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Goal setting - that old kernal!

I promised myself that I would NOT write on anything to do with ‘New Year, new you’, New Year’s resolutions, or Goal setting.

Given that January, in my opinion, is the worst time of the year to do this.

But here’s the thing, I delivered a session on Goal Setting last week and I found myself at the end of the session asking each participant to commit to one goal that they would achieve in the next week, which would build towards a bigger goal for the year. Leading by example, I did the same.

It was sign up for on line Pilates, or write a blog on Goal Setting. The blog won out.

So here goes – 3 things that I have learnt about Goal Setting.

1.Every little helps.

During the first part of COVID I set myself the task of doing Pilates three times a week, for 6 weeks. I signed up for one of those online ‘super easy’ programmes. All my work had been cancelled, the sun was shining, and I was part of that collective mood of "we can beat this thing and we can do anything”.

As is my want, I tracked my goal A crib sheet to mark my success as I go.

Except it wasn’t a success.

I failed miserably. By week three, I had completed only 4 sessions. I was so tempted to stop. Clearly I was well behind in my goal, annoyed with myself, and not even sure it was helping.

But I persevered, on principle, because I tend to finish what I start.

This story does not have the happy ending. By the end of week six, I had completed 8 of the targeted 18 sessions – a ‘success’ rate of just over 40%. I did not achieve my goal.

But I did do some good…

I put in 8 Pilates sessions. That is 8 more than I would have done had I not set the goal.

Because I tracked my goal, I did not give up, but continued to the end.

From the experience, I learnt that Pilates is perhaps not the best exercise choice for me at this time.

At the risk of sounding like a Tesco girl, every little help. From observing those who achieve their goals and those who do not, I notice that those who do not, have a tendency to self sabotage. They insist that if they can’t succeed by achieving all of the goal, then they won’t bother doing any of the goal.

Progress is success, however small or slow. A little bit of anything is better than a whole lot of nothing.

2.Show up at the game and play your part.

Those of you interested in the subject of goal setting will be familiar with the concept of process goals and outcome goals. Outcome goals are the end prize – that I get the job, that we win the game, that the perfect house is mine. Process goals are the actions that take us there. Preparing for the interview, putting in the practise, saving for a mortgage. Process goals are invariably within my control, because they depend on MY action. Outcome goals often fall under the control of another person or thing. No matter how long I practice for, or how hard I work, winning the Tennis match will also depend on my opponent, the conditions on the day and other external factors.

Understanding this allows me to focus on what I can do, and let go of the outcome.

James Clear ( writes beautifully on this. He is a keen weight lifter and much of his content on goal setting references his goal of getting better and stronger at this activity.

‘Just put in the reps’ – this refers to the repetitions of an exercise that one needs to do to get strong enough to do the lift. Let’s say you set yourself the goal of 20 reps for each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You’ve had a bad week and you miss Wednesday’s reps. Your challenge is not missing the reps on Wednesday, but what you do on Friday. And if you only get to do 10 reps on Friday, that’s ok. The point is that you showed up and did something.

In life, I can show up at the game, play my part, but I cannot control the win.

In a time of uncertainty, there is no greater medicine than the element of control. What is it that I CAN do, today for that thing that I want in the future? I am writing this blog today, because I can. It plays a part in the goal that I have for my professional future this year.

Will it be read? – out of my control

Will it useful? – I don’t know

Will it bring me global fame and world dominance? (hopefully not!!)

Point is, I did my bit. I showed up. I put in the reps.

3.Honour the journey as well as the destination.

I first heard this from my great coach and colleague Mary Curran when we were working together on a goal setting session. Goals are not some objectives ‘out there’ that we are working towards. Goals are ‘living’ things that we work with every day. The best goals are like ‘life partners’. On a good day, they provide us with meaning and inspiration to our day to day activities. On the tough days, they are a pain in the butt and we can’t help thinking that if they really cared, they would just leave us alone.

As such, goals need to be flexible.

Timothey Gallwey, of The Inner Game writes on the ‘mobility of goals’. He defines mobility as ..

“…to reach one’s objectives in a fulfilling manner - to reach goals at the right time and in a way that we feel good about. Therefore mobility is not only change but fulfilment and harmony with one’s progress”.

As external circumstances change and our internal compass shifts, adapting, postponing and sometimes deleting the goal, is the goal.

So - that’s me done. Blog written, weekly goal achieved, and not a Pilates mat in sight!

Best of luck to all of you who have set goals this month.

P.S On a more practical note. If you are interested in putting this goal setting into practice – check out Gemma O'Halloran's Goal Master programme

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