Life is pretty damn hectic. Half the time we don’t know if we’re coming or going. There is just so much noise – some of it important, some of it not so much. It’s hard to filter a lot of it out and regain focus on what it is we’d like to achieve. It’s most definitely easy to become overwhelmed – particularly if we only look at the big picture, the end goal, amongst all the other crazy that is life these days.
It is important that you start to work toward setting things up in a way that will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed. This goal setting stuff can work in a number of aspects of your life – not just in relation to your health and fitness goals. Taking a little bit of time to plan things out or talk things through with someone can start to settle your thoughts down quite a lot, leaving you feeling much more in control of what you are doing.
We’ve all been there. We decide on a goal – it might be to lose 30kg to feel more comfortable, it might be to run a 5km for charity, it might be to become healthier so you can get off that blood pressure medication – it could be all sorts of things. We don’t break things down into manageable chunks and we often overestimate the steps we can realistically take toward the goal in a given timeframe. It’s enough to make you want to tear your hair out and give up on the whole thing.
The way we set our goals often tend to set us up to not to get things done and then we feel as though we have failed. We give up on ever being able to achieve the goal and revert back to what we were doing before we started. How could we better tackle the goal setting process then?
Realistic goal setting can be a valuable tool in helping you wrap up your days and weeks feeling positive and empowered instead of sad and deflated. It’s fine to have an overall goal – you know, that place where you’d ultimately like to see yourself – but in only looking at the ultimate goal, do you really know the next step in getting yourself there?
It’s important to break down larger goals into much smaller and manageable tasks. Depending on the ultimate goal and where you are starting from this might be monthly, weekly or daily goals. These smaller chunks will not seem to far away or insurmountable as the ultimate goal. Being able to check these off along the way will also help keep you motivated over time and provide positive reinforcement that we are in fact, making real progress.
Once you have broken down your ultimate goal into more manageable, shorter term things to focus on, you need to also make a plan for your upcoming week that is achievable while remaining goal focused. What can you realistically fit into your schedule? Will you have to sacrifice something to fit it in? Is that something you’re willing to sacrifice at this point in time? Will you be doing so much you’ll be too sore or tired to continue next week?
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe
Let’s look at an example. Say your friend has asked you to participate in a 5k run for a charity that means a lot to both of you in six months time. Right now you’d be flat out walking one kilometre, let alone running for five! If you went out tomorrow and tried to run, you wouldn’t get very far and you might do it a couple of times but nothing to five kilometres is a big goal so it seems out of reach. You might start to get tired and feel deflated.
So we break it down. First we need to build some basic fitness so working that one kilometres isn’t so hard. Then we might need to build up your walking endurance so you can walk further and further until you’re up to five kilometres of primarily walking. Then we would need to incorporate more jogging and running intervals so you can increase the speed you do the 5km. We can then continue to build on this until you’re able to jog or run the whole way.
Perhaps we will say for the first of these six months, you will focus on being able to walk that initial kilometre with relative ease and then start to build on extending this distance out from that point. We can set a more specific goal for month two when we get closer but this is a good starting point and if getting you closer to that ultimate goal.
We’ve got our focus for this first month now and the initial goal is to just get better at walking one kilometre. You’ve had a look at your schedule and knowing yourself and your current fitness level, three times a week is what you can realistically commit to this week. You will stop off at the local reserve on the way home from work and walk around the track for 1km (there are plenty of apps you can get on your smartphone that use GPS to help you measure this out). You will space it out and do it on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday this first week. On the off days, you will aim to take as many opportunities as possible to be generally more active – incidental activity like parking further from the shops etc.
So we have broken down a larger goal into smaller goals to achieve just for this coming week that will get you one step closer to the ultimate goal. It’s likely after a couple of weeks, the one kilometre will be a lot easier so then the distance can start to be increased. It’s all about starting where you are and building on it – slow and steady. If for some reason, you don’t tick off all the tasks of the week, don’t dwell on it. Just carry on setting manageable goals for the next week. You might need to tweak things a bit if it didn’t quite work how you expected it to. Learn from the week and carry on.
We’d love to hear a bit more about your health and fitness goals. How have you broken larger targets down into manageable things to focus on this week? Let us know over at our Facebook page. If you start to feel overwhelmed, go back to the basics again. Work out the next step to getting a bit closer to the goal.