Goal setting is something that is prolific in blog content, online searches and life coaching speeches. The reason for this is that we all want to live a better and more fulfilling life. It is a primal force to want to do better and be better - but how do we do that?
Goal setting is often spoken about specifically to one area of our lives, for example if you google how to set a goal for my business you will come up with millions of search results for business goal setting strategies, not one of them will mention weight loss. On the contrary, you type into Google, fitness goal setting or weight loss goals and again millions of hits will come up in relation to your search criteria. However, I look at goal setting as a concept on its own that can be applied to almost every area of your life once you have learned the formula.
It is important to remember that goals also come with their fair share of sacrifices. Generally the life coach or personal trainer who talks about goals and achievements would do so in a purely positive light. Often conveniently forgetting to mention that to achieve a goal in one area of your life, you may have to limit your expectations for another area. While that may sound slightly gloomy, it's not the case, we just have to look closely at what it is that we want at the very heart of it and then formulate a road to that destination… It's also always important to remember that we need to enjoy the journey as well !
The Wheel of Life
I like to start off my goal setting process by looking at the wheel of life or the balance wheel. The wheel of life, originally designed by Paul J. Meyer, is a graphic representation of the various aspects in one's life and how satisfied you feel in those areas right now. The categories listed are all necessary to lead a balanced and satisfied life, and finding an equilibrium between each of these categories is important to anyone on the journey to living a life they love.
Having said that, I recently listened to a podcast by Raphel Bender from Pilates Elephants who interviewed Brittany LaBotz on how to live your dream life. Part of the podcast involved a discussion about a ‘work-life’ balance and the host and guest both agreed that the ‘work-life’ balance can look different to different people. For example, I absolutely love teaching Pilates, I love doing Pilates and I love talking so for me to go ‘to work’ doesn’t seem like a chore but rather a hobby or fun pastime. I know that that may not be the case for everyone, but we should endeavour to enjoy or at least find some value in the work we do in order to feel satisfied with your life as a whole. We cannot live happily by waiting for the ‘work’ part to end, be that on the weekend, holidays or retirement, before we do the ‘life’ part. Everyone needs different doses of work and recreational time, and ultimately it should be our never ending journey to find the work that makes us happy and the life that leads to growth and development.
So I'm sure that while you are reading this you can already get a gut sense as to how much of a ‘work-life’ balance you need. While we are thinking about this we also need to acknowledge that we may have responsibilities to others ( which all adult humans do ) whether it be a partner, children, family commitments, colleagues or neighbours. We also need to understand that we have a responsibility to our health and wellness, without it we would be unable to do anything; the fun activities, your hobbies, your work, your family responsibilities and the joy of a fulfilled life.
Therefore, we must acknowledge that setting a goal or even better achieving a goal in one aspect of our lives, will bring with it a butterfly effect of change into other aspects as well. Be that change positive or negative. Each goal also brings with it sacrifices, be those big or small.
So we start our goal setting journey by looking at the wheel of life and what that means for you as an individual.
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Even just at a glance we can often rapid fire problem solve and notice areas that jump out at you as being unsatisfactory. Step one in our wheel of life analysis is to draw or download the wheel. The next step is to plot the level of satisfaction you feel, right now, on a scale of 1-8 for each of the categories. Once you have plotted a dot or line for each segment you will then have a visual tool to indicate the ‘balance’ between the various segments This clearly shows us which areas in our lives need the most attention. However, my personal 2 cents is that we also have to prioritise each category and decide what is important to us. So I add in an additional layer to my balance wheel worksheet - I rank each segment or title from 1-8, indicating the emphasis I place on that specific segment. Number 1 being the most important segment for me as an individual and number 8 being the least important. Therefore, it also gives me an indication of how satisfied I am in the various areas of my life, but in relation to my values and priorities.
Once you have seen the areas in your life that you are feeling unsatisfied with, you can begin to set goals in these categories. The reason why I encourage completing the wheel of life first before setting goals, is it brings awareness to all of the aspects of one's life, and highlights the areas where we may need to focus our attention. Goal achievement, as I mentioned above, is also always a give and take, which is why we included that additional layer in our wheel diagram, so that you can decide which areas need work and goals but also which areas you may be happier to stay at a lower satisfaction number.
Find you WHY
Once you have completed your wheel of life worksheet and have roughly started jotting down goal ideas across various segments, we need to make sure we know the WHY of the goals. Very often when we set goals they are for achievements we may THINK we want, or perhaps what society TELLS us we need, or a way to dream away our reality but we don't fundamentally resonate with them. For example, and it's a big one - weight loss.
If someone cites weight loss as their goal for one of my programs, I always prompt them to share more. Why are you looking to lose weight? The why needs to be a big WHY. For some people their health may be negatively affected by size, or their functionality may be impaired or they are limited in a certain area of their life due to their size, maybe they cant play with their children on the floor, those are all big WHY’s.
Sometimes when I press the notion with other clients, I get shoulder shrugging, phrases like “ I don’t know”, or “Just a little weight loss would be great” sometimes I even get sentiments like “ It would make me happier” or “ It would make my partner love/like/accept me more.” All of these are not really big WHY’s. However, depending on how we ranked various areas of our life, these seemingly ‘little why’s’ for the individual can be huge. So I’m not ( and nor should any other coach be ) here to judge what your why is, but I am here to make sure that it's a big one for YOU, not for society, not for your partner/family/friends, and not just because you like the idea of the goal. But to ensure that it will fundamentally improve your existence once achieved.
So for each rough draft goal, we need to go back to our wheel and see, what segment does this goal fall into ? Is it a segment that we ranked highly, and is it a segment that we felt lacking in satisfaction? If the answer to either of those questions is NO, then you may find it difficult to find your big WHY. If you find it hard to come up with your WHY you will probably ( not always though ) lack motivation to achieve that goal, you may lose focus without a significant driving force and it may feel like a struggle rather than a journey to achieve it.
We need to scrutinise each goal and peel back the layers as to why you would want to achieve this particular goal and what kind of satisfaction it would give you once achieved. Once we've found our WHY it's usually easy to start to strategise the how and when. Another good idea here is to assess if the goal in question falls into more than one category. The more categories that can be improved by achieving just one goal, the more valuable that goal is. For each category that the goal lands in you can give it a point, ultimately resulting in each goal having a score out of 8. Once each basic goal has been scored you will then clearly see which goals need to be prioritised.
I also like to test the goals against the other categories from the opposite perspective, and analyse how much of any of the other areas may have to be sacrificed or limited in order to obtain the goal in question. For example, you want to go on an overseas holiday but will it help your finances ? Probably ( almost definitely ) not, but will it enhance your fun and recreation centre and maybe your personal development even potentially enhancing your relationships with family or a partner if you travel together ? Probably. Then we decide, is the goal and its achievement worth the sacrifice that may need to be made.
The next step is to begin refining your basic goals. At this stage we need to set BIG goals! Think 10 years, 5 years, 12 month and 6 month goals. Visualisation is a great trick at this stage of the process. I like to close my eyes and visualise my absolute best life, regardless of what is going on currently or what your limiting beliefs may be. If you had a magic wand and could conjure up any kind of life, what would it look like? It’s not enough to have a vague idea, like a sports car in a driveway. We need to delve deeper, think through ( with your eyes closed ) what a typical day in your ‘perfect life’ would look like. Where did you wake up ? Big house, small house, tiny house, geographical location etc. Who was next to you ? Partner, spouse, no one, children, pets… Once you’d showered and changed what did you do ? Go to work, stay at home, do a hobby? If you went to work, where were you working ? What were you doing ? What was your title ?
Some advocates for this visualisation technique go so far as to say that each of the 5 senses needs to be addressed in your fantasy life, what can you see, touch, hear etc. But basically the gist is that it needs to be as detailed as possible.
Once you have some of your BIG goals you know where you want to go, so now you need to break that up into smaller goals, and then smaller still until you have little bite sized chunks of goals that can be achieved in that minute, day, week or month. These are our medium to small goals which will lead us to the BIG goals, if followed and achieved.
On a side note here, it's important to remember that you can be flexible and that goals and directions can change course as life unfolds, but if we have really delved deep into our psyche and found our WHYs and looked at our wheel of life, we should be able to keep on a broad track even if the pathway takes some twists and turns along the way.
Set SMART Goals
Finally we come to the nitty gritty of setting specific goals. When we start to set the short, medium and long term goals we should be SMART about it. We need to set goals that have specific and measurable components to be able to track our progress.
Each goal needs to be as specific as possible. When we look at a goal such as ‘ I want to get stronger’, it is not very specific and there is no quantifiable way to assess your progress, so when we set goals we need to have clear wording and a well thought out goal. We could change the goal to read “ I would like to improve my push up performance”
Our goals need to be measurable, that means that there needs to be some quantifiable element involved in the goal, a number, value or measurement. For example, with our goal above, wanting to get stronger is vague and unmeasurable. We could add, “ I would like to be able to complete 10 more push ups in a minute push up test”
We all want to be able to do amazing things and find ultimate success. However, we are all faced with challenges and limitations that present themselves in various ways. For example injuries, financial constraints, geographical or logistical limitations, relationship or family commitments etc. So when we set out our goals we need to be honest with ourselves, and set goals that we know we would be able to achieve given our current circumstances. This does not mean the goals should be easy ( or worse non-existent ) but we may need to be realistic in our approach. Again our push up example can be used, say the goal setter had recently had a shoulder operation and the doctor has suggested limited movement for the first 3 weeks post-op. Setting a goal for increasing push ups within a four week time frame would be unachievable, but perhaps increasing the time frame to 6 months may make the same goal more realistic.
Relevance is of paramount importance, both for achieving larger goals but also to enhance motivation. If you set a goal that does not resonate with you, serves no purpose in relation to achieving bigger goals and doesn’t enhance our wheel of life satisfaction, then is the goal really worth pursuing. This is highlighted in the previous sections of the big WHY as well as the scoring of each goal in relation to each of the categories in the wheel.
It is always important to adhere to some kind of timeline with your goals, this keeps you striving and motivated. Open ended goals often lead to lack of commitment and apathy for completing daily tasks. We need to always be specific about a time frame for each goal. Our example could be “ I would like to be able to complete 10 more push ups in a minute push up test in 6 weeks.“
Having a goal that encompasses all of these points ensures that you can break the goal down into daily activities in order to achieve it. Once we are able to break it down, and refine it, it becomes easier to complete each small daily task which will ensure that you are well on your way to accomplishing all of the goals you set.
Lastly we need to assess ourselves and our goals that we have created. The assessment process is immediate and ongoing. I like to immediately assess the goals I have created against the criteria listed above to check that they are valuable, quality goals. In addition to the goals themselves, I also like to assess how I tackled the goal setting process. Were there some goals that I would have liked to have set but I avoided them for some reason? Perhaps I felt they were too hard ? Maybe I battled with imposter syndrome ? Maybe I legitimately forgot certain areas which may still need attention.
I then regularly assess how the goals are going, am I achieving some of the short term goals I had originally set out but more importantly are the smaller goals actually steering me towards my larger goals. I also like to analyse how I feel after accomplishing some of the smaller goals, is it what I expected to feel ? Perhaps I feel even better than expected or perhaps the achievement brought me no joy at all.
Once we have done an assessment we can continue to reassess and redirect if necessary. Perhaps circumstances change or our thoughts and feelings around certain aspects begin to alter, these occurrences need to be addressed and sometimes goals need to be reworked or sometimes scrapped all together. Very often new goals need to be added as circumstances change or as we begin to meet multiple goals.
I personally believe that striving for something keeps us energised, active and alive. We should want to grow, develop and progress in a healthy, organised and achievable manner. There is no end to setting, striving and achieving goals. As you climb one peak there is a valley below you and another peak on the horizon. This is the human existence, and it should fill us with hope for what we can achieve.
According to Positive Psychology “Goals play a dominant role in shaping the way we see ourselves and others. A person who is focused and goal-oriented is likely to have a more positive approach towards life and perceive failures as temporary setbacks, rather than personal shortcomings.”
Let us know if you have set any goals recently, we would love to hear from you.