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Taking Action To Reach Your Goals

How vague are your goals? Even goals that appear specific, for example: ‘run a marathon’ can have ambiguity to them. What, right now? Next week? Where? Who with?

Keeping it vague can be a way to delay taking action. It pushes it out into the future where it is something that will happen ‘one day’ rather than being something you can work on ‘today’. This tends to happen when we focus on ‘outcome’ goals. Running a marathon is one, losing weight is another, learning to drive, owning a yacht, etc. The power of these types of goals is they tend to have an emotional drive, some desire perhaps for a sense of achievement or challenge, which is a great source of motivation. However, that motivational energy can get stuck or drift without direction and focus.

By this I mean taking action. Planning a timeline to reach the goal. Working out the concrete steps that individually may be relatively small but added together become the path to reaching wherever it is you want to get to. An example of an action step might be researching marathon events to find out dates and locations. Then booking an event that fits. These can become what’s known as process goals and shift focus from the ultimate aim to the actions needed to get there. This can make it easier to start, as the first steps needed are usually relatively small, and then can help us keep going, as there is something to track each day or week (such as following a training plan). There are occasions where there is some research to do before knowing what the individual steps will be but I suspect most people could come up with two or three different ideas of where to at least start looking and which questions to ask to get started on the most common goals.

Another potential pitfall, the opposite end of the spectrum, is obsessing too much over small details like one individual workout out of a whole training block or one day of eating off plan. Yes, process goals should be focused but also simple and building towards your desired outcome. This tends to be more of a problem for those who are highly motivated and maybe have perfectionist tendencies. A couple of questions to help manage that could be ‘what percentage of the overall plan is this’ and ‘how am I doing on average’ also ‘what’s the underlying purpose of this goal?’. An example of this is the 10,000 steps a day target. I’ve seen people walking around in circles in the studio before a yoga class to get their step count up (and have been known to do similar things myself!). The idea behind the 10,000 steps is to encourage more us to be more active on a daily basis. There’s nothing magic about that specific number (other than being satisfyingly big and round). A more useful way of thinking about this target might be to aim for 70,000 steps over the week and perhaps set a minimum of 5,000 for each individual day. You might have a long walk at the weekend and get 20,000 steps in but another day end up only managing 5,000 but overall for the week end up reaching the 70,000 without any stress about having 'missed' a day.

Getting more specific about what you want to achieve is the first step to helping it become possible. Learning what you can about what the process involves. Looking at realistic timescales. Setting a deadline. Tracking down the tools and resources you might need. Speaking to people who have achieved what you’re working towards to see if there is anything you could learn from their experiences. Getting help from professionals where needed. Finding a way to hold yourself accountable to seeing it through. Celebrating each step along the way!

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