take a moment to look back on how far you’ve come. When climbing a steep incline people just focus on what’s ahead of them and how far they’ve got to go. Take a short break, turn around and look back on the amazing view behind you. Take in how far you’ve come, when you turn back around to face the climb you’ll be amazed how much smaller it looks.

I’m not one of these people who plan their lives, in fact I plan very little at all in my personal life! Over the past few years however I’ve gotten the goal setting habit. I’ll have a few on the go at once, some very short term such as things I want to achieve in the next month. Others are longer, such as signing up for a challenge in a years time. Sometimes I miss them, it doesn’t feel great when I miss them, it’s hard not to let old habits kick in and to spiral downwards. Yet to balance that I know full well how amazing it feels when I successfully complete a goal, how much it has a positive effect on the wider aspects of my life, and holding on to that warm positive feeling is what pulls me back to reset that goal and try again. It’s worth doing, it doesn’t need to be totally life changing, but trust me that once you start forming the habit of achieving goals it’s a tough one to quit.


My most recently achieved goal, completing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge