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I don’t know if it’s the change of season or the fact that a new school year is underway but I always reassess my goals around this time of year. A friend that I work out with recently shared her list of goals with me and one big thing stood out  when I heard them — not the goals themselves, but how she started her sentences:

I will do this.
I will do that.

I was amazed that the way she phrased her goals had such a big impact on me. The thing is, I have certain goals I’ve set for myself — but many of my goals start with I’d like to or I want to.

That’s when it clicked for me.

Saying I will is way scarier than saying I want to or I’d like to but there’s far more force behind it. It’s a real commitment.

Then I realized that goals have to be specific. Another friend has an index card taped next to her bed with her list of goals:

  • Make Varsity
  • Get Good Grades
  • Get License

At first I was impressed with the list but then I realized that without specifics, the goals were meaningless. Does she want to make Varsity as a freshman or senior? What qualifies as good grades? A’s? B’s? Does she want to get her license at age 16 or by the time she graduates? I reminded her that eventually she’d get her license (even if she failed the test the first five times) so maybe she should redefine her goal to reflect what she “really” wants.

As a hard-working student and female athlete I have a lot of goals so I did some research and here’s what I learned:

Effective goal setting starts with defining where you are now. Getting an accurate and objective assessment of present skills, abilities and deficiencies is the first step. Next, figure out where you want to be and when you want to get there. Make sure the goals are realistic and time-dated.

Develop an action plan. These are particular activities or steps that must be performed to achieve a goal. Sample steps might include a commitment to study or practice for a certain period of time, or working with an outside coach or mentor to acquire certain skills.

Once you have developed realistic, specific, and achievable goals, a helpful tool is to create a set of affirmations. Affirmations are the images of your accomplished goals. Write at least one short, personal, supportive statement for every goal that you identify. The affirmations become your inner dialogue. For example, “I’m confident I can make the Varsity Team this season.” Or “I have the ability and discipline to get an A in history this year.”

Affirmations do not have to be believed but they do have to be believable and repeated often to become internalized. When affirmations are stated and repeated with feeling they have the power to stimulate goal oriented action. In fact, when stated aloud at least once every day, affirmations tend to gradually replace doubts and negative thoughts with feelings of confidence and positive self-esteem.

Get your “Goals and Action Plan” laminated and keep it in your bag so that you are always ready to re-focus your attention on what you must do to achieve your goals. Remember that your goals may need to be changed or modified as time passes and progress is made. Update them at least once every three months.

Next step: I need to figure out which of my goals are important enough to put “I will” in front of and then commit to the steps that will help me reach those goals. Wish me luck!

September 6, 2010

Pretty Tough Tip: Goal Setting

I don’t know if it’s the change of season or the fact that a new school year is underway but I always reassess my goals around this time of […]