I’ve been on a big goal kick lately (hence the 3+ posts), and I wanted to add my own personal system just to give another perspective on how to knock stuff out in life. Though my whole degree is fitness oriented, I am an equal believer in balance; you need a balance in all areas to lead a healthy, well-functioning existence. You need to work hard, but play hard; you need to exercise and eat well; you need to be active and rest; you need to strengthen your mind and your muscles.
The following is more of a step-by-step breakdown for how I create my personal goals. I use the main idea presented here to help set up goals for my clients, which I have seen success with. It works for me, so hopefully it works for you. Again, it’s my own personal method, so use it as a roadmap and tweak it for your own needs. Feel free to shoot me any questions, I’m more than happy to help!
To start, I base all my goals off of a 90-ish day cycle based off the season. Therefore my goal dates look like this:
Spring: March 1st-May 31st
Summer: June 1st- August 31st
Fall: September 1st-November 30th
Winter: December 1st-February 28th
Why do I use 90 days? Well, to start with, it works for me. There’s no point doing something if it doesn’t work. Second, I have a horrendous case of ADHD. I’ve learned to manage it over the years, but 90 days seems to be my limit for focused, in-depth attention to a specific set of goals before I find the need to move on. Finally, 90 days is enough time to see a major improvement in a set goal, yet isn’t an overwhelmingly long time to wait. For example, one of my goals a few years ago was to learn how to play the violin. Obviously, to master a skill, it will take way longer than 3 months. If you want to learn more about mastery, I highly recommend the book Outliers which mentions the concept that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. However, if you want to see a positive change, you really can make quite a bit happen within that smaller time-frame.
With that violin goal, I didn’t become a concert violinist within 3 months, but I was able to play multiple songs and perform various techniques within that time-frame and even performed a song in front of a group of people at the end of that time without embarrassment. Also, when condensing time to attain a goal, there is a heightened sense of “rush” if that goal’s deadline is shorter. If I gave myself a year, I, personally, would not have had the drive to push quite as hard; I would have made the same amount of work take up the span of a year versus 90 days. I also try to tell as many people as possible about my goals and include updates to help hold myself accountable, which is another key to success and why I list all my goals on this blog.
I have long term goals too, but always break them into 3 month chunks. At some point, I would love to run a 100 mile race. Training for that will likely take a solid year of hard work. So what’s my 3 month goal? Run 2 1/2 marathons. My next set of goals with include completing one full marathon. So Summer is setting a base, while my fall goal will build upon what I did during the summer by increasing the distance and challenge. At some point next year, I’m sure “complete my first 50 mile race” will be on the list.
So, the next step I use, is to look at exactly what your goals are. People usually know, broadly what they want, but not quite how to get there. Reverse engineering is a useful tool if this is the case.
How to reverse engineer:
Example A: I want to complete a 5K
To complete a 5k you need to run 3 miles continuously, so steps could be worked backwards like this:
Run 3 miles with walk break after every mile
Run 2 miles without stopping
Run 1.5 miles without stopping
Run 1 mile without stopping
Learn proper running form
Invest in a decent pair of running shoes
Sign up for a 5K
Or something of that nature.
Another tool that’s useful is my description method. If someone were to describe you to someone else, what would they say? What do you want them to say? An athlete? A polyglot? Kindhearted? Endless energy? Dang they can play the ukulele well? Really, it’s up to you and aim for the stars on this one; don’t limit yourself- knock it out.
After you determine your own set of descriptors, break down what exactly those mean. I’ll take one of mine for an example.
I want to be known as someone who is a survivor.
So I defined what this meant first because I couldn’t reverse engineer without knowing exactly what a “survivor” was. My thoughts went something like this:
Someone who could survive would be in good shape. They would have the knowledge of how to perform various outdoor skills, and be comfortable performing a few essential ones despite the weather conditions. A survivor is also strong mentally and has some grit; they persevere through tough times. They are someone you’d want to be with when shit hits the fan.
There was my definition, so here are some goals that follow that example:
Learn how to start a fire using 5 different methods
Practice building a survival shelter in different landscapes
Practice knots, making fire, and other skills in cold and wet conditions
Do things that build grit at least once a day (aka things that just suck)
Learn how to forage in the PNW
Keep within my healthy body fat percentage
Learn emergency first aid
Just to name a few…
Finally, after all this is established, I pick 6 of my descriptors (there’s no particular reason why 6 except that’s my favorite number); 3 are physical skills and 3 are mental skills. Again, I like balance, and I like to keep physically fit as much as I like to keep mentally fit. Tying it in with ADHD and avoiding negative habits, having 6 things to aim for keeps me busy non-stop with no time for bad habits (drinking, video games, TV, etc.). I also like my goals to be extremely challenging to the point where they seem almost unattainable because that makes conquering them feel absolutely amazing.
Once you have your set number of challenges picked out, take some time to outline them using the SMART principle. Smart stands for:
5K goal example:
S: I want to complete the Turkey Trot 5K in under 30 minutes
M: Earning the medal race day with the time chip under 30 minutes measures it
A: I can run 1 mile now, so 3 is doable
R: The race is 3 months out, so that’s enough time to train up to that distance without injury
T: I will complete this by the race date
That’s about it. This is the main way in which I set up my own challenges and it’s worked really well for me. The only other final step is, as I mentioned earlier, telling people about them, giving updates, and trying to set some sort of final “test” (race, performance, etc.). Giving yourself a reward upon success is also a good option. I recently treated myself to a girls trip to the beach if I stayed on the Dean’s list for my last semester of school, and it was extremely motivating for those days I needed to stay inside and study versus hit the bar with buddies. That trip felt really good.
If you’d like to see what challenges I’m currently working on, check out this page here.
If you have any questions or help, feel free to ask and most importantly, go play outside!