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Internationally Acclaimed Nutritional Biochemist, Author & Speaker

These 4 tips will make reaching your goals more achievable

Some people love a good goal to strive towards and the promise of the achievement itself is enough motivation to keep them going. Yet, not everyone finds it easy to stick to their goals. Others don’t like goals and prefer to simply have a sense of the direction they’re headed. This might be based on their values, for example.

Over the years I’ve had many clients tell me that they lack ‘discipline’ because they set themselves goals or intentions that they don’t keep. Most of the time I’ve found it’s not about discipline at all. More often than not, it’s that the person (unconsciously) links more benefits than drawbacks to continuing the way they have been (perhaps after a brief time of making alternative choices in the direction of the goal). Or it’s that the goals that people set for themselves stem from a place of judgement and criticism, or there is a sense of deprivation or punishment around the goal. None of these situations is likely to lead to the result we seek.

If setting goals doesn’t light you up, it’s not the only way to achieve change so don’t feel like you need to do it. Yet if it is something that works for you and you just need a little guidance around how to be effective, here are four key ways to support you in sticking to the goals you set.

1. Start with small achievable steps

If you want to climb Mount Everest, you don’t just fly to the Himalayas and give it a crack. You train for months—years even—starting with small achievable mountains that incrementally get more challenging as your ability and confidence grows. Too often we set ourselves up to fail by not planning out how we are going to achieve our goal. We just expect ourselves to make radical changes that are often unrealistic to achieve in our lives.

Planning is an important part of goal setting, as is breaking the goal down into achievable chunks. Let’s say, for example, that you currently eat out for most of your meals and you want to set a goal of eating mostly homecooked meals to amp up your nourishment. If you draw a line in the sand from one week to the next and trying to cook all your meals straight up, it’s possibly going to feel like a huge amount of work and you’re probably going to feel like it’s unsustainable. Whereas, if you slowly and incrementally reduce your takeaway meals one at a time and increase homecooked meals one by one, it will feel more manageable and you’re more likely to sustain the changes you make. So map out how you’re going to get to your end goal and break it up into smaller more manageable chunks that will feel like mini wins along the way and motivate you to keep going.

2. Be realistic about what you can manage

Is your goal manageable within your lifestyle or achievable within your schedule? If you take small steps and plan it out as per the above recommendation, you may find that it is. Yet, don’t fall into the trap of setting yourself unrealistic goals that don’t match your lifestyle or fit within your schedule.

For example, let’s say you set yourself a goal of improving your fitness. If you tell yourself that in order to do that you need to go to the gym five days a week and yet you can’t find five spots in your weekly schedule, you’re not going to achieve this goal. Along the same lines, if you don’t enjoy going to the gym, you’re hardly going to be inspired to go five days a week—or even at all. It’s better to be ruthlessly honest with yourself about what’s manageable and what is going to feel good for you.

Be realistic about timelines too. Both how long you will give yourself to achieve your goal as well as how long you might maintain some. This is particularly important for goals where you give up or abstain from something. For example, it’s all well and good to commit to not consuming alcohol indefinitely—but will you sustain this? Or is it more realistic to set yourself a goal of not consuming it for one month? You can always extend it once you reach that end date if it felt easy for you. I know many people who have made significant changes to their patterns of alcohol consumption (or stopped entirely) by simply taking a break for a month.

3. Understand what is motivating you 

When you set yourself goals from your wounds—when you feel guilty or lousy about your behaviour or choices—you’re probably setting yourself up to fail. And that’s because you are already judging yourself poorly and will only look for more evidence to confirm what you already think of yourself. It will be more helpful in the long run to enquire within yourself as to why you might have behaved in a particular way or keep making choices that don’t align with what you want for yourself, than to set goals from that place of judgement. When you do, you may even find that your goals change entirely.  

4. Assess the benefits and drawbacks of leaving things as they are, as well as achieving the goal

When we set a goal, we are obviously wanting to make changes. It can help to take pen and paper and write down all the benefits of your choices continuing as they have been as well as the drawbacks of this. Really examine the points you note and focus your attention of the drawbacks of continuing the way you have been up until now. Then start a new list and identify the benefits and drawbacks to you of achieving the goal. Once you’ve finished, focus your thoughts on the benefits of this. Living each day in touch with benefits of our new choices can make the world of difference to us continuing on our new path.

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