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With every new year comes a wave of new goal-setting ideas, strategies, and subscription products.

While you could join many of the planning and motivational programmes available to help you reach your goals, it’s important to first master the basics of goal setting to keep your momentum into February and throughout the whole year.

First, what is goal setting?

Goal setting is the process of listing attainable targets for yourself and taking the necessary steps to achieve your desired outcome. These targets could be related to your health, your profession, your income, or anything else you wish to achieve. For example, your goal for the new year could be to lose 5 kilos or it could be to go to bed by 10 pm. The steps you would then take to achieve these desired outcomes could be to cut your portions by half and to reduce the amount of time you watch television in the evening for example.

Goal setting is very important for many reasons.

First, setting goals provides you with long-term vision and motivation. In other words, by having goals, you always have something to look forward to, and that excitement of achieving your desired outcome keeps you motivated. For example, if your goal is to lose a certain amount of weight, you start feeling excited as you feel your clothes looser on you, start feeling less bloated, and button up your clothes with more ease. All this gives you a feeling of excitement and the necessary motivation to keep on going and keep on taking the necessary steps to achieve your end goal.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Goal setting improves your time management skills and productivity because it forces you to spend your time more wisely in order to achieve your goal. You see, when you set goals, you have to make time to achieve them. So instead of wasting time on activities that don’t get you closer to your goal, you allocate time towards achieving your goal. For example, if your goal is to go to bed by 10 pm on weekdays, as opposed to midnight, your time will feel more precious and you will be much more conscious of what you spend your time on. If your goal is to walk every day for an hour, you will eliminate any daily time-consuming activities that don’t bring you closer to your goal, in order to fit an hour of walking into your daily routine. In short, goal setting makes you more productive because it forces you to prioritize and eliminate time-wasting activities.

Plus, when you set goals, you inevitably remain focused and acquire a sense of purpose. You know exactly what you should be doing and why you should be doing it every single day. If for example your goal is to lose weight, and the steps you are taking to achieve your goal are meal planning, portion control, and 30 minutes of cardio a day, your focus is on all these steps until they are completed.

Lastly, the ultimate benefit of goal setting is the sense of achievement and the increased feeling of self-worth you have when you actually reach your goal. That feeling is almost addictive and once you achieve one goal, you’ll be eager to set your next one.

But how do we actually set goals in a way that makes it effortless, easy, and fun to achieve them?

First, consider what you want to achieve and write it down. When goals are written down, it has been proven that they are more likely to be achieved. It’s almost like signing a contract with yourself, so you’re more inclined to commit to achieving your target. When writing down your goal, make sure it is a SMART goal (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound). If your goal is not specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound, rethink your target until it matches those criteria. For example, if your goal is to “lose weight”, which is quite vague, rework it until it is a SMART goal. Your target to “lose weight” could then be “to lose 3 kilos by February 1st”.

The next step is to break down your goal into smaller goals so it doesn’t feel like hard work and hard to achieve. If your goal feels too ambitious, you’re more likely to give up along the way. more attainable and avoid giving up halfway. For example, if your goal is to be able to increase your stamina so you can participate in a marathon and complete it with ease, you can break down that goal into smaller steps. Your smaller goals could be to run for 10 minutes a day at the speed of 10 kilometers an hour and increase how long you run, by 3 minutes a day, until you can run for 3 hours with ease.

When setting goals it’s also very important to write down why it’s important for you to achieve them. List ten reasons why you absolutely must achieve that goal. By doing so, you will increase your excitement and motivation and the chances of you achieving your goals will be much higher. For example, if your goal is to stop smoking, the reasons you list could be:

-I will save money

-I will feel more confident

-I will be able to exercise more without feeling out of breath

etc…

If you can think of more than ten reasons to achieve your goal, then keep on listing them. The more reasons you have, the more excited and committed you’ll be to achieving it. Once you have listed all the reasons, start thinking about the obstacles that could come up that would stop you from achieving your goal and make a plan on how to manage these obstacles. For example, if your goal is to lose weight but the obstacle you’ve identified is the fact that you eat out often because of work or social commitments, then plan your diet and exercise plan accordingly. For example, you could choose only low-calorie options from the menu when eating out or skip breakfast the day you have a restaurant outing scheduled.

Remember, setting SMART goals, breaking them down into smaller steps, listing all the reasons why you must achieve them, and managing any obstacles that can come up is a surefire way to achieve anything you set your mind to. Good luck!

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