At Volunteering in Health we are all about goal setting.  We help our clients set goals for themselves, ensuring that they are “SMARTER”, help them celebrate success, and adjust their goals as life changes.  Already in 2021, we have faced a major change and challenge with lockdown, and people who set out intending to do Dry January or join the gym have been stumped!  But the key is not to let these things get in our way and make us give up, instead we need to reassess our priorities and goals.  This is likely to be a stressful month and a glass of wine at the end of the day might be just what you need, depriving yourself of that or berating yourself if you have one could just make things even more difficult.  And gyms might be closed but there are plenty of Zoom exercise classes running, or you can get out for a walk every day.

Our Accounts Administrator, Nicki, set herself the goal to do Dry January in 2020.  She got to the end of January surprised at how well she felt, so decided to continue until the end of March.  Once there she didn’t want to give up, and before she knew it, she was doing One Year No Beer and had made it through 2020 (of all years!) without a drop of alcohol.  She’s lost weight and feels great for it, and whilst she’s not sworn off drink forever, her attitude to alcohol has certainly changed in ways that will last a lifetime.  Going into 2021, she’s signed up to various virtual challenges with The Conqueror App and has already walked the distance of the English Channel!  Next up for Nicki, she wants to start driving again after many years sat firmly in the passenger seat – we’ll let you know how she gets on!

So how do you set good goals for yourself?

Many of us start January with a new year’s resolution to “eat better” or “exercise more” but they are very vague goals and easy to give up on, or to achieve without even realising it.  Let’s try and pin it down a bit more.  “I want to lose 2kg by Easter,” is certainly an improvement.  It is Specific, Measurable, and Timebound.  But what happens when you reach that weight loss goal?  Do you feel amazing…. or do you want to lose another kg, and then another…?

Ask yourself, “Why do I want to do this?”  Do you want to fit into your favourite dress next Christmas?  Do you want to run a marathon to raise money for Volunteering in Health?  Do you want to improve your health so you can come off your medication?  Do you want to be able to play more energetically and keep up with your grandchildren?  Do you want to wear a bikini on the beach this summer?

Now that you know why the goal is important to you, you can make sure that it’s Relevant.  For example, if you want to come off a medication, have you spoken to your doctor about what would need to happen to make that possible?  If you want to wear a bikini on the beach, will losing weight be all it takes or do you also need to work on your confidence?

Next you need to think about how you are going to Achieve your goal.  Are you going to change your diet, start a new type of exercise, or work on both?  What are you going to do to make sure it’s an Enjoyable process?  If you don’t enjoy doing something, it’s very unlikely to be sustainable!  An all cabbage soup diet and endless laps of the seafront might get you to your goal quickly but you probably won’t enjoy it or keep it up.  Finding some healthy recipes that you love and starting trying out some new exercise classes (even if only on Zoom!) could be really fun.

Finally, how will you know when you’ve reached your goal and how will you be Rewarded for getting there?  There are two types of reward: extrinsic and intrinsic.  Extrinsic rewards are the easy ones: “I went for a run so now I can eat that cake.”  “I reached my target weight so now I can buy that dress.”  What you really want is to have intrinsic rewards, rewards that you experience just by reaching that goal.  “I lost weight and now I feel more confident.”  “I lost weight and now I’m sleeping better.”

Now that you’ve considered all those things, it’s time to sum up your goal in two simple sentences.  Firstly, the big picture one – what do you want to do, why, and when by?  Secondly, how do you plan to get there?  Below are some examples.

“I didn’t get to see my grandchildren much in 2020, so when I see them I want to be fit enough to run around and play football with them for half an hour.  I will complete the Couch to 5k programme by Easter.”

“My daughter was supposed to get married in 2020 but it got cancelled twice, so when she finally gets her wedding I want to look great and feel confident in my outfit.  I am going to cut out dairy from my diet and start a weekly online yoga class.”

“Volunteering in Health really helped my parents and gave me peace of mind during lockdown when I couldn’t visit, so I want to raise £1000 for them as a thank you.  I am going to do this by doing a skydive and collecting sponsorship.”

Working towards that image of running around with grandchildren or seeing your daughter get married or handing over a giant cheque is much more enjoyable than working towards a number on a scale!

The other thing that can help us reach our goals is accountability.  Sharing your goals with others and letting them know how you’re progressing towards them can make all the difference.  We’d love to hear your goals for 2021!