5 Aspects of Successful Goal Setting

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. ~Henry David Thoreau

Do you have big dreams?

My recent Body After Baby post in which I announced my intention to run the Calgary Marathon has gotten quite the response! Several of you expressed (tentatively) the desire to run a marathon as well. Ladies, what’s stopping you? If it’s a goal you want to accomplish then why just muse over the possibility? Go for it! To dream about achieving something without making it happen is like thinking “I really ought to call {insert beloved friend or family member here}” but never actually calling them. It leaves one feeling empty.

Many people let fear stop them from taking the “big leap.” Well, I’m here to say NO MORE! The worst thing that can happen when you reach for a goal is that you fail. Failure is simply an opportunity to try again. So banish your fear. Say “Self, I want to {insert goal here}. I can {insert goal here. And I will {insert goal here}!” Then do it!

But how?

You have to be SMART about goal setting. Goals need to be

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic Respectful
  • Timely

I’ll clarify each of these qualities using my own goal as an example.

Specific: This means answering the usual who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. Vague goals just won’t work. So instead of setting the goal: I am going to be a runner. I say instead: I (who) am going to run a marathon (what) next May (when) in Calgary (where) by beginning a training program now and sticking with it (how). Answering the why question is equally important. It tells us what our motivation is and can be referred to when we start to feel like giving up. It gives us purpose and drive. So why am I running a marathon? I’m running a marathon so that I can be fit and because I want to prove to myself that I can do hard things!

Measurable: Goals need to be broken up into measurable steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed and to ensure we stay on track for meeting our goals within the self-determined time frame. I’m lucky because running experts have already broken my goal up quite nicely into training schedules. I just need to stick to the schedule. I’ve also selected two smaller races (a 5K and a 10K) that I will run in the time leading up to the real deal.

Attainable: Dream big, but be realistic. If you set an impossible goal you’ll only find yourself frustrated when you find you can’t reach it. I’ve chosen a hard goal, to be sure. A marathon is no walk in the park. But it is feasible. Now, if I had decided I wanted to run a marathon by October, or run my first marathon in record time that would be not only silly, but possibly dangerous.

Realistic Respectful: The traditional SMART method of goal setting lists realistic right after attainable. I’ve always felt this was redundant. That’s why I’ve replaced realistic with respectful. Unless you live in a social vacuum your goals will affect the people you love. So make sure you keep their needs in mind when going for your dreams. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ask for any help or ever go for dreams that may require some amount of sacrifice from your friends and/or family. If your loved ones aren’t willing to help you achieve your goals then who is? But if your goals will require significant changes or resources the best thing to do is talk them over with those who will be affected. For example, later in my training I’ll be going on some very long distance runs. I’ll need Adam to watch Lucy while I do those runs. Race registration isn’t free, nor is the travel to race locations. These are all things that affect Adam. But they’re not unfair. If I were to decide to go to the London marathon instead then in our circumstances that would be unfair because of the cost issues. Respect is an important aspect of goal setting because we need the support of our nearest and dearest, especially when the going gets tough. But we don’t want to walk all over our loves ones either. So find the right balance that works for you.

Timely: Generally this aspect is a rehash of the “when question” already addressed. I like to think of it this way: NOW is the time! A timely goal is started today, not a year from now, not a month from now, not the ever elusive tomorrow. If you want it you have to take it for yourself and you have to do it now. I promise that if you wait for a better time that so-called “better time” will never arrive.

run1 If you want to run a marathon, then do it!

There you have it, the SMART method of goal setting. Now you know exactly how to reach for your goals. So what’s stopping you? Worried you don’t have the time? Make time, even if it means letting go of something else (I recommend housework, after all, a messy house is just an indication of a life well lived and you certainly won’t be alone in domestic dorkiness). Do you think people will laugh, or say you can’t do it? Prove ‘em wrong! Are you scared you’ll fail? Remember that failure is just a speed bump and you can keep trying! Believe in yourself!

Life is too short to waste it by letting your dreams stay dreams. Make your dreams a reality. Start today. I believe in you and so should you!

What is your dream? Tell me your SMART goal plan in the comments!

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11 Responses to 5 Aspects of Successful Goal Setting

  • mamasweeds says:

    I found your blog from Caitlin’s Operation Beautiful, you’ve got a nice looking site here!

    I attempted to train for a marathon in 2007 when my second daughter was an infant. Even though I was already a runner I had to stop training because it was too much for me. I tried again the following year and made it all the way! It was one of the most amazing accomplishments of my life, especially because I’d hoped for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) with my second and ended up with a repeat cesarean. So my marathon was about pushing my physical limits, since I wasn’t able to have the birth I’d hoped for and planned. Interestingly enough, the race was the day before my daughter’s 2nd birthday. ;)

    I think you’ve set a totally reasonable time for running a marathon for yourself. You CAN do it!

  • Holly Noelle says:

    Mamaweeds, what an excellent comment! I love that you tried again! THAT is what success is ultimately about!

    So sorry your VBAC didn’t happen. It’s tough enough having to recover from a c-section without also having to deal with disappointment. Have you read my post about how I was disappointed in my birth (though I managed to avoid a c-section, thank goodness)? http://domesticdork.blogspot.com/2009/06/birth-reflections.html Some time soon I’m going to be making another post about acceptance and moving on after birth disappointment and birth trauma.

  • Natalie says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this! Stopping by from SITS, and I found the perfect nudge to get the ball rolling. :)

  • Hi stopping in from SITS. I also stopped by your other blog too, (I hope you don’t mind, I didn’t leave anything negative:)Promise!

    I like your goal idea. I am thinking of running in the PF Chang 1/2 marathon in Phoenix (I may die in the process! but I am starting to run more and further)

    I hope you have a great day.

  • Nate's Mama says:

    I actually would love to train for a marathon, but I think I want to get pregnant again soon, and the two are not very compatible. ;) If it turns out that we decide not to try again for awhile, I am going to select a marathon for next spring/summer and get to work! I really would love to run in a marathon eventually though, so maybe after we have our second baby I can start working towards that goal.

  • Holly Noelle says:

    Yeah, NM, I suppose running a marathon while TTC/pregnant might be a problem! :) But exercise is still a great idea! No reason you can’t make sure you’re staying in good shape until the timing is right to train for a marathon. It’ll make training that much easier when the time comes. :) Good luck!

  • Unknown Mami says:

    Realistic and attainable are redundant. I agree, life is far too short not to go for your dreams and if you fail at least you failed trying and there is no one to stop you from trying again.

  • + Every failure is an opportunity to learn something. Thomas Edison used to say he didn’t fail to make the light bulb he just learned many ways that don’t work. And I say that’s very valuable knowledge!

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