How to set goals to maintain motivation and stay on track

How to set goals maintain motivation stay on track


In our previous post we discussed the high failure rate of individuals who set New Years' resolutions. Why may this be the case? One reason we discussed was setting goals that didn't align with your values. Once we figure out where our values lie, setting goals become a bit easier. That said, there's more to setting goals that keep up motivated to work towards in order to stay on track.

Let's take the value discussed in our previous post about being a healthy person. To recap:

VALUE  Being a healthy person         

GOAL Going jogging twice a week

Sounds good in theory, right? But there are many ways to 'supercharge' this goal to make success all the likelier.

You've probably heard of SMART goal setting. If not, here is a good run down. SMART goals refer to setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant (in that they're aligned with your values), and Time-based.

However, we can benefit from additional strategies when setting these goals to increase our likelihood of success.


Break down the goal into short, medium, and long term goals

Often when a goal seems far away our motivation to stay on track may wane. So if going jogging twice a week for a year seems too far away, and maintaining this goal for half a year equally dampens your motivation then set your sights on getting started and maintaining it for one month.



Understand what really gets you going. If rewarding yourself with a healthy smoothie sounds good in theory but doesn't really get you past the finish line then look for something that means something to you. It could be something simple like chatting with a friend or having a relaxing bath after exercising.



Break down your goals not just to subgoals, but to subgoals that are so small that taking action will be a no-brainer. If the thought of jogging for an hour induces boredom, shift it to half an hour. Still too yawn-inducing? Go for 20 minutes - it's still better than nothing and hopefully you'll gain momentum to push it out to half an hour...and then 40 minutes and finally an hour. Get the picture?


Understand what obstacles may get in the way

So you've set the goal to go jogging twice a week. What are some potential obstacles that may stop you from achieving this goal? Let's consider:

  • Weather: What happens when it's too hot? Too cold? What if it's hay fever season and you can't bear the thought of sneezing the entire time?

  • Light: Will you still go jogging if you start work before the sun is up or finish work after the sun has gone down?  

  • Accountability: If you have paired up with a buddy to go jogging what happens when that buddy can't make it? Will you still go for that jog?

  • Effort: How easy will it be to get to where you usually jog? Will you have your jogging gear or will having to find it be another step that stands in the way of you actioning your intentions?

  • Lack of time: Your day consists of a school drop-off, then rushing to work, working through lunch, rushing to do school pick-up, chauffeuring your kids to their after-school activities, rushing home to make dinner, tidying up, and after all that...who has time to fit jogging in?

  • Inertia: Committed to an early morning jog? When it's cold outside and your bed is nice and warm it can be tempting to hit snooze on the alarm over and over again.

The aim is to minimise the likelihood of obstacles preventing you from actioning the goal. So, this may mean putting your alarm clock away from your bed so that you're forced to get out of bed, packing everything that you need to go jogging (e.g. water bottle, headphones, clothes, shoes, socks) and keeping it in the most convenient place (e.g. by the front door or in the car), jogging indoors if the weather and light conditions don't permit you to do so safely, or breaking down your two jogs per week into four shorter jogs if time is a constraint.


Manage your expectations

Motivation may wax and wane over time. It doesn't mean that you're likely to fail; it just means that it may help to reevaluate your goals or revise your rewards slightly to help you stay on track. 


That's the end of our series of posts on Spring Cleaning Your Life in September. Next month is a super month for mental health, so please check in soon to find out what we will blog about in this area. 


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