The beginning of January means one thing for most athletes: it’s time to set goals for the upcoming year. But there’s more than one way to skin the goal-setting cat, and different methods work better for different people and different types of goals.
If you’ve been around the fitness world for very long, you’ve probably heart about SMART Goals (an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound). Making SMART Goals is a very popular method of goal-setting, because it can really help you narrow your focus and set a plan for success. Oftentimes, this method also includes writing your goal in the present-tense, which is thought to help train your mindset to treat the goal as an inevitability, rather than something far-off in the future. For example, if you want to improve your 2k time, your goal could be, “I can row 2k meters in under 7 minutes by May 1, 2019.” If you want to improve your coaching, your goal could be, “I am enrolled in the Dark Horse Academy Spring 2019 cohort, and complete the full program by August 1, 2019.” You get the idea.
However, SMART Goals can sometimes feel restrictive or overly specific. While the specificity can be helpful for some who struggle with broader goals like “eat better” or “work out more,” defining just one (or a few) super finite goals doesn’t work for all personality types, lifestyles, or objectives, as they leave little room for adjustment along the way.
Another popular way to achieve your goals throughout the year is by setting monthly mini-goals. For example, maybe in January you commit to going to the gym 3x/week no matter what; in February you decide to not drink any alcohol; in March you spend one day each week organizing and de-cluttering your house. This method is helpful for people who find it hard to stay motivated with longer-term goals, and it also is useful because you can adapt your goals throughout the year to reflect what you feel would serve you the best in any given month.
The downside to this method is that not all goals can be accomplished in just one month. However, it can easily complement your longer-term goals, whether by syncing them up and using your monthly goals to make progress on your longer term goals, or by using your monthly goals to provide a more casual, shorter-term focus for yourself that gives you a necessary mental break from your long-term focus.
The last type of goal setting that we’ll talk about is one that has gained popularity in the past few years: theme goals. This is where you pick a challenge, theme, or word that becomes your focus for a period of time. For example, you might choose a different word for each month, like “focus,” “presence,” “family,” etc. – or even pick one word for the entire year. This type of goal setting can be great if you are a bigger-picture thinker, and feel held back by more tightly controlled, specific goals. The word becomes a guide for all of the major decisions that you will make over that period of time, and can help provide an anchor for people who feel prone to switching gears too frequently in their lives.
Theme goals aren’t fool-proof either, of course. They lack the specificity that many people desire to stay accountable, and without any real benchmarks for success, progress is extremely subjective. However, theme goals can provide a great framework for creating cohesive SMART or mini-goals.
Are you setting any goals for 2019? Did I miss your favorite type of goal setting? Let us know in the comments.