When it comes to goal setting, there is an entire body of health and sport psychology literature that shows when humans set specific, measurable, controllable goals they almost always perform better than when they set vague, “do your best” types of goals. We also know that goal attainment is directly related to increased self-efficacy, or put another way, better self-confidence. Goals allow us to target specific future improvements, mobilize our efforts, and receive ongoing feedback so that we know whether we are succeeding or failing to reach our goals. While all of this information is important and relevant, goal attainment still relies heavily on the mindset you develop and the perseverance and fortitude you display while working toward your personal goals, making your mental approach to goal setting arguably more important than the specifics of the goals you set.
Your thinking directly impacts your effort
When we think of developing new habits and big life goals, we often become bogged down by the perceived effort it will take to reach the goal, and this can lead to premature quitting before we even get started. For example, if you have a goal to lose 50lbs next year, just thinking about the efforts needed to lose the weight could prove to be too much to consider, and subsequently the goal is written off before plans could get off the ground. This frustration and pessimism is actually understandable, as it can be quite daunting to think about the food restrictions needed coupled by the increased cardiovascular training in order to burn off 50lbs. Delving deeper, if all you think about is how miserable you will by eliminating ice cream from your diet and committing to daily cardio activity by means of jogging, your goals will likely overwhelm you and could lead to the end — even before you ever got started. The good news is there is an entirely different way to approach this challenge, one that will not only create a positive emotional energy, but also give you much greater odds for actually reaching your future goals.
While it is easy to think of all the potential pain in beginning a new goal setting schedule, why not think of all the amazing things you will experience and feel at the end when you reach your final goal(s)? For example, if you are trying to lose weight, instead of thinking of how tough it will be to run your first mile, why not think about the end of that run when you peel off your sweaty clothes and feel that awesome satisfaction knowing you just did something big. In fact, think even bigger than that about all the things that are all but guaranteed to happen should you reach your goals, including:
- Clothes that fit better and look better
- Increased energy to do more fun things in life
- More self-confidence knowing you reached your weight loss goal
- Longer life expectancy
- Better sleep
- More control over your life, leading to better self-esteem, focus, motivation, and resiliency
The big message here today is that focusing on future goal attainment is almost always a better, more effective strategy with goal setting than allowing yourself to become overwhelmed by all the new (and often challenging) changes you will need to make in order to reach future goals. Instead, try a better strategy that allows you to continually feel how your life will be improved by making positive change and attaining future goals — not only will this make goal setting more fun, but it will lead to better results. And the best part? This change in mindset is 100% controlled by YOU.