If you’re a fan of self-help books, you may be familiar with popular goal-setting strategies like starting small, having accountability, and setting up rewards. However, even with these things in place, after a couple months, you may find yourself frustratingly off-track and no closer to your goals than when you started. How can you put the odds in your favor? Below are four tips that may help!
Tip 1: Goals as “journeys”
One thing that you may not think about when first setting a goal is what happens once that goal is achieved. The last thing you want is to go through all the work of achieving your goal, only to have that work become undone. According to psychology, how you describe achieving your goal can make a difference in how successful you’ll be in achieving and maintaining that success. This was seen in a 2019 study where participants who were coached on thinking of their goals as a completion of a journey were more likely to maintain the gains and continue improving.
Tip 2: Plan for lapses
Sometimes, despite our attempts to set realistic plans, unrealistic optimism will set in. For example, BJJ players can be unrealistically optimistic about things that may interfere with training, like overtime at work or getting sick. This leads us to sometimes create plans that don’t have much wiggle room (ex. “I’ll train BJJ three times a week and cross-train when I’m not at the gym!”). Thus when these normal life events occur, it can throw off our plans and make it near impossible to get back on track.
To prevent this, simply plan for lapses by building these lapses in your timeline. For example, if your goal is to lose a certain amount of weight by a certain month, build in an extra month to account for any lapses. Additionally, it can also help to have a “restart” plan, such as a workout/meal plan that you can use to ease back into things if you stray from your planned routine.
Tip 3: Celebrate getting lost
Inevitably, we all experience a moment where, despite our best intentions and thoughtful planning, we fall off the wagon and find ourselves adrift. The common reaction is to get mad at ourselves for our failure. This anger is not only counterproductive in getting us back on track, but it also takes away an opportunity to acknowledge the magnitude of this BJJ journey. You can’t train BJJ without acknowledging both the joy and the pain that it brings. But if you hadn’t started BJJ to, you would never have experienced either of those extremes. Remember that our greatest achievements are only as great as the lows that we overcome along the way.
Tip 4: Evolution of goals
Sometimes achieving a goal can feel anticlimactic due to the new problems you now face, or the nature of your goal. For example, eating healthy can give you more energy, but it is also more energy spent making food decisions and meal prepping. Another example is if you’re mastering a certain guard in BJJ, it can be hard to measure the improvement of your understanding. For both examples, one thing that can help is to pause and look at the problems you’re looking to solve. If they’re different from when you started, that’s a sign of growth – and a sign that you may now need to consider creating new goals for yourself.
Working towards one’s goals can be a personal and rocky process, but it’s an endeavor worth taking – and one that you don’t have to take alone. What goals are you working towards currently? Do you have any tips or goal setting advice that you’ve found especially helpful? Share them in the comments below!
About the author: Jess is a light feather purple belt based in Brooklyn, NY. More thoughts on BJJ, including her Training Without A Gym technique series, can be found on her blog Rolling With the Big Boys.