December 20, 2011

Goal Setting (Part 1)

If you want to be successful, you have to have at least one goal.

My parents taught me about goal setting and working towards goals.  Sometimes goals were non-negotiable…”you will graduate from college”.  Sometimes they were expansions on my goals…..Me: “I want to have my own money (implying that to reach my goal I might be given an allowance)”; My parents: “You will get a job and earn your own money (result: I have been working for my own money since the age of 12 and have a thorough understanding of value and cost)”.
Not only did I learn about goal setting from my parents, but also during my training as a physical therapist.  PT’s are huge goal setters….Patient will ambulate 50 feet with a cane independently within 2 weeks. Patient will be able to transfer with minimal assistance of 1 from bed to chair within 1 week. Needless to say, I always need to know what the goal is going to be before I set out to do anything.
I recently had the opportunity to teach staff about effective goal setting with patients.  We talked about setting SMART goals:
Time Based
During and after the staff education I had people come up to me and reference their own goal setting (it probably helped that several of my teaching examples had to do with weight loss!).  I realized that learning how to set goals is just as important as working towards those goals but, often, people don’t take the time to set a proper goal for themselves.  We talk about goal setting, but many people don’t have the skill set to formulate effective goals.  If we don’t take the time to set a SMART goal, we often set ourselves up for failure.  If we don’t take the time to set short term goals, we often lose our way on the path to that long term goal.  If we don’t set new goals, we stagnate and fall back into our old “evil” ways.
About a year ago, I set myself the goal of finishing a triathlon.  I registered for the race on New Year’s Eve (to seal my resolution).  I started training instead of just exercising, recording my distances and times spent swimming/biking/running, and started working with a coach.  I realized in May that I could definitely finish the sprint triathlon that I had registered for and the race wasn’t until August… goal needed to be upgraded.  I started to study finish times for the same race over the past few years.  I started asking more questions about the race itself and realized that if I pushed myself and my training that I could do better than finish.  I set a goal for myself of finishing the race in less than 1:40:00 and to cross the finish line with a smile on my face.  I worked hard on many areas during the summer to meet that goal and, though I didn’t have a smile on my face until about 30 seconds after crossing the finish line, I left everything I had on that course (including the smile) and finished the race in 1:35:53…goal accomplished!
If I had stuck with my original goal of just crossing the finish line, I would have slacked off on improving my fitness.  I would have only trained 4-5 hours each week instead of 8-10 hours.   I wouldn’t have literally and figuratively ran my a__ off over the summer preparing for that triathlon.  That little goal alteration resulted in big gains on my journey towards improved fitness – and I felt great once it was accomplished.
Help yourself out – set a SMART goal for yourself……don’t say “I want to feel better” or “I want to lose weight” or “I need to exercise more”.  If you want to be successful, set a goal for yourself.  It has to be one you know you can achieve and that has meaning.  I helped a co-worker set a goal for herself recently and it looks like this:
Specific – to wear that favorite little black dress by the end of February 2012.
Measureable – well, it either fits or doesn’t, right?  If you’re not sure, ask a BFF – she’ll tell you.
Attainable – this is a dress she already owns and used to be able to wear as an adult, so there’s no reason she shouldn’t be able to fit back into it again.
Relevant – wearing that LBD makes her feel good.
Time Based – the end of February 2012
So……..Be SMART and set your own goal if you haven’t already.
Walking the (active) talk – My long term training goal for the 2012 season is to design my own training program (last year I worked with a coach) and successfully complete the “I’m All That” multisport series in Skaneateles on Labor Day weekend…..the weekend is comprised of a Sprint triathlon on Saturday, and then three separate races on Sunday (a 1 mile open water swim, a 2 mile bicycle time trial, and a 4 mile run).  For my stretch goals -  I am going to shoot for personal bests in 2 out of the 3 races.  Wish me luck!

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