Effective Goal Setting + Measuring Progress
There are all sorts of goal setting theories and models out there, and many of them are fantastic. (In fact, we’ll deep dive into S.M.A.R.T goals in a few weeks; you can take a peek today if you want some extra credit.) For today, however, let’s keep it really simple.
Depending on where you are in your journey to change your relationship with alcohol, your goals may look really different. For many of us, the only accessible goal is “just don’t drink today,” especially in the early days. That’s really normal and you are not alone if that’s where you land today. For others, a goal may be a longer alcohol-free streak, or mastering a new hobby, or getting the promotion. Let’s start with one and filter it through these parameters:
Make it purposeful
To be sure, we often must set goals around necessities we find uninspiring—hitting targets at work, keeping the house clean, remembering to pay the bills on time—but as we begin to build our goal setting self-efficacy, it’s important to choose a goal with purpose.
When our goal hits at our “why,” or our motivation for change, it becomes much more powerful. We have intrinsic motivation, it’s top of mind, and we can clearly see all of the good it will bring to us when we achieve it.
Write it down and keep it visible
We already know that our RAS, or Reticular Activating System, really loves when we write things down. It unlocks different pathways, solidifies new connections, and just generally makes something “sticky” in our brains.
We also want to keep our goal top of mind by seeing it often. Write it on a sticky note on your computer, doodle it on a bookmark, write it in ABC fridge magnets (I learned this one from personal experience, though my 2-year-old wrecks it often). This visual reminder keeps your RAS focused on your goal, even when you don’t realize it.
By figuring out what challenges and roadblocks you might run into ahead of time, you’re giving yourself a moment to work through them when you’re calm and motivated. Instead of troubleshooting in the moment (when you’re probably not feeling great—potentially frustrated, anxious, and unmotivated), you’ll already know your solution for that particular roadblock and be able to implement it with little stress.
Make an action plan + timeline
When we create an action plan, we begin by breaking down the goal into all of the granular steps that will eventually lead to the end goal. If you want to run a marathon, you need to first buy running shoes, download a training program, maybe invest in some headphones, and map out a route. Then you need to sign up for the race, train for weeks, troubleshoot any blockers along the way, probably buy some more gear, and then cross the finish line on race day. None of these pieces can be skipped or overlooked.