Any goal-setting expert will tell you there are specific things you need to do to be successful: write down the goal, make a plan, put in the work, track progress, reward progress, repeat. But what if there are also things you aren't doing that could be holding you back from success? Is there more to goal-setting than just a checklist of to-do items?
According to experts, if you aren't doing these seven things, it's time to think about whether or not they deserve a place on that checklist to ensure future success.
1. You aren't focusing on the present
"It's much easier to achieve a goal when you shift your focus to the present, rather than the future," says certified professional counselor Jean-Francois Benoist. Benoist believes this can apply to any type of goal. "For example, [when] you're trying to work up the motivation to go for a run on a cold morning, many people are focused on long-term goals like, 'I should run because I want to lose fifteen pounds' or 'I should run because I want to define my abs.' Neither of these things is going to happen in the next hour, and focusing on them can leave you feeling more defeated than inspired. Instead, replace these thoughts with things you can realistically accomplish in the short-term, [such as] 'I want to run so I can feel my body moving' [or] 'I want to run so I can experience the calmness of the empty park.''' Benoist believes that by getting "quick wins" you'll be able to work toward your long-term goal more consistently.
2. You're not surrounding yourself with the right support system
Humans are social creatures who thrive when surrounded by the support of others. It's easy to make excuses when you're tired or unmotivated, but when someone else knows about your goals, it adds a layer of accountability. Whether your circle of support includes family, friends or even online buddies, those people can be there to celebrate your wins and offer you a boost when times get tough. Even better, find someone who shares similar goals and hold each other accountable.
3. You aren't making a connection to your goal
Lifestyle coach Alisha Carlson sees that the typical pattern is to set the goal, set the deadline and then put your head down and get to work. "Without a real connection to the goal on a daily basis, it becomes easy to let the goal go when we don't see results fast enough or evidence that we are making any progress," she explains. "One thing I suggest is coming up with [10 to 20] compelling reasons why your goal matters to you. Why do you want to reach this goal? What will it mean to you if you do reach it? What will it mean about you if you don't?"
Carlson also recommends using the 3-2-1 method to help you connect to the goal daily. "Each morning, jot down three compelling reasons this goal matters to you, two reasons you are fully equipped to reach the goal right now and one thing you will do today to move toward the goal. So often we get caught up in taking action toward our goal that we neglect the mindset work all together. This part cannot be overlooked."
4. You're not assessing slips or setbacks
When things go wrong and you get off track with your goals, your first instinct is often judgement instead of taking a step back and evaluating the situation. Unfortunately, this reaction does more harm than good. Keeping in mind that no one is perfect, forgive yourself for what happened. Next, ask yourself what went wrong, what went right and what you can do different the next time you're faced with a similar situation. Don't be afraid to ask for help with processing what happened and getting back on track.
5. You're not doing things that are hard
"Something beautiful happens when you learn how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, and only once we learn this can we achieve optimal wellness," asserts Shay Magditch, co-founder of Wild Roots Fitness. "If something is too easy, we can do it automatically—it's not challenging us in any way, nor is it stimulating or promoting growth. Living in the cruising zone is not living with optimal wellness. The more frequently you do uncomfortable things, the more comfortable you become doing them."
Magditch explains that when you teach yourself to find comfort doing things that once felt impossible, the feeling is liberating. "Today, I encourage you to do something hard," she challenges. "Do something you don't think you will enjoy and see if you can prove yourself wrong. Push your body and mind past its comfort zone—you might be surprised at the wellness benefits you find on the other side."
6. You're not getting out of your rut
Do you find yourself eating the same foods, doing the same workouts and following the same morning and evening routines day after day? It happens to the best of us. You find a food you love—because of taste, nutritional value or convenience—and you eat it every day. You find a workout you enjoy, so you get into a habit of making it your go-to, or you fall into the trap of hitting the snooze button three times every morning.
Although habits often make us feel more comfortable, it is important to mix things up now and then. It's easy to get bored with your diet when you are eating the same things all the time, so mix in new recipes for variety. After about four to six weeks of doing the same exercise consistently, your body gets used to it, making it no longer as effective as it once was. If you like the activity you're doing, change something about it such as adding hills or speed intervals to your walks or adding weight to your strength exercises. Little tweaks to your routine are great for both your mind and body, so seek out opportunities for change often.
7. You're not focusing; you're multitasking
When you decide to make healthy lifestyle changes, it's tempting to tackle everything at once: You want to improve your diet, start a regular exercise program, quit smoking and develop a daily mindfulness practice. While these intentions are admirable, it quickly becomes overwhelming to attempt so many different goals at once. With your time and effort split in multiple directions, each goal gets less attention than it deserves. Instead, choose one goal (or no more than two) to focus on, develop a clear plan for how you're going to achieve it and then get to work. Can you imagine yourself following through on each of the steps you've outlined in your plan? The answer should be "yes."
It takes time to develop the right goals and outline the steps to achieve them. By considering not only the things you are doing but also the things you aren't, you can create a comprehensive plan for success.