Many people set goals, but not everyone does so in a way that sets them up for success. Simply thinking about goals does not create results. If you are committed to your results, you will have a vastly different outcome than the person who wants to “give the program a try.” There are three keys to getting results for your goal: 1. identify a clear “why,” 2. break your goal into smaller steps and identify obstacles, and 3. use accountability.
- Identify a clear “why:”
One of the best ways to foster commitment is to identify a compelling reason why you want to achieve a goal. With this reason “why” that drives you, you will find it much easier to stay on track when things seem difficult. Maybe you want to reverse your diabetes, be healthy for your children or grandchildren, or feel comfortable in shorts or a bathing suit. There is no right or wrong why; you just need to figure out your “why.” Write down your “why” on a sticky note on your computer or create an alert on your phone. Remind yourself of your “why” as often as possible.
- Break your goal into smaller steps and identify obstacles:
Be specific about your goals. Think about what you will have to do to achieve it and give as much detail as possible. Make a list of everything required to make this goal a reality. Include what you need to learn, what you need to complete, and the daily activities you need to commit to, and what you need to believe about yourself. Then schedule every step on your calendar. Also, think about everything that will prevent you from reaching your goal. Making obstacles explicit will enable you to focus on developing solutions for them.
- Hold yourself accountable:
When you hold yourself accountable to your goals, you are showing that this goal is a priority. When you don’t share your goals in some way, you aren’t truly committing to them.
Accountability means holding yourself responsible for the achievement of your goals.For example, consider this scenario: you set an alarm at 6AM to get to the gym, but when you wake up it is cold and dark. In which scenario w you be more likely to go?
- You are scheduled to meet your workout partner at the gym at 6:30.
- You did not explicitly schedule or tell anyone you were planning to workout.
It is clear that the first scenario is much more likely to result in your working out. Studies show that when you share your goals with others, you are over twice as likely to achieve your goals than if you keep them to yourself. Also, it is human nature to care about your reputation. If you have a friend waiting at the gym, you will be more likely to show up. Furthermore, they can be a cheerleader for your success.
There are many different types of accountability including:
- Share your goals with a friend or family member who is supportive of you. Make sure that your friend is supportive and will not put you down or make you feel discouraged.
- Find an Accountability Group. There are many groups online. Make sure your goals align with the group.
- Use technology. There are many health tracker apps and exciting tools that can be helpful! I recently have been using the Oura ring to track and improve my sleep, and it has been so eye-opening. There are many food and fitness trackers available including MyFitnessPal and Carb Manager that allow you to stay conscious and deliberate about your food choices. For movement feedback, I recommend trackers such as Fitbit or the Apple Watch; they remind you if you need to stand up and move around and whether you achieved your step goals and exercise for the day. The key is finding something that helps you achieve your goals.
- Consider a coach, trainer or physician. Trainers and coaches help you clarify goals, to hold you to a reasonable timeline, and to help develop strategies for overcoming obstacles that get in the way of achieving your final goal. As a coach and a physician, I help clients and patients define why they want to lose weight, set goals, identify limiting beliefs and obstacles, and create strategies. My patients keep food diaries, preplan food, weigh themselves, establish accountability partners and groups, and come in or do regular virtual sessions. Even having a next appointment on the schedule is a type of accountability. However, ultimately as a coach and a physician, I help my patients and clients become accountable to themselves. As much as I love seeing my patients and clients, they will be more likely to lose the weight and keep it off when they learn to be accountable to themselves.
- Journal daily. This helps you with making promises to yourself, putting goals on the calendar, and paying sufficient attention to achieve your goals. I recommend planning food and exercise in advance, keeping a food diary, and doing regular “thought downloads” as part or regular journaling. These all help foster internal accountability.
Remember when you set a goal start with identifying a clear “why,” breaking your goal into smaller steps and identifying obstacles. Also, make sure you use accountability to your advantage. These tools can help you create positive change in your life.
DISCLAIMER: Sarah Smith MD is a medical doctor, but she is not your doctor, and she is not offering medical advice on this website. If you are in need of professional advice or medical care, you must seek out the services of your own doctor or health care professional.