I have been reading a lot about goals and goal setting lately. Specifically, what type of goal setting improves the odds of achieving your goals. Obviously, actually creating a goal improves your odds of achieving it, but as most of us know from experience, just stating a goal usually isn’t enough to force us to achieve it.
We all know that change is hard, and that is one reason why achieving our goals is challenging, because it requires us to change. Some people do manage to change and ultimately achieve a goal, what do these people do differently to allow that to happen? What makes the successful people different from the rest of us?
There is something psychologists refer to as the change cycle:
Pre-contemplation: You haven’t been thinking about making a change in this area and you don’t intend to in the near future. “I love my job and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Contemplation: You have thought about making a change but haven’t done anything about it yet. “I really need to start to eat better.”
Preparation: You are going to make the change, but still a little ambivalent about it. “I know this will be my last cigarette, but I think I am really going to miss taking smoke breaks.”
Action: You have been actively making changes in this area for at least a month. “I am eating 5 fruits and vegetables every day, and I feel great.”
Maintenance: You have been successfully making changes in this area for at least 6 months. “I can’t believe that I have really changed the way I think about exercise, I enjoy exercising most days of the week – 6 months ago I could barely run 1 lap.”
Relapse: You started to make real change, but seemed to have slipped back into old ways. “I just don’t know what happened, I was doing really well, and then I just fell off the wagon.”
It turns out that relapse is a common and an important part of ultimately achieving your goals, that’s right – each time you relapse, you can learn something and that can take you one step closer to achieving your goal. Why did you fall off the wagon and what could you do differently next time?
Over the next few weeks, I would like to walk you through achieving (or getting closer to achieving) one of your major goals. Step one is to dream. Spend some time actively dreaming about what you would like to change or how you would like to be different then you are right now. Get a good, clear picture of who or how you will be once you achieve this goal. Once you state your goal, check the above cycle and see where you are on the cycle. Is it a goal that you have tried to achieve in the past but eventually went back to your old habits (Relapse) or maybe it’s a brand new goal that you never stated out loud before and you worry that if you achieved this goal you don’t know how your friends and family would react (Preparation). It really doesn’t matter where you are in the cycle.
Next week we will talk about the beginning steps towards achieving your goal. Keep in mind that goals should be achievable, realistic, specific and measurable.