It may seem a bit late to be talking about setting goals for 2016, but chances are the resolutions made after you celebrated the new year have fizzled away. So, why is it that so many new year’s resolutions get broken? Why do so many gym memberships get sold in January, but never get fully used? Why is not only the question, it’s the answer! Finding your WHY is the key to goal setting.
Goal setting is a valuable exercise, but many people struggle to meet their goals because they haven’t spent time truly understanding their motivation for their goal. It’s fine to say you want to lose weight, tone up, get fit or get six-pack abs, but what does that really mean and what’s the deeper motivation behind it?
Your WHY outlines what you really, really want – the thing you probably don’t say out loud, the thing that might be hard to even admit to yourself, the thing that hurts when you don’t have it. Identifying your WHY helps provide the motivation for you to succeed in achieving the goals you set for yourself. Some describe it as finding the wound and pouring salt on it.
Your WHY guides you on your path to success. It’s inspirational. It keeps you motivated. It’s your greater purpose for doing whatever it is that you’re doing. It reflects your values and how you see the best version of yourself.
Confused? Don’t be. It’s simple really. Goals answer ‘what, when, how’ questions. Your WHY, well it answers the ‘why’ question.
Goals end. Your WHY is enduring.
Identifying your WHY helps you reflect on what is really important to you, rather than focusing on the things you think you want, or focusing on things that other people want. It’s harder to follow the crowd, if you’re chasing your personal WHY!
Your goal might be to lose body fat, and you might have a really clear and powerful image of yourself at your goal weight, shape or size. But that’s still a goal. That’s still ‘what’ you want to achieve, not ‘why’ you want it. Your WHY might be ‘living with greater self-esteem’ or ‘having confidence to wear a swimsuit so that you are happy to join in the fun at the beach rather than sitting on the sidelines’ or ‘feeling more positive and confident about your body so that you are comfortable exposing your body and giving and receiving love in intimate situations with your partner’. Deep, huh? Well, that’s what your WHY is all about.
Step one: Identify your WHY
I use the 5 Whys method with my clients when they are setting goals. The 5 Whys method is a system originally used by the Toyota Motor Corporation to solve problems. The idea behind the 5 Whys method is that when you want to achieve something (or when something goes wrong), you ask yourself one ‘why?’. Then, with whatever answer you come up with, you ask another why. And so on, five times.
The 5 Whys Method
What do you want to achieve?
I want to lose body fat.
Why do you want to lose body fat?
Because I want to be able to wear a swimsuit during the summer holidays.
Why do you want to be able to wear a swimsuit?
Because I haven’t worn a swimsuit for at least 5 years and I think I’ll feel more confident at the beach if I can wear a swimsuit and not feel like I need to cover up.
Why do you want to feel more confident at the beach?
Because when I feel more confident at the beach, I am more relaxed and I’ll be more likely to get involved in holiday activities with my family (or friends).
Why do you want to get more involved in holiday activities?
Because over the years, I’ve stopped participating in activities because I’m self-conscious. Getting involved in fun activities on holidays will bring me closer to my family (or friends).
Why is that important? Why do you want to be closer to your husband?
Because when I’m closer to my family (or friends) and engaged in activities with them, I feel loved and valued. I feel happier and more confident. I feel like I’m living, rather than watching from the sidelines.
You can see from this example that the goal of losing body fat is less about appearance and more about confidence and the desire to be engaged in life. Once we know the deeper motivation for losing body fat, we can start setting other goals that will also achieve greater confidence and happiness.
You might have more than one WHY. They could stem from seeing your parents living with preventable lifestyle diseases that you want to avoid, or wanting to be an active role model for your children, or wanting to fall pregnant and be in excellent health when you do, or your WHY might relate to your career.
Step two: set some goals
Once you know your WHY or multiple WHYs, you can start setting goals; achievable tasks that allow continued success and motivation.
By setting and achieving multiple smaller goals, you confirm your ability to succeed and achieve your dreams and aspirations. Achieving goals instills self-confidence and self-belief.
Each goal you set should align with your WHY. Goals are like stepping stones. If you have a goal that doesn’t align with your WHY, then you should ask yourself why you’ve set out to achieve that goal. Keeping your WHY at front of mind will help keep you working on your goals when times get tough. Keep a journal to record your progress, set alarms in your phone to remind you of your WHY, share your WHY with a friend or your personal trainer; someone who can help keep you on track.
When it comes to goals, there are a few tricks to setting realistic and achievable goals, and therefore increasing your chances of success.
Choose behaviour goals over outcome goals
Outcome goals state what will happen at the end, and they are usually out of our control. Behaviour goals state what actions are needed to get to the end. Behaviour goals are usually within our control. For example, we cannot control our hormones but we can control what we eat.
Outcome goals: Save $5,000; Lose 5 kilos; Run 5km
Behaviour goals: Put $40 in a savings account each week; Start an exercise program; Walk 5km per day, gradually increasing my speed.
The more specific your behaviour goals are, the easier it will be to succeed.
Choose approach goals over avoid goals
Avoid goals involve something we don’t want. Approach goals involve something we do want.
Avoid goals: Stop eating chocolate at 3pm; Stop drinking soft drink at work.
Approach goals: Pack a healthy but delicious snack to take to work for afternoon tea; Keep a water bottle on my desk and aim to get through two litres per day.
If you set the right goals, you’ll feel energised, excited and motivated to get going!
Seek improvement, not perfection
People who seek excellence or improvement, rather than perfection, enjoy the process of chasing their goal as much as reaching the goal itself. Seeking improvement allows you to focus on the journey and what you learn along the way. Focusing on perfection and being concerned with meeting the goal and avoiding failure can prevent you from enjoying the process of growing and striving.
Record and review
Having your goals written down increases your chances of success. Write milestones in your diary; set calendar notes in your phone to remind you of important tasks; keep a goal board or a journal to help motivate you towards your goals; review your goals regularly, reminding yourself of your WHY and checking off milestones as you achieve them.
All that’s left now is for you to grab a pen and paper, find a comfy chair and start asking yourself WHY. Go forth and set your awesome and SMART goals!