Written By Renee Bucci

Making important changes can be tough. Where do I start? How do I even attempt this change? What is my biggest priority to change? These may be some of the questions that we ask ourselves from time to time. I am here to provide some tips for goal-setting.

To start, it may be helpful to first examine “what is currently happening in my life?” and then ask, “what is missing”? What are you wanting more (or less) of? This might help to narrow down certain areas of our lives that could require more attention. Goal-setting should never be about “what am I doing wrong [with my time] [in my relationships] [with my health]”, but rather a focus on what you are missing from your life. This could be more exercise, less screen time, more quality time with our relationships, more “you” time, better work-life balance, better diet, improved sleep, and the list could go on. Of course, those are all great intentions for goals; however, they are quite vague and will be difficult to tackle if they aren’t specific enough. When we aren’t specific with our goals, we run the risk of discouragement or abandoning the goal altogether. Let’s use an example to illustrate:

Jane wants to be more active throughout her week. She currently does not engage in any physical activity and hasn’t for many months. She has the goal to work out 5 times a week. Jane is considering joining a gym.

Doable? Sure. However, this might not be fully possible right away. Allow yourself some time to work toward a goal, rather than expecting a change overnight. Using the SMART [specific – keep yourself focused on a behaviour; measurable – how will you measure this change?; achievable – is this goal achievable with the resources available to you?; realistic – is this something that you can realistically expect yourself to do?; timely – give yourself a due date or defined time frame] goals method, we can break this goal down into several, small, more digestible chunks to tackle. We can use Jane’s example to break it down. For instance:

Week One:
Within the next 7 days (timely), Jane will research (achievable) at least 3 (measurable) fitness facilities within a 5km radius to work/home (specific). Pretty realistic, right?

Week Two:
Within the following 7 days, Jane will sign up for a membership with one fitness facility of interest from her research. She will also inquire about the fitness classes offered.

Week Three:
Over the next 7 days, Jane will attend at least one fitness class, and will use at least one cardio machine for 20 minutes.

Week Four:
Within the following 7 days, Jane will attend at least two fitness classes, and will use at least one cardio machine for 20 minutes.

And so on. From this example, it might seem tedious or that the goals are much too simple. However, we can increase the difficulty of our goals with comfort to our desired long-term outcome. With smaller steps at the start, the less intimidating the process will feel, so we are more likely to approach and stick with our goals. Also, keep in mind the power of our choice of wording for our goals. Rather than starting a goal with “I have to,” “I must,” or “I need to,” I would like to encourage you to consider replacing that with “I will”. Choose words that will empower you and your goals; changes that are meaningful to you. We want to feel a sense of mastery, building our self-confidence and self-efficacy along the way. So, set some goals – and then go crush them!