How to identify and create a plan for your goals.

There are two ways to think about the phrase “last four months.” Some of you might think, Yes, four months left, while others might think, Crap, only four months left! As a glass-half-full kind of person, I offer you this encouragement. A new school year signifies the end of summer, but it is also a fresh start. Our children and students are beginning a new school year, full of excitement (and some nerves, of course), but what if we adopted that mindset, too? What if we looked at September as an opportunity to identify, create, and to pursue a new goal or go after one you set earlier in the year? Let’s identify and create a plan for your goals.

In a month you will hear many people talk about the “Last 90 days” to excite you into giving your all during the remainder of the year. Um, let’s not wait for that. Let’s take action NOW. Not to be morbid, but we don’t know how many Octobers or New Years we have. Let’s act now.

Before you roll your eyes, please understand that I get how limited our time is. I, too, only have so many hours left in the day after work, children, and Netflix. We all need destressing time, for sure. But what if, what if, you started to carve out 45 minutes a day to work on that goal? Note the use of the phrase “carve out.” No matter how much your loved ones love you, they are never gonna check in with you daily and ask, Are you fulfilled? Not gonna happen. And you know what? That’s not their responsibility. Your partner is responsible for his or her happiness and growth, just like you are. To gain traction on that goal, then, you must carve out the time.

Today you will create a plan to conquer a goal by the end of the year. Grab paper and a pen because school is in session!

Dreams vs. Goals – A dream is a lofty thought, like I dream of speaking at the Rachel Hollis RISE Conference “Own Your Present” day about my morning routine workbook. Ok, great. That’s gonna remain a dream, though, until I actually take steps to achieve it. You can talk about your dreams all you want, but dreams are just that – talk – until you take action. If you “meant what I said and I said what I meant” (thank you, Horton), then your words and actions must match.

A goal, then, is a step toward reaching the dream. Usually the dream is so large that it requires a list of goals to reach it. It can be scary and intimidating to move from a dream to a goal. The act of merely identifying goals to accomplish the dreams can cause anxiety. When we force ourselves to think through the steps and contemplate the required work, things start to become real. You might panic. You might retreat. You might feel doubtful, afraid, or experience insecurities. But you know what? You might also be excited and full of anticipation.

In today’s assignment, you will identify a goal (it doesn’t have to be a step toward a dream) and map out a plan to reach it by the end of the year. I will use the example of wanting to run a 5k throughout this article. 

At the top of your paper (You didn’t think I was kidding about the pen and paper, did you?), write your goal. Again, for training purposes, I will use running a 5k as the example. Goals can be outlined by using the acronym SMART. So cute, right?

S = Specific – Is your goal specific? Here are some examples of some goals that are not specific enough: I want to lose weight, I will start running, and I will clean my house more. Those are all great ideas, but they aren’t specific enough. If they are too general, your mind will blow them off and not consider them to be real things to accomplish. Reworded, the statements become more specific: I want to lose 10 pounds by the end of the year, I want to run a 5k before 2020 (remember when 2020 sounded so futuristic and sci-fi?!), or I will clean one room in the house every day. Way more specific! Your brain latches on to goals that are more detailed and begins to formulate ideas for how to achieve them.

We interrupt this broadcast to give you time to outline your goal in specific wording. Journal it!

M = Measurable – Is your goal measurable? As in, can you quantify it or record results? Our example, wanting to run a 5k by the end of the year, is measurable. You can literally measure the distance required to reach the goal.

We interrupt this broadcast to give you time to edit your goal so that it is measurable. Journal it!

A= Achievable – Is your goal achievable? For our example, is going from couch potato to running a 5k achievable in four months? Yes, it is. Perhaps a full marathon is not possible, but a 5k, yes.

We interrupt this broadcast to give you reflection time on if your goal is achievable in four months. If it’s not, restructure your goal. Journal it!

R = Relevant – Is your goal relevant to your life? Is your environment, in whatever capacity it affects your goal, conducive to you reaching this goal by the conclusion of the year? To run a 5k by the end of the year will require you to have space to consistently walk and run. For parts of the world, weather might not allow you to walk and run outside during the last four months. This will force you to develop a backup plan: Do you have a treadmill at home? A gym membership so that you can use a treadmill there? Does the local high school have an indoor track? Examine the relevance of your goal and create a plan around it.

We interrupt this broadcast to allow time for you to determine the relevance of your goal. Journal it!

T = Time-based – Remember how we said that dreams might remain dreams without action? This last step has the potential to derail your goals. This is the part where your goals can remain stagnant or move forward. If your goal doesn’t have a time constraint, then it might languish in the dream pile. Don’t let that happen! Identify a timespan in which to accomplish the goal. Our example today has a built-in timeframe – four months because that is the time remaining in the calendar year.

We interrupt this broadcast to allow time for you to create a timeframe for your goal. Journal it!

Create the Goal Pathway – Now that you have edited your goal into a SMART goal, you are ready to create your plan of action! Your goal is still just a dream until it has an actual plan. Start a fresh piece of paper and work backwards with your timeframe. With our 5k example, you have four months to go from slacker to runner. Before you even start brainstorming, research online if there is a training or plan you can model for your goal. The Couch to 5k program breaks down how to work with walking/running intervals, how to build up the running time, how each workout should be, and more. If you find an existing plan online or someone suggests ideas to you, reflect before immediately adopting it. Just because it worked for one person, doesn’t mean it’s the best plan for you. You can also pick and choose which parts to use and create the rest.

Monthly – If you are developing your plan from scratch, start with the timeframe. You have four months to conquer this. Maybe you want to write a book or lose 10 pounds like I mentioned at the beginning of this article. How many pounds does that equal to a month? How many chapters would you have to write every four weeks? To work up to running a 5k, how would you need to divide that for each month?

Weekly – Then break it down further. If you are going to lose 2 ½ pounds a month, what do you need to do every week to stay on track? You might need to research how many calories equal a pound, begin a food journal, and exercise a few times a week. For the book example, if you are going to write three to four chapters a month, then you might have to finish one per week. And similarly, will you need to add on three minutes of running to your exercise routine each week and simultaneously decrease walking by three?

Daily – You knew this was the next step! Break the goal down once again. What will be your daily calorie limit? What will be your daily exercise routine? For writing, what word count do you need to reach every day to accomplish your weekly chapter goal? For the 5k goal, do you need to exercise every day for 30 minutes? Every other day?

You got this! You should be proud of yourself! You stepped out of your comfort zone and identified your dream AND goal. Then you crafted the latter to make it a SMART goal. Plus, you have a real, achievable plan to slay your goal by the end of the year! Gooooo you!

Two more thoughts – Share the goal with your family. Get them on board. They need to be prepared that typical household routines might be altered for a few months while you seek personal growth. Also, I’m not saying you have to obsessed, but you need to be immersed in your goal. Increase the likelihood of accomplishing it by frequently researching related topics, listening to podcasts, and talking to friends about it.

Now all you have left to do is share your goal below in the comments!

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