The first time I really dug into goal setting was when I worked a holiday season at lululemon at the Mall of America in 2013. Peep the fun flashback photo below... I spent a lot of time as the live window mannequin. As part of the new employee on-boarding, we completed a training session on goal setting. Over the years, I've attended leadership workshops and coaching seminars and read management books that have helped me hone in on the art of goal setting, and I've put together my fave 3 Tips to Setting Your Best Goals for 2021.
1. Write Down Your Goals in the Present Tense
The first key to setting and achieving goals is to physically write them down, and to write them as if they are already happening versus something you want to do or will do. This simple action helps you more clearly visualize your life with your goals realized. Trust in the power of manifestation! For example, instead of writing:
"I want to try eating vegan," you would write: "I am vegan for the month of January." Write your goals somewhere you can review them regularly--put them in your planner, post them on your wall, stick some on your mirror.
2. Keep it Positive
This one can be a bit tricky at first, as we may often want to set New Year's Resolutions around banishing a bad habit like smoking or nail biting or eating junk food. Notice if your goals start out with "Don't..." or "Stop..." or even "Lose weight..." If you focus on the negative, your brain doesn't have a clear vision of what you should do instead. Your energy will remained focused on the bad habit, leaving you frustrated and without any plan of action to get you there. Rather, rework your goal to focus on the positive results of kicking a bad habit, e.g. "I have strong and heathy natural nails by January 31," or focus on the actions and habits you will adopt to replace the negative ones. If your goal is to lose weight, what are the new habits, routines, and performance goals that will make it the weight loss a nice side effect? It could be to hire a coach, add 3 days of strength training into your week, or to cook meals at home a certain number of days each week. Achieving goals is simply about building routines and staying disciplined to those routines. Focus on the process and not just the end result.
3 . Be SMART
A handy way to structure each goal is by using the SMART goals acronym, first written about by George T. Doran in 1981.
S - Specific: Paint your picture with as much detail as you can. What does your ideal morning routine look Iike? Maybe you want to kick your caffeine habit, but what will your alternative morning beverage be? What does your business look like in 6 months?
M - Measurable: Use numbers / metrics to help you track your progress. Avoid ambiguous goals like "I run more this year." What do you mean...More frequently? More total miles? How many books do you read each month? How many yoga classes do you attend each week? By what percentage do you grow your business?
A - Achievable/Attainable/Adaptable: While some of your goals can be lofty, it is also important to set smaller goals that you are very likely to achieve. Even if it's as simple as making your bed every morning or washing your face twice a day--when you have these small wins, it improves your confidence and keeps you motivated for the larger ones. It helps you make a new habit of achieving things.. you're a winner! (In management or team settings, the A can also stand for Assignable, meaning the goal can be assigned to a specific person or team). I've added Adaptable because of this year, which we'll dig deeper to in the following section.
R - Realistic/Relevant: Dream big, but start with smaller, realistic steps to get you there. Break big goals into more manageable chunks.This is exactly how I approach my training plans and yoga practice. If your big goal is to hold a handstand for a minute, let's first start with a goal of holding perfect form in a plank for a minute. Then crow pose. This concept can be applied to many areas beyond fitness. The R can also stand for Relevant. Maybe you think you need to grow your Instagram following because you heard it was a good idea, yet your ideal client isn't even on Instagram. Setting this goal would be a waste of your energy and efforts if it's not making a direct impact on your business. I recommend reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown on determining what actions are relevant or most essential to reaching your goals.
T - Time-bound: Give a specific timeframe or date when your goal will be realized. Setting deadlines can help you prioritize and better manage your time. Keep in mind we tend to use up all the time allotted for a certain task, even if the task itself doesn't require it. For example, if you have a month to write a paper, but you wait until the last two days to write it and still wrote a high quality paper, you didn't need a month... you only needed two days. Create some urgency with your deadlines and you are less likely to procrastinate and will be better at estimating the actual time required. This does NOT however mean that you now have to fill the empty time with more tasks. The idea is to become more efficient so you have more free time and energy to do things you enjoy! I recommend reading The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss to learn more about valuing and managing your time.
Get Specific: Personal, Career/Business, Health/Fitness
A great way to brainstorm and organize your goals can be to break them into categories. Personal goals could be anything for your personal life like growing your family or adopting a doggo. Career goals could be to secure a higher level position at your job or to launch your own business. For Health/Fitness I recommend making goals around performance metrics rather than aesthetics (unless your sport is bodybuilding or figure competitions!), like being able to perform pain-free squats or doing 10 pull-ups in a row. Just remember, these are YOUR goals. You can set as many as you like in each category.
"What Gets Measured Gets Done"
When we are able to see metrics, we can more easily see, analyze, and plan our progress.
Money coaches will tell you to write down the EXACT amount of money you want to bring in each month, not to ambiguously say "I want to (or need to) make more money this year." If you throw out a number, you can start to break it down into all the parts that need to come together to make that monthly income a reality. What needs to happen to bring that money in? How many e-books do you have to sell? How many people need to enroll in your program?
When measuring your fitness goals, you have a lot of options, it all depends what metrics are important to you! You can aim to hit a PR on your front squat by a certain date or you can set a goal of running a marathon. You could also measure your frequency and/or duration of physical activity, e.g. lift 3x a week and surf at least once a week.
Achieve or Adapt
I know I'm still feeling a lot of uncertainties going into 2021. Like, how can I even know what the world is going to look like in April when this past year has been such a rollercoaster of disruptions and cancellations? I want to make running goals but I'm not sure if my deferred races are even going to happen! Will we be able to travel?
All is not lost. Luckily we as humans are highly adaptable and resilient. We can still make goals and be realistic with our expectations. After this year I think we all learned that not everything goes the way we expect, but often there is a silver lining to be found or a shift in perspective that sets us up for achieving even greater things than we originally thought. 2020 was the year I finally decided to get back into running after a 7-year hiatus. My running goals were primarily centered around race day, and when I learned
2 of my major races were canceled, I "fell off" my training plan. I didn't need to train as hard as I had planned, and perhaps that's a good thing that lessened my chance of injury. Looking back at my Strava data for the year, I learned on December 18th that I had run 481 miles! And with two weeks to go, I created a new spontaneous goal to finish 500 miles before the end of the year. I'm currently at 492 and it's only the 26th. A milestone I'll be very proud of reaching, especially considering I ran 75 miles in 2019! Plus I now have some good stats to build my training plan and my goals off of for next year.
Another bonus with adaptability is the chance to make adjustments at different milestones if we are underperforming or even overshooting. Perhaps we learn after Q1 that our goal was too aggressive or maybe it was too conservative. With regular check-ins, we can determine whether we need to adjust our activities or adjust the goal, or both.
You can be ambitious, but you also have to consider all the things that need to align for your goals to come to fruition. Consider your past data and circumstances, your schedule, your current skill or knowledge level, your financial situation, etc. For example, if you are a young athlete and your goal is to make the Olympic team, it's important to look at the enormous commitments and sacrifices required to train at the elite level. For many of us, this isn't a realistic goal unless you have all the components (including optimal genetics) aligned to support you. Or maybe you're launching a business and you want to make $1M in your first year. Not impossible, but not very realistic if it's a new business and you have yet to hit the milestones of $5K months or $10K months.
Manage Your Time: Yearly, Quarterly, Monthly, Weekly, and Daily Goals
Now that you have a better idea of what kinds of goals you are working toward this year, it's time to organize and break them down into different timeframes. Start with the biggest goals and look at a calendar showing all the months of the year on one page. Will your big goal actually take you 12 months to complete? Will you have enough time for the other things on your list? What can you achieve in the first 30 days of the year? Have you indicated a metric to measure when you've actually completed the goal? What are the quarterly milestones or checkmarks you can add to your calendar to help you stay on track? What do you need to do weekly in order to reach your monthly goal? What do you need to do daily?
Still having trouble getting started? Like everything, goal setting takes practice! Browse the following prompts to get some ideas flowing.
What is your morning routine? Nightly routine?
Personal development? Advanced degree?
New hobby? Resurrect an old hobby?
Books to read? Books/songs/poems to write?
Improve home organization?
Start a home garden?
Learn money management skills? Invest?
What is the next major step in your career?
Is there a course or seminar that can help you learn new skills or expand your knowledge?
Starting a business? Growing a business?
Hiring an assistant? Hiring a team?
Are you shifting your business from in-person to online?
What types of workouts do you actually enjoy? Yoga? Weightlifting? Running? Swimming?
Hire a coach? Enroll in an online course? 1-on-1 Online Training?
Want to learn something new? Start strength training?
Improve your race time?
Increase your training volume?
Increase your max lifts?
Learn to meditate?
Are there things you'd like to improve with your diet or your eating habits? Consult a dietician? Learn to cook?
Adhere to a consistent sleep schedule?
Drink more water? Eat more plant-based?
Believe in yourself. Remember you don't have to make a list of 100 goals. If you try to do too much, it's easy to get overwhelmed and lose focus. I recommend starting with no more than 2-3 major goals in each category, and each of these can have sub-goals around them. Read through them again and again, doing your best to visualize yourself checking them all off, with as much detail as possible see yourself CRUSH THOSE GOALS.
Feel free to share some of your 2021 goals in the comment section below... I'd love to hear them. Feeling stuck? Drop your questions below and I'll offer some suggestions. :)
Happy New Year. 2021 will be our year!