get real

Finally we are getting to goal setting! If you have ever heard anything on setting goals, you have inevitably heard something about the importance of setting realistic goals. I'd like to introduce a slightly different way to approach this. I don't love the idea of squashing our goals and dreams to make them more realistic. But we do have to be realistic about how we approach them.

First, we have to look at what makes something realistic or not. Realistic and possible are not the same thing. It is possible for me to do many things - but that doesn't make them realistic for my lifestyle, schedule, skill set, personality and place in life.

Something like, "I will read one book a week" would be a pretty lofty goal for me - just saying it doesn't sound very realistic. I have a history of starting one book and then starting a new one before I have a chance to finish the previous. So it would be lofty, yes, impossible, no. I could do it. Even being/feeling as busy as I am I know I could use waiting, tv + social media time to commit to this, making it possible. But is it realistic?

To make it realistic:

1 | I would need to have enough of and the right kind of motivation; a real reason to even bother. Do I recognize a need to change? What value does this add to my life? Why is this important to me? Why one per week? Motivation cannot be simulated. It can't be faked. It can be encouraged and cultivated though.

2 | Along with the right motivation, I would also need a strategy, a specific plan. When will I read? How much will I read? What will I do if I fall behind? What will I give up to allow for more time to read? What will I read?

3 | And then, there is the needed mindset. You can accomplish very difficult, seemingly-unrealistic things if you have the right mindset. Again, this can't be faked. But it can be cultivated. The mindset that allows us to both progress and be in tune with our boundaries and need for rest is what we want. It's a mind that sees our potential and where we are; clearly seeing our need to evolve in order to have what we want, without getting too attached to imperfections, the obstacles, or fears. To me, this is honesty. It's clearly seeing what is ahead of us with potential and grace.

As we become more in touch with our desires for life and see our own capability we can develop the mindset that encourages growth and progression while nurturing ourselves along the way. The more we do hard things with a healthy mentality, the more our confidence in our ability grows. The more we recognize, "Hey, I really don't need sugar after every meal" or “I am so much happier when I start my day with movement” the more we are able to detach from the other habits/patterns/comforts that we have become our default mode. It’s a mindset that is open to our own evolution; that welcomes the shift and believes in our ability to do so.

4 | Another aspect to setting realistic goals is support. Do we have the social and environmental support? This can be as simple as being surrounded with people who don't belittle or demean our efforts. But, taken to the next level, when we have others around us seeking goals along-side us, calling us to workout, checking in on us, eating greens with us, it's immensely powerful. The more support you have, the more likely you are to succeed. You also want to consider the climate where you live, your financial resources, your wardrobe and your physical space you live in. These things may sound small, but are often enough to keep us from action. If it snows where you live, your environment is presenting a challenge for your goal to run everyday. You want to be honest about the role of each moving part so that you can make the changes you want to make.

the right stuff

OK, so let's go back to my goal to read one book per week. How would I make this realistic?

Motivation + Strategy + Mindset + Support

= Realistic Goals

I am sincerely motivated by being more interesting in conversation and keeping my brain from turning to mommy-mush. But, I know when it comes to kids being in bed and I finally get some time to myself I will want to turn on the tv and veg. So I will likely need some additional motivation. I could then decide to reward myself with tv after I've read for a set amount of time.

For my strategy, I'm going to carry a book with me wherever I go. So my waiting can be turned into reading time instead of scrolling time. I may even be more motivated to arrive early to more places now that I have the inducement of some reading time to myself. I'm designating reading time to immediately after my kids go to bed for an hour. On nights when other obligations come up, my goal is to read as a wind-down instead of tv. And I'm going to alternate listening to books with actual reading. So I'm finding ways to be clear in my objectives while being flexible.

For my mindset, when I lean into this idea of reading daily, I can see the ways it will enrich my life. And I have learned from experience that when I'm willing to challenge myself in one area of my life, I am more likely to have success when I challenge myself in other areas. Still, I tend to feel like time is the most elusive resource there is. I definitely feel the scarcity. Dedicating time to something that isn't necessary is hard for me. So I'm going to write in my journal, exploring this. Where does this come from? Is this scarcity real or perceived? Why does something that's valuable to me and makes my life better not feel necessary enough?

And finally getting to support. I already know my husband will be easy to talk into joining me. He is actually the one who is always reading, between the two of us. On nights when he's doing his own thing, I also have some amazing noise cancelling headphones. Done.

Now after working through all of this, I may look at my strategy and realize even reading for an hour every night plus getting 10-20 minutes here and there, I don't know that I can finish one book per week. So now it's time to ask the question, "is this goal about finishing a book or actually reading"? - For me I am very motivated by the idea of finishing. Completing. Remember how good I am at starting? So I need to restructure my strategy and motivation to support finishing. The more I explore this, the more I realize that the reason I often don't finish is because it takes me so much time to complete a book, that I eventually lose interest. I never dedicate a large enough chunk of time needed to make the headway that allows me to feel some satisfaction from my progress. If I want to finish, maybe I change my strategy from slow, consistent progress to allowing myself the time to really get into the book so I can finish. And maybe I change my goal to one book a month. Then taking a break. And starting a new book, ready to dive in. Wow, now I'm excited to read and finish. Now, I'm going to switch my tv motivation from a little tv after reading each night to when I finish my book I can binge every episode of the Bachelor. That actually sounds a lot more fun and this is a very realistic goal I can put in motion today.

This is a great starting place because it will allow me to make progress right away (feeling successful and gaining some momentum is hugely helpful), it also gives me room to take my goal to the next level if I choose (reading more books per month).

Some notes

Are your goals be goals or do goals? Like me with reading, Do you want to be a reader or do you want to accomplish something? When you picture your best body, are there things you want to accomplish with your body? Or, is there a way you'd like to feel, look, be? Maybe it's both, but it's important you identify the details of this because it will completely change how you create your strategy and motivation (like it did for me and my reading).

A few other thoughts: Say I'm motivated, I have the strategy and mindset but I don't have the support. Does that mean I can't reach my goal? No! What it means is that I have to factor my lack of support into my strategy. I have to address it as a potential challenge and determine how I will navigate it. I may also need to find additional motivation and give my mindset extra attention. Whatever pieces of the equation that aren't present are opportunities for growth or to rely more deeply on the aspects that are in place. It's important we are aware of them and we work them into our plan.

And finally, remember how part of my trouble finishing a book has to do with never totally getting into it enough? I never give myself enough time or commitment to a book in order to a) get into a self-motivating rhythm, or for me to feel the satisfaction of finishing. With this I also never b) identify as someone who finishes books. It isn't yet how I see myself. In order for me to change into a long-term book finisher, I have to commit enough that I can get into a rhythm, then feel the satisfaction of making progress and finishing, and then begin to see myself differently. Remember all that mental stuff? Yeah, it really matters.