Thursday, December 18, 2008

Setting goals

For my day job, I help nonprofits with capacity building and organizational development. That means I do a lot of training on strategic planning. A big piece of that is setting goals. After all, you don’t know the “how” unless you know the “for what.”

When it comes to goal setting, I have some standard rules. The first is that the goals need to be concrete. That means they are doable, measurable, and have a time frame. Here’s what I’m talking about.

Undoable New Year’s Resolution
I want to be healthier in 2009.

Doable Resolution

By the end of March, I want to bring my cholesterol down to below 200.

It’s a whole lot easier to keep yourself accountable if you have something where you can measure your progress and know at what point you will check in and see whether you have accomplish your goal or not.

The other advice for goal setting is to set process goals as well as outcome goals. What’s the difference? A process goal is what you do. And outcome goal is what happens after you’ve done it.

Outcome goal
Keep my blood sugar in range for three months

Process goal
Exercise three times a week for half an hour

Why do we need process goals? First, to give yourselves a pat on the back. After all, you are accountable to yourself. It’s a triumph to get things done. The other reason why I recommend setting process goals is that life is weird. Your body is weird. You can exercise for three hours a days and eat nothing but celery and that’s the week you don’t lose a pound. Sometimes your body just rebels and says, “no mas.” It isn’t a failure that you didn’t lose weight that week. You still kept yourself healthy. It’s important to celebrate the strides you make in building good habits not just whether your blood sugar stays low.

Speaking of strides, make teeny weeny goals. It takes a month to set habits. Before that it’s an act of will. You have to will yourself to do it and then after a month, it feels weird NOT doing it. So if you set a process goal, make it two weeks. Then try it for another two weeks. At first it will feel like a big ol’ pain in the ass. But then it just becomes what you do.

I’ve been at this healthy living thing for three months now. Here’s the fruits of my labor:

Process Goals:

Track all of my food intake – DONE!
Eat 3 meals a day at no more than 60 grams of carbs per meal along with two 15 gram snacks – Yes. Except I modified it to have a 30 gram breakfast and a 30 gram late night snack to keep my liver from making more glucose.
Work out three times a week – DONE! Along with doing strength training twice a week.

Outcome Goals:

Maintain normal blood sugar levels for three months – DONE!
Lower cholesterol levels to normal – DONE, except for my LDL which is a teeny bit higher than normal.

1 comment:

Stef said...

This is really great advice. I've been thinking about resolutions lately, and I usually do fall into the trap of something intangible and unmeasurable, like "get healthy." This helps me look ahead to after the holidays, when I'm setting goals for 2009...