Friday, 7 November 2008

When reaching for the stars may not be best

Setting goals is useful when we want to make a change- whether it be to our eating habits, activity levels or other aspects to our lives. However, setting a goal that is not realistic can actually be more harmful than helpful.

When it comes to goals, we have to keep in mind if they are long-term or short-term goals; are we expecting to achieve the objective in one year or in one month? Only setting long-term goals does not help us to trudge through the rough parts because we won't see the fruits of our labour for awhile. Taking things 4 weeks at a time helps to keep goals manageable and rewards you on a more regular basis.

Keeping that 4 weeks in mind, we have to remember what is possible to do in 4 weeks. For example, if your goal is to lose weight then you have to keep in mind how much weight you can lose. So if the body can lose 1 to 2 pounds per week then a realistic goal for 4 weeks would be about 6lbs. Unfortunately, many people tend to overestimate what they can achieve in a month. This step in the goal setting process is sooooo important!! Often people will be successful in making great changes to their lifestyles but because they set goals too high, they believe they have failed. Again for example, if you want to lose 20lbs in one month and you "only" lost 8lbs most people would feel unsuccessful. However, if you had set a realistic goal of losing a maximum of 8lbs, you would be ecstatic.

Let’s take another example: you want to be more active and decided to start walking. You are now walking once a week and you want to walk everyday (7 days a week). "Anything less is unacceptable". Well, maybe this weekend there is an all day soccer tournament then dinner at your in-laws, and then next week you have two 12 hour days plus a cake to make for the birthday supper on Thursday night. So, perhaps you were "only" able to squeeze four 30min walks into your schedule- your goal was to walk every single day so by definition you failed. Keep in mind that you walked more than you did in the past and perhaps 4 days a week is all you can manage right now. 4 walks are better than 1, no matter what you think you "should be doing". Why not congratulate yourself for the efforts you made rather than dwell on the negative?

Setting reasonable goals for yourself and trying to change things slowly in your lifestyle is much more successful in the long run because it helps to boost motivation and avoids falling back into bad habits.
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