I wrote what turned out to be a very long post over on Routines for Writers today on goal-setting. More specifically, it was about setting up a system for meeting your goals. I thought it might be useful to share it here, tweaked a bit so that it applies to almost any area of your life.
You already have some routines in your life – you eat, shower, brush your teeth, sleep several hours a night, and spend many hours each day similarly (work, taking care of kids, writing, etc.). If you have a personal goal – like, for me, running a half marathon in January – you have some routines that are helping you reach that goal.
These routines are good. They help wire your brain in such a way that the things you do become easier, and sometimes they don't even require much thought. (Though I did nearly put face soap on my toothbrush because I was thinking so hard about something else!)
Your self-talk is also a routine. What are you saying to yourself? “I'll never be able to do this”? Then you probably won't succeed. “One step at a time”? There's a good chance you'll make it.
Think about the routines you have, and the routines you need to accomplish some of your goals, then write them down.
Writing down your goals is an important step. Occasionally reading what you wrote down and checking to see how far you've come is another great step. Are you closer or further from your goal today? What can you do differently?
I decided that I wanted to lose 20 pounds before my next race in January. We don't have a scale, so part of my routine is checking out the size of my belly every day and wondering/hoping. Another part is to step on a scale when I'm near one. One scale said I'd lost a pound; later a different scale said I'd gained four.
What I really need is to use the same scale at the same time of day with the same amount of clothes on. But I can tell you for sure that I'm not even close to the 20 pounds yet. That leads to the next point.
Willingness to Change
I wrote down that I wanted to lose 20 pounds, and I periodically checked to see how far I've gotten. I found that I needed to make some changes in order to make my goal. I know what some of the changes are because I've been successful in the past: eat smaller portions, eat less sugar, chew gum or drink water when I feel the need to stress eat, drink water when I feel like snacking for the sake of snacking.
But now I need to change. I need to not only be willing to do the above, I need to follow through and do it.
This may mean going back to Step 1, Routines, and making the changes there. I'll make a routine out of what I eat for breakfast and lunch, then routinely ask myself if I'm actually hungry at dinner, and routinely cut my dinner in half and only eat the second half if I'm still genuinely hungry. I know this because I've done it before and it worked. I just have to be willing to do it again.
Decide Now to Keep Going Later
Sometimes the toughest thing to do is not quit. I felt that way about my writing when my mom was sick and then died. I wanted to keep up with my career even as I was feeling lost trying to find a new “normal” in life.
When it comes to weight loss, I have allowed too much self-talk to tell me I'm not going to succeed – even though that's crap and a lie! I know I can lose weight because I've done it before. I know I can run a half marathon because I've done it before. So I have to decide in advance what I'm going to do when I feel like not running, or like eating ice cream.
If you have a plan, you will be less likely to be completely derailed. Since John and I began Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, we have found it much easier to stay on track with our budget and say no to non-budgeted items because we have a plan. Even if we take a step backwards in money management or running or weight loss, we know how to get back on track.
What goals did you want to accomplish by the end of this year? Try going through these steps to get on track and stay on track. Or for more detailed examples, check out my longer post on Routines for Writers. And good luck!