Thursday Thoughts: Goal Setting

It's Thursday, so you know what that means...

Thursday Thoughts

This is a segment where I post my thoughts about various nutrition and health related topics, or maybe even something else if it is really an intriguing topic. Most of my current views and opinions come from experience working as a dietitian and as college instructor in nutrition courses. Most of that learning is science based or observational from the clinical setting. In general, I hate over-generalizations, so for many of the things I post, I expect there is one or two exceptions because broad sweeping generalizations are always bound to miss out on something.

Some of you may have read my post last year for Thursday thoughts before New Years, but if you didn't, I wrote about New Years Resolutions.  I am not a huge fan of resolutions, as I mentioned in that post, because it makes it seem like you were doing things all wrong before and you need to resolve this poor actions, transforming them into something good.  To me, the whole things seems to negative.  Instead, I like the term goal.  

Goals are something we can set any time and work towards in the short term or long term.  They are binding like resolutions, but I think the accountability factor with a goal is different.  When it comes to resolutions I think most people think we might stick to it for a month or so, but generally a few months in have given up.  Now, this is obviously not true for some people, but for those that are not actively setting goals year round, I find this to be more true.  So here are my thoughts on goal setting.

1) Pick something that gives you a result that you are looking for.  This may seem like common sense, but a lot of times people aim for something that has an outcome that someone else wants.  It is a lot easier to work towards something that you will enjoy or be proud of in the end.  Goals should be designed with you in mind, not what you think will please others.  

2) Goals do not have to be limited to diet and exercise.  Goals for physical health are great, but you can set other goals too that will in turn have an effect on your physical health.  Many of those other kinds of goals (like scrapbook more often or learning to play an instrument) work on your mental health, helping to reduce stress, and in turn benefit your physical health.  The goal should be something you want to achieve and will make you happy.

3) Goals should require some effort and work but at the same time need to be attainable.  Setting goals too far out of reach will only set you up for failure.  Make sure that when you set a goal you have a reasonable time line in place and know that this can be achieved with some effort as long as you stay focused an on track.  Do some research in advance and make sure that you are not setting goals that are unlikely to be possible.  For example, trying to lose 5 pounds in 1 week is not attainable within reasonable health and safety limits, but 5 pounds in one month is definitely attainable.  If you have never played the piano before, learning 3 songs in 1 week is not attainable, but learning one song in 1 month might be more practical for you.

4) Set short term and long term goals.  Working towards a big goal is a good idea, but not having smaller goals (or milestone markers) along the way can possibly be a set back.  The joy of successfully reaching a goal is a good motivator to stay on track.  By creating small goals that can be met along the way to your big (long term) goal, you give yourself some positive reinforcement that you can do it and this will help as you work towards the next short term goal, and ultimately that long term goal.  For example, you might want to lose 40# in 6 months.  This might be a good goal, but by 2 months you may need some positive reinforcement to keep you on track.  Without smaller, short term goals along the way there you might start to feel like you will never reach that goal.  But, if you also set smaller goals, like losing 6-7 pounds a month, you can feel like you have accomplished something and you are still working towards that bigger goal.  With the piano example, your long term goal might be to play in a recital 6 months down the road, but perhaps along the way you might want to learn how to play 2 new songs a month.  You can get a little boost in confidence and motivation when you reach those smaller short term goals.

5) Don't keep your goals a secret.  At least write them down so you have a reminder of where you want to be down the road.  Share them with your friends and family, and especially those you know will be supportive.  This will help keep you accountable.  If you have fallen off track, avoid getting defensive when you are asked about your goals by friends and family.  Remember, they are just trying to help.  Instead, let them help you get back on track if by some chance you have strayed from meeting your goals.  Sometimes that fresh perspective or outside opinion is enough to jump start your motivation, giving you that little nudge that you needed.  

So those are my thoughts on goal setting, which is a big deal, whether we like it or not, for the new year.  Another thing to keep in mind is that we are forever changing.  Circumstances change, life changes, and our environments change, so it is OK to reevaluate your goals and see if they need some changing too.  Just as long as you still have something you are working towards, whether it be health related, education related, or relationship related.

QUESTIONS:  What you are thoughts or tips on goal setting?  Any goals you plan to put in place with the new year?

Also, wanted to say HAPPY HANUKKAH!!!


Mari said...

it's funny the other day I was talking to my coworker and she is like "oh lets make some resolutions" and I stated "I don't do resolutions, but I set goals instead". I think that one of the most important things I can think of, is to be realistic with your goal...make it something that you will be able to achieve if you try. Why set yourself up for failure...

Ameena said...

I set goals all year long...I'm not a fan of setting them just in January because I feel like nobody really keeps those!

Happy holidays Melinda! I hope you are having a fabulous season so far.

Roz @ weightingfor50 said...

Happy Holidays Melinda!!!! All the best from us in Canada to you in Japan!!!

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