Setting Goals: How to Stick to It!

Especially at the end of the year, many want to establish new routines and set new goals. But wanting or undertaking alone is not enough to turn New Year's resolutions or wishes into reality in the long term; the successful achievement of goals begins with the correct setting and formulation of goals.

To get you closer to your goals and stay on the ball, here are 10 tips and 4 methods for optimal goal setting.

Goals are individual

"Next year I want to get fitter", "from Monday I want to eat healthier", "I want to be more structured and tidy" ... - these are all wonderful projects that anyone can implement. Goals like these are almost entirely individual, which is why they are also called “Life Goals”. They are therefore not transferrable from one person to another, since everyone pursues their own goals in life and weights them differently.

Other characteristics of life goals are:

  • They are firmly intended and not a wish

  • A concrete pursuit of a better state - or "better you"

  • A clear conviction based on dissatisfaction and not an expectation

  • Tends to be emotional and hardly/not rational

So the first tip for successful goal setting and achievement is: do not copy the goals of others, but formulate them yourself. Because if you live according to the wishes/goals/expectations of others, it will be more difficult to achieve the goals and, above all, you also live according to the will of others or society - keyword ideals of beauty.

Goals are important

Some may wonder why it makes sense to have goals at all. So much in advance: Nobody has to set goals; but for success, improvements, changes or the realization of dreams - and be it something quite banal like investing in slightly more expensive (sports) pants that have to be worked for first - goals are indispensable.

Goals provide orientation in life, since progress can be measured against them and the occasional lack of meaning in life can be aligned. Thus, they intrinsically motivate you to leave your comfort zone every day (e.g. use more weight when working out in the gym). With the help of goals, one's own success can not only be defined in advance, but also measured , since progress can be recorded reflectively. The closer you get to your goal, the happier and more confident you become as endorphins are released.

And last but not least, according to the study by psychologist Patrick Hill of the Canadian University in Carleton (Ottawa), goals prolong life . Purposeful people would be healthier, fitter, happier, and happier. Regardless of the age of the subjects, they all lived a little longer.

Goal setting methods

There are different methods for setting goals with potential for success. Although these differ from each other, they are not better or worse.

Depending on the personality type, one or the other method is preferred, so we present four different ones here.

1. WAY method

The WEGE method is a four-step method that is easy to use and not complex:

  1. Really want: The goal must be a deep-seated desire of the heart and must not be influenced by others. You can easily check whether it is really a heart's desire by asking yourself why and what for you want to achieve this goal.

  2. K ep it simple: The goal should not be complicated – in the sense of “less is more”.

  3. Entirely dedicating: Dedicate yourself, your life, your everyday life, your work, etc. completely to achieving the goal and never lose sight of it. Your goal should be your top priority in every respect, because that's the only way to get closer to it. That's why point 1 - really wanting - is so important: If it's not about a heart's desire, but rather striving for a certain ideal, for example, achieving the goal will be extremely difficult and definitely not fun.

  4. One thing after the other: Similar to point 2 - keep it simple - goals should also be set according to the motto "less is more". It is impossible to achieve or work on multiple goals at the same time on a weekly or even daily basis. Concentrate on one thing and with full force.

2. SMART method

The SMART method is a well-known and successful way of formulating concrete goals. It is often used in project planning in companies, but can be transferred 1:1 to personal goals. SMART in the name not only stands for "intelligent, clever, clever", but primarily for five key figures of a successful goal setting:

  1. Specific : The goal must be defined specifically, clearly and precisely. Ambivalence and contradiction have no place in the formulation.

  2. Measurable : The goal should be measurable and understandable. The easiest way to do this is with numbers, e.g. doing sports 3 times a week, doing something with friends twice a week (instead of “'more' sport/socialising”)

  3. A ttractive: The goal should be attractive, otherwise it will not motivate.

  4. R ealistic: The more realistic the goal, the higher the probability that it will be achieved. The more illusory or further from the current point of view the goal, the higher the probability of failing early on.

  5. Terminated : Termination goes hand in hand with the first point of specificity. The more concrete the wording, the easier it is to work directly towards the goal. Those who don't set deadlines or limits are more prone to procrastination.

That means resolutions like "I want to get fitter" are doomed to fail from the start - no matter how great the current level of suffering is. A wording like: “From now on I want to do sports 4 times a week is better. I eat at least 4 servings of fruit and veg a day and avoid foods high in trans fat. By the end of April I want to lose 2kg with it so that my upper arms look tighter in summer clothes. In order to see progress, I will record my intention in a habit tracker.”

3. CLEAR method

The CLEAR method is similar to the SMART method. It includes the following key figures:

  1. C halling: The goal should be challenging to be attractive.

  2. L does not matter: It should go without saying that all goals should remain within the legal framework.

  3. E xciting: The more exciting the goal, the more likely you are to keep pursuing it, e.g. save money for a trip.

  4. A greed: It is best to agree the goal with someone or to tell someone about it. This makes it more binding, which makes days without motivation easier to deny - because nobody wants to be seen as a failure?

  5. R ecorded: Goals are achieved more easily if they are documented in writing and the achievement or the way there is documented in writing, eg with a habit tracker.

Central to the CLEAR method is therefore setting a goal that is both challenging and exciting. It should be told to others and written down to make it more authoritative and easier to follow.

4. WOOP method

Ultimately, the WOOP method should also be mentioned here. It works similar to the SMART or CLEAR method and stands for:

  • W ish: The reason for setting goals is an individual wish.

  • O utcome: In the second step, the desired result is visualized. The following questions are answered: What changes after the goal has been achieved? What impact does the achievement of the goal have on me personally? Why do I think I will be happier/satisfied/etc. when I achieve my goal? By answering these questions, sentences are formulated at the same time that not only provide motivation, but also help out of low motivation or sagging.

  • O bstacle: Here it is important to note any hurdles that currently stand in the way of achieving the goal or that distinguish it from the current situation at all. There are many reasons why a goal is (still) a goal and not reality - be it (financial) means, (characteristic) traits, behavior.

  • P lan: After defining the hurdles and barriers, a plan is drawn up to achieve the goal and to remove or overcome the hurdles.

In practice, the WOOP method looks like this: You want to fly to Costa Rica. But there are a few hurdles in your way, such as not enough money, too few vacation days, an unapplied visa and a missing travel partner. However, each of these hurdles can be overcome within seven months, which is why you make a plan for each hurdle on how to overcome it, e.g.:

  • Work more hours and spend less time on irrelevant activities, such as uselessly browsing social media

  • Sell ​​unused items

  • Save money and energy when shopping

  • Ask friends and acquaintances if they would like to travel to Costa Rica

So that you are protected from giving up or postponing the trip even in difficult situations, you finally visualize the trip so that you always keep it in mind.

Last but not least, with the WOOP method it is also important to record the specific implementation points in writing so that they are binding.

10 general tips on how to achieve your goals

Whichever method you choose, there are a few general tips to keep in mind when setting goals.

1: Set specific goals

Goals should be as specific and detailed as possible; avoid phrases like “I want to lose weight this year” and be more specific, e.g. “I will lose 3 kg by March.” An explicit goal makes it easier for you to work on the goal and lets you identify the steps that are necessary to achieve the goal more easily.

2: Write down your goals

The emphasis here is on “write down”. According to a study by psychologist Gail Matthews from Dominican University in San Rafael (California), just writing it down increases the chance of success to 76%. Noted goals create the obligation not to give up - just like an Austrian proverb says: "what lies, that pickt" (pick = stick). A pro tip: put the piece of paper with the destination written down in a place where you hang out often; this way you don't lose sight of the goal – in the truest sense of the word.

3: Be realistic

Do not take on anything that is beyond your capabilities/abilities or that cannot realistically be accomplished in the time allotted. Goals that are too big can be motivating, but in most cases they lead to frustration. The same applies to targets that are too close/too far away.

4: Formulate your goals positively

This is less about optimistic/pessimistic formulations and more about “away from” or “towards” formulations. "Towards" goals are significantly more motivating, since the goal is always in sight, eg " Towards a vitamin-rich, colorful-looking diet" vs. " Away from canned ready meals or sausage stand lunches".

5: Break down your goals into short, medium, and long-term goals

Most of the time, your goal is far away, which is why it is better for success to split it up into several intermediate goals. Short- and medium-term goals increase the likelihood of continuing to work towards the goal as multiple moments of success can be recorded. For example, if your goal is to gain 3 kilos within 3 months, you can write down your goal(s) as follows:

In the short term

medium term

long term

+3kg in 3 months

+1kg after month 1

+0.25kg after week 1

+0.25kg after week 2

+0.25kg after week 3

+0.25kg after week 4

+1kg after month 1

+0.25kg after week 5

+0.25kg after week 6

+0.25kg after week 7

+0.25kg after week 8

+1kg after month 1

+0.25kg after week 9

+0.25kg after week 10

+0.25kg after week 11

+0.25kg after week 12

+3kg in 3 months

Thus, the “big” goal is segmented into several small ones, which are much easier to reach than a big and distant one.

6: Share your goals - make them public

The more people know about your goals, the higher the probability of achieving them. Sharing goals creates commitment and motivates you to work on them - because nobody really wants to look like a failure, right?

7: Find like-minded people or supporters

It is easier to work on a goal together with others. Maybe even while sharing your goals, you will find like-minded people who also want to put at least 50€ aside every week. You can exchange information about your savings and support and motivate each other if necessary. As the saying goes: "A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved."

8: Your goals should be tailored to you - they are individual

Understand the reason for your goal. Do you want to be fitter so that you can impress your work colleagues or because even the loud breathing when climbing stairs annoys you? In the case of the former, you should reconsider "your goal" because it is pursued with little intrinsic motivation and the implementation of your plan could become a hurdle.

9: Be flexible

Your goals are binding, but their achievement/compliance is not set in stone. If you need more intermediate goals/steps and therefore more time, that's perfectly fine. It's better if you arrive at your destination a little late than burnt out or not at all. The same applies to faster goal attainment. In both cases you can be proud of yourself.

10: Reward yourself

With every (intermediate) goal achievement you will feel happiness and joy anyway and activate the reward center in the brain, but it is also important to reward yourself with something independent of your goal in between. This can be 1-2 days off or less discipline to reach the end goal, a small material reward, such as a nice smelling candle or a new book, or even just a warm bath. Rewards are important in order not to sink into ambition and striving, to avoid burnout, to regenerate and also not to lose sight of the here and now and the real world without goal focus/tunnel vision.

This article was written by our author Lisa. Her greatest passions are nutrition/health, cooking and sport.

Author Lisa