Setting and Achieving Goals – a 3D approachby Traci Johns on 12/29/15
January typically is a time of excitement for a lot of people. Beginning a new year brings a clean slate and a renewed sense of determination to take action on a highly desired goal. People can be excited about beginning a new healthy eating or cardio program, making travel a priority, creating a happier life, or even changing their career. The first dimension, using the tried and true SMART approach to setting goals (make the goal SPECIFIC, MEASUREABLE, ATTAINABLE, REALISTIC, TIME-ORIENTED) is helpful as not knowing exactly where you want to go can inhibit your progress. However, I have been thinking lately about all the people that have the best intentions on January 1st, but have thrown in the towel by February 1st. As a coach, what could I do to help them get back on track? Many years ago I learned about the The Transtheoretical Model (also called the Stages of Change Model), developed by Prochaska and DiClemente in the late 1970s. While it sounds scientific, it is an easily understandable six-stage process that people go through when a change of behavior is desired. It can be a helpful reference tool for anyone wanting to make a change (or wishing and hoping someone else would make a change). I believe bringing the dimension of the Stages of Change into New Year goal setting will help people better prepare for and refocus after those inevitable setbacks.
Below are those stages and what a person might say in a particular stage:
- Pre-contemplation – “I don’t have a problem and I don’t need any help”
- Contemplation – “I really should do something about this, it is affecting my life negatively.”
- Preparation – “How can I realistically tackle this challenge and what will need to happen to be successful?”
- Action – “I am changing – today!”
- Maintenance – “I have coping mechanisms in place and I am able to resist temptation and maintain my new behavior/situation.”
- Termination – “My old way of life is no longer desirable and I don’t even have to think about maintaining my new behavior.”
How can these stages help you? Some things to keep in mind about the stages: You PROGRESS through stages. For example, you can’t go from Stage 1 to Stage 4. (So, if your spouse doesn’t see an issue with their lifestyle, they are not going to make a change, and if they do, it won’t stick). Also, key to be aware of in goal achievement, people can move through these stages forwards and backwards. When you reach goal achievement, setbacks can occur and you may have to double-up the determination and start again at the contemplation and preparation stages. This is a point where people typically give up. It is important to remember this and know it is very normal to go backwards at times. These setbacks are actually very important learning opportunities that help you get to Termination stage.
It is very common also for people who have decided to go after a goal after thinking about it for some time (Contemplation), even going through the SMART process to ensure success, and then immediately declare it publically and jump into action. Skipping the Preparation stage can cut your chances of success as you haven’t thought through the possible challenging situations and how to prepare for those. Most challenging goals require preplanning to think about the steps required for success. I like to think of a challenging goal as a project. Every project needs all the steps and tasks detailed out so one knows what EXACTLY needs to happen for success. Then, once it is detailed out, you can just follow the road map as your mind gets busy with life while achieving your goal.
Another area to consider is that you do what you do currently because it is rewarding to you in some way. You might say “How is being in a miserable job rewarding myself?” On some level, some value of yours is being fed – like a sense of routine, security, or financial security. If you have long wanted to begin a new behavior but haven’t, it is extremely important to ask yourself why. There are specific reasons- we are not willy-nilly creatures. As a coach I have learned it is important to vet out those roadblocks as part of the planning process. You have to be prepared and figure out ways to meet these incredibly important needs that you have, while working on attaining the goal. They ARE important as they have created the life that you have, and cannot be ignored if you want to reach the Termination Stage.
One last dimension, be aware of the Stages of Grief. Each new behavior usually means the loss of some old behavior or a particular lifestyle aspect that you may have truly enjoyed. You will most likely experience the stages of grief for each tiny change you make. No wonder achieving New Year’s goals are tough! For example, getting healthy is a compilation of many behavior changes made consistently over time. Each change could mean a loss of something, kicking off denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and hopefully finally acceptance. With each small change, you may go backward and forward in these stages also. Be aware of what is happening and don’t give up on those small changes, as they are what take you one step closer to the big change that you desire.
Setting and achieving goals can change your life – that is why the process is so desirable. Using the three models discussed in this article as progress measurement tools will help to ensure your success. Always remember when the going gets rough or even if you have failed at moving forward, you are still learning, experiencing, and growing in your goal and that is progress! Don’t give up. Dust yourself off and know that you got this.