We’re at that time of year when everyone is thinking about goals. What is it they want to do this week, this month, this year… or with this life.
But whether you’ve got a health and fitness goal, a career goal, a project goal, you need to break it down and really think before starting out.
Yes, you should really have a S.M.A.R.T goal (Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) You’ve probably got that covered.
Also key to consider? Start with WHY.
Why do you want to do this? What is it about this goal that is important to you? I’m borrowing from Simon Sinek here, but our passions all hinge on the why.
Why is it you want to be fitter?
Why do you want to do a photo shoot?
Why do you want to achieve this level of professional success?
The root of this is your why, and what it is will drive you. Because you have to realize there will be hard work – and sacrifices along the way. Are you ready for the hard work and sacrifice? If you’re not sure, you might not be clear on the why.
Don’t goal shame yourself.
Thoughts like ‘who am I to aim for this?’ and ‘Who am I to attempt something so huge?’ are limiting thoughts and goal shaming. These are your goals. You’re meant to aim high.
Stop listening to critics, and people who tell you ‘it’s too hard.’ Listen to your coaches, and look to people who have achieved something similar – they can can help you get there.
Celebrate your gains – look what you’ve already achieved on the path to getting there! Keep going. Don’t be self-critical, it’s not going to get you anywhere. If you believe you can’t do something, you won’t.
Believe in yourself, and you can.
Own those dreams, stop playing small. You have one life – go for it. And if you don’t succeed, imagine what you can achieve along the way. Imagine what you will learn.
Your big goal is the result of milestones along the way. This was so simple when I was working towards a career in journalism. I knew in high school and university the qualifications I needed to get along the way. They were all mapped out by someone else.
And then I graduated. I had no idea how to choose a goal, much less work towards it in a a way that made me successful.
At some point in grad school, I decided I wanted to row for Team Canada. I wanted to race with the maple leaf on my chest. I didn’t get there (I did attend a few training camps), but the experience taught me goal setting lessons that have stayed with me a lifetime.
The first lesson: Achieving a goal is really the result of achieving a series of milestones.
In the movies, it’s great to see the main character wake up in the morning and say ‘I’m going to row for Team Canada!’ or ‘I’m going to compete on stage’ or ‘I’m going to rock my first photo shoot!’
But in reality, it’s not like that. There’s a lot of hard work and milestones that must be accomplished along the way. In rowing, it was a series of tests on the erg, on the water that would have us ranked among other national team hopefuls.
In fitness, we progress as individuals. The most successful fitness athletes know that they are competing only about themselves. It’s about building strength, eating right, putting in the cardio when necessary. It’s about checking in each week.
It’s about consistency. Hitting those milestones that help us reach our goals.
Data is the fuel that helps you reach your goals.
All those races for Rowing Canada, those coaching check ins, those measurements taken each week – and I weigh myself every day – those are data points. On their own they don’t mean much, but together they begin to tell a story.
And that data tells you how you are doing. If you’re doing the right thing to hit those milestones, on the road to reach your goals.
Don’t fear the data, even if it’s not as great as you hoped. It’s your guide. I remember competing at the Canadian indoor rowing championships ahead of the Sydney Olympics. I pulled a 2k race on the rowing machine that was a PB, but it wasn’t as fast as the amazing women out for those Olympics.
That data was harsh to accept, but it spoke to me: you’re not there yet, it told me. You need to put in more work.
And then career opportunity called, and I realized I wanted to switch goals: I wanted to be a journalist at CBC (I nailed that, but it took me TWENTY YEARS to return to fitness and rowing)
Adjusting a goal and being flexible is as important as achieving it.
I’ve seen so many of you demonstrating amazing flexibility with their goals. Gyms are locked down – you move to dumbbells, bands and coffee tables.
Competitions have been cancelled, and yet you’ve kept working. THis determination and flexibility makes the goal that much sweeter when you get there. Imagine the delight of stepping on stage after three cancellations?
Imagine the fun of getting in front of a camera after Covid postponed a shoot for you. (This was me last spring, I was mourning a friend who died of Covid)
Because here’s the thing I’ve learned about goal setting and reaching for those milestones:
it’s the journey that matters.
As I’ve worked towards various professional and personal goals, I’ve come to realize that the goal is ever changing. The closer I get to one goal, I dream up another.
When you reach a goal, you’re probably already thinking of the next one. And the goal you just achieved is now a milestone towards your next goal. Last fall I booked my November 2022 photo shoot before stepping in front of the camera for my 2021 shoot.
Goals help us evolve. They are continuous, growing on each other. Life is a journey from goal to goal – hopefully bringing us joy and happiness. (Another reason to clearly identify your why).
As you work towards your goal, I encourage you to stop and examine the data.
And celebrate every win.
Whether its a deadlift PB, fitting into a new size of jeans, or finishing a project at work. I celebrate all of it.
Because all of it took consistent hard work, and all of it is part of my journey to the next achievement.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned about setting goals?