As you set out to formulate goals, here are some things to ask yourself:
What are the incremental steps to identify? Think of your goal like a picture and try zooming in. Say you want to run a marathon. That’s great, but you’ll probably need to try a half marathon first. Before that, you’ll need to train yourself up to the distance and time you want to run it in. If you don’t know the distance and time you want, or what you’re already averaging, figure that out first. That’s a micro goal. Ask yourself: what are the process goals that’ll get me there?
Who else does it touch?
In addition to being small, a good goal is often simple. Think of the elements in your daily life that you can control, that don’t overlap with other people. Raptors team psychologist, Alex Auerbach, recommends “staying focused each day on what you can control and what's going to help you reach your ultimate goal.” There’s a reason elite athletes love the motto: “Control what you can control”. It cuts out the noise and keeps you accountable.
Should you write this down?
Writing down your goals also keeps you accountable to them. Make sure to keep them where you’ll see them. “Write an email to yourself that circles back every week,” Auerbach says. “There are a lot of little handy ways you can build in reminders for yourself of what your goal is. The main thing is being sure that you have almost daily reminders of what it is that you're working toward and a sense of the progress you're making.”
What’s the timeline?
Are you setting a goal with an end date in mind, or are you building up to the next step in your Healthy You playbook? “Here’s a simple tactic I recommend for people who want to keep their goals top of mind. Program a reminder in your cell phone calendar once or twice a day,” Auerbach says. “It might be a one- or two-word thing that reminds you of what the goal is, and then you know what to do from there.” Setting a timeline will help you scale your goals to fit your life.
What’s the backup plan? Setbacks happen. Even if you’ve set a small, measurable goal, life is bound to throw a wrench your way. “Whenever our state change or our momentum changes, it can be disappointing. It can be frustrating,” Auerbach says, stressing that this is a totally normal experience. “It's about redirecting our attention back to things that support our long-term values and goals. So, maybe you've lost momentum on this particular path that you were feeling really good about. What would it look like for you to refocus now and get back on track?”
Why has this not worked in the past?
Gut-checks are important. Be honest with yourself about why similar goals, or things you’ve set out to do, haven’t worked out the way you’ve wanted in the past. “Mental toughness is just persistence in the service of a goal that you're working toward. It’s about having a sense of controlled effort toward that goal,” Auerbach notes. “When I think about the intangibles, I'm really looking for patterns of behavior. And these are all skills that we can build.”