Setting Goals and Measuring Success

Posted February 16, 2021

Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the leading English dictionary, defines a goal as “the end toward which effort is directed.” The key word being “effort.” Goals require work. Often laborious, tiring, I-don’t-want-to-do-this-anymore work over long stretches of time. But it is always worth it when we are battling for ourselves and our health.

So how do we choose goals knowing that daunting work is ahead?

Define Them

Sylvia Plath once wrote that, “Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing.” It’s easy and quite understandable to look at someone like Chris Hemsworth or Jennifer Lopez and say, “That. I want to look like that.” Not only is that a terrible way to approach setting a goal, it ignores all the effort and choices those individuals have put in and the socio-economic infrastructure of their famous, rich lives to support it. It is unrealistic.

That’s the main thing when you want to set goals: make them realistic, measurable, and achievable. By all means, set huge goals, but know that huge goals are achieved on the building blocks of hundreds of smaller goals.

Here are what three huge goals look like:

Lose 40 Pounds
Regularly Sleep 8 Hours A Night
Address Physical Ailments Through Diet

Building Blocks of a Goal

Now that you have defined your big goals, activate them through chasing smaller goals. Here’s what I mean by that:

If you want to lose forty pounds, first aim to lose five. And once you have lost that five, aim to lose five more. If you’re walking for thirty minutes to lose that first five, aim to walk for forty-five to lose the next five. Increase your efforts the closer you
If you want to sleep eight hours a night, set your first goal of identifying what time you need to wake up every day. Set your alarm, even on days you can sleep in, and regularly get up at that time. Once that is ingrained in your routine, count backward eight hours and begin to adjust your routine leading up to that time.
If you want to dramatically change your diet, do not cut out all carbs, dairy, gluten, sugar, corn, or whatever is needed for your particular ailment all at once. First adjust to life without sugar. Then move on to the next. Growth is gradual.

Why use this method?

The idea is to turn your goals into a habit and a lifestyle. One small way to biologically “trick” or “convince” our bodies into this is to use a dopamine release. When we achieve our goals, our brain releases dopamine as a pleasure response. So, when we achieve hundreds of smaller goals in pursuit of a huge one, we are more likely to continue on that path of growth aside from getting down and disappointed in ourselves for failing at a large goal.

Remember: Set yourself up for success.

Measuring Your Success

Now that your goals have been set, how do you measure success along the way? For some goals, it’s quite easy. Let's check in on our goals from the last post:

the number on the scale went down
you are regularly sleeping eight hours
you haven’t had dairy in six months

But I want you to dig deeper than that. A successful goal changes our outlook on the world, our lives, and ourselves.

Pablo Picasso once said that “our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.“

Define Your Success

Just as we have to define our goals, we have to define our success. Wanting to lose forty pounds is an admirable and achievable goal, but what will the success of losing 40 lbs bring you?

Is it being able to run a 5K with your best friend? Is it the self-confidence boost to take the leap and nail that career change? Is it to work with your doctor to address your developing diabetes with exercise and diet?

Defining success is about digging deeper to your truth. It's about identifying the heart of the matter, which can be difficult to confront. Something people don’t consider is that it’s incredibly hard to face success, as it’s often linked to conquering our fears.

Conquer Your Fear

My friend, you have got this. We are all facing things that we need to set goals to conquer. We’re all feeling daunted and alone. But we are not alone.

One of the best ways to measure success is to reach out to those around you that can lovingly hold you accountable, offer support, and accompany you on your journey of conquering your fears and accomplishing your goals. Because it won’t be easy, but your loved ones will want you to win just as much as you do whether they're a spouse, sibling, parent, or best friend.

International superstar Olympian Michael Phelps believes this, too: “I think goals should never be easy. They should force you to work, even if they are uncomfortable at the time.“

Most Importantly Keep Going!

A general rule for accomplishing your goals is that it takes four weeks to notice changes in yourself, eight weeks for those closest to you to notice those changes, and twelve weeks for casual acquaintances to notice. You are in this for the long haul. Lean on your cheerleaders.

Goals and success are more than what you see reflected in the mirror. They are about how you feel and the mental stamina you’ve developed along the way. And you got this!

But also, be gentle with yourself. We aren’t superheroes. Some days you may be too tired or sick to go to the gym. Some nights you may want to go out with your friends and miss your scheduled time for bed to get your 8 hours. Some days, ice cream sounds too good and you have a scoop. Don’t get discouraged. Pick yourself up, move on, and keep going.

“The thing about goals is that living without them is a lot more fun, in the short run. It seems to me, though, that the people who get things done, who lead, who grow and who make an impact... those people have goals.“ - Seth Godin

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