Historically, I’m not good at setting goals—any goals. Recently, I was bemoaning my frustration about a hurt ankle and poor diet to a friend. She told me that I need to spend some time considering my nutrition and fitness goals, because if I don’t have a purpose and a plan to reach them, old habits will creep up. This means that I will forever be chasing my own tail, never getting anywhere, and not having any fun.
Goals serve a purpose: to motivate us to become better. When we set goals, we should outline the discipline and resources that will be needed to reach them, like a roadmap. We should have a plan in place to work around any obstacles and detours that present themselves. When necessary, we need to be willing to adjust the goals themselves to match the circumstances of our life.
Many of us fail to fully set goals. Sure, Sunday meal prep and a plan to work out four days this week is a great way to start. But where is our effort headed? I don’t believe we have to have a goal for everything we do, but I do think we are more effective when there is a goal in place, even if the overall goal is simple and small.
The Role of the Micro-Goal
Setting goals seems like it should be an easy thing to do. You pick something you want to accomplish, and you work toward it, right? I want to hike to the top of Mt. Everest. Okay, that’s a goal. But what will it take to get there?
Breaking up a large goal into smaller goals can be a great way to keep your self-confidence going, and to mark progress toward your larger goal. If I was going to hike Mt. Everest, I would start off with making sure I could plan for, pack for, and physically manage many smaller hikes. I might also set some cross-training strength micro-goals, like making sure my presses were in good shape, and that I could do a good amount of farmer’s carries. Outlining my plan for my micro-goals and setting a timeline for them would ensure my progress to my larger goal.
Lately we have published a number of articles that delineate the roles of motivation and discipline. I think that these two concepts have the ability to work together to help us along the path of our goals. Some days we may be more motivated, and some days we may have to enforce more discipline.
When looking to reach a goal, discipline will carry us most of the way. But our micro-goals are useful to provide periodic doses of motivation and focus. This positive feedback loop also helps us create actual change in ourselves as we learn discipline and focus. We can easily be thrown off track if we haven’t reached a point of adopting a lifestyle habit.
By using the process of creating and reaching micro-goals, we can create sustainable progress. Having the goal of hiking Mt. Everest is a goal with a definite end. But the discipline learned, the motivation maintained, and the enthusiasm created while that goal is reached is something that will translate into the rest of our lives.