Dr. Meaghan Datema, ND

How to set goals and achieve them!

We have all been there. It is January 1st and we are promising ourselves that we are going to lose weight or start exercising or eat healthy or focus on self care. And the list goes on. So many resolutions every year are made focused on how we want to look and how we want to feel. If we are honest with ourselves we break these promises well before the end of the year, most of the time these promises don’t even last the month. Why? Often the promises or resolutions that we set are enormous and very generic which can seem like Mount Everest when we are setting out to accomplish them. How do you avoid falling off the wagon by the end of January? Here is how I help my patients set and achieve their resolutions.

How to set your goals!

Make you goals specific

One of the biggest mistakes people make when setting resolutions is making them super generic i.e. “I want to be more active in the new year” or “I want to eat healthier”. These goals are often hard to accomplish because they are not inspiring. Generic goals don’t get you excited, they don’t inspire you. Did you set a generic goal this year? No problem, just reflect on that goal and make it more specific. Look into WHY you want to achieve that goal. Do you want to be more active this year because you want to be able to go skiing with your kids or because you want to run a 5k by the end of the year or do you want to be more active because your doctor said so. Figure out what your WHY is. Once you have that you can brainstorm how you can accomplish that goal. Taking an example from above, if you want to be more active so that you can go snowboarding with your kids, brainstorm how to achieve that. Do you need to work on your cardiovascular health so that you can ski down the slope without gasping for breath or do you need to work on your strength so that you can carve down the hill? Now you have set a specific goal for the new year.

Make your goals measurable

Now that you have something super specific that you want to accomplish this year you need to make it measurable. Goals are a lot easier to accomplish when there is something that you can do that checks the goal off the list. Research shows that when you create measurable goals you are more likely to achieve them versus more arbitrary and generic goals. Measurable goals could include: lose 10 pounds or run a 10k before the end of the year or spend 30 minutes per day involved in a form of physical activity. All of those goals are trackable and measurable and you can cross them off of your to do list when they are done. Going back to our example of skiing with your kids, your goal could be going skiing once with your kids this year and skiing the whole day not just half. That is something measurable and specific. 

Make your goals achievable

Okay, now you have set specific and measurable goals now we need to make sure they are achievable. Setting achievable goals is going to make the journey towards these goals more enjoyable and motivating. If you set a goal, such as running a ultra-marathon this year, but you can’t even run 1k. Is it achievable? Not likely, unless you have a high level of fitness and tons of time available for training and you have proper coaching. (Note: most running coaches will say that you have no business training for a marathon or ultra-marathon unless you have a solid running base (6-12 months of consistent and regular running)) I am saying not to dream big? No. Dream big, come up with theses big, scary goals, but break them down into reasonable chunks. If you goal is to run an ultra-marathon at least once in your life, then start working towards that goal by saying “this year I am going to run a half marathon.” You are setting a reasonable goal for a beginner runner that should be achievable. Going back to the previous example, going skiing with your kids before the end of the year might be an unrealistic goal if you have an ACL repair surgery scheduled for the summer, it also might not be depending on your pre-hab and rehab schedule and your dedication to your physio plan. You know what is achievable for you and what isn’t so modify your goals according to your abilities.

Make your goals relevant

This might seem obvious, but it still needs to be said. Are your goals relevant to you. This goes back to making your goals specific and oriented around your WHY. If your results are not attached to your WHY then why are you pushing yourself to achieve them. Are you committed to losing 10 pounds because your entire friend group committed to losing 10 pounds together? Do you need to lose 10 pounds? If yes and if that is achievable for you then great. If not then why are you losing those 10 pounds? Going back to our example, making a goal of being able to ski for a full day with your kids might be a fantastic goal for some, but if your kids don’t ski then why are YOU making that goal.

Make your goals time sensitive

You may have noticed already that when I talk about goals I attach a time period to them i.e. before the end of the year, by March, in 6 weeks, before I am 40, etc. Adding a time period to your goals gives you the extra push to get those goals done, particularly when you are coming up on the deadline. 

How to achieve your goals

Step 1: write them down

When you write down your goals you are more likely to go through with them. Write them in a journal, planner, scrap piece of paper. It doesn’t matter. Just write them down. 

Step 2: break them down

When we set goals, we tend to write these enormous and lofty goals (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) which can be very intimidating at the start. If that is the case, brainstorm ways to break them down into smaller goals that can be accomplished first in order to set you up for success towards that big goal. Example: I want to lose 30 lbs this year. That is a lot. Break this down to: lose 5lbs in 2 months. Much easier to wrap your head around.

Step 3: read them regularly

After you have written them down, go back to them on a regular basis. The smaller goals you should be reflecting on weekly or at least monthly. 

Step 4: accountability

Motivation generally runs high when you set your goals but as you start working towards them, it tends to wane, particularly if hard work is involved. How do you stay motivated then all year round? If you are lucky enough to be self-disciplined that might not be an issue, but most people struggle with being disciplined enough to achieve their goals. That’s where accountability comes in. Finding an accountability partner who will keep you honest and on track goes a long way towards achieving your goals. Why do you think people are more successful when they have weekly sessions with their personal trainer or weight watchers or other coaches. Accountability. Someone is watching and evaluating your progress. Sometimes friends or family can make great accountability partners, but more often it needs to be someone outside your immediate social circle. A personal trainer, doctor, business coach, colleague because we are more driven to impress them than we are our friends and family. 

Step 5: celebrate the wins

When you have accomplished your goals, check them off your list of to dos for the year and celebrate the wins! The act of celebrating your wins gives you a reason to complete the goal, but also to set new ones.

If you are still struggling with how to set goals or if you need an accountability partner book an appointment with me and we will work towards them together!

Yours in health,

grimsby naturopath
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  5. Bovend’eerdt TJ, Botell RE, Wade DT. Writing SMART rehabilitation goals and achieving goal attainment scaling: a practical guide. Clin Rehabil. 2009;23(4):352-61.

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