How do you know if you’ve successfully achieved a goal? Is the definition the same for every area of your life or do you have different definitions for different things?
When setting and working toward your goals, I believe it is important to have a clear definition of success for each goal you are working towards. Success can usually be defined in many ways for one goal. I also think it is important to pick the definition (or prioritize them if you have multiple definitions) that is your primary focus.
Here’s an example:
Your goal is to pay off a credit card within the next 12 months.
Success can be defined in several ways:
- Each month you pay the minimum balance plus $100.
- Each month you do NOT use the credit card for new charges.
- Each month you pay the bill on time to avoid late payment charges.
- At the end of 12 months the credit card has a zero balance.
Each of these measures of success can help you along the way to achieving your goal. Each one provides an incremental measure of your progress. Each one can help you keep the momentum going over the course of the 12 months.
One of the challenges with long-term goals is that they can seem sooooo far away that you always think there is time to make up for lost activity toward that goal. Sometimes that is the case, but oftentimes it just makes us give up on achieving that goal.
Remember that achieving goals is an incremental process. Most goals are not accomplished in a day. There are short, mid, or long term activities that take continued focus to reach and then maintain. Setting good definitions of success will help you develop the habits and thinking that will keep you moving toward your goal even if you are not successful every day or every week.
Another example is losing weight. You determine you want to lose 20 pounds in two months. Guidelines on weight loss recommend setting weight loss goals of 1-2 pounds per week or 10 pounds per month. This goal should be doable.
How do you measure success?
Is it simply whether at the end of the two months you have lost (success) or not lost (failure) 20 pounds?
But what if you’ve lost 18 pounds? Does this mean you failed? I don’t think so, do you? If, however, you’ve been using that 20 pounds as your standard for success, you may not be fully satisfied with your accomplishment. That, to me, would be sad. Because losing 18 pounds is not easy. It takes focus, commitment, and a change of behavior. To not celebrate that success (with a non-food reward!) would be a shame.
You can, however, measure your success in different ways.
In this situation, I do not recommend that you focus on the loss of 1.5 to 2 pounds per week. Body weight fluctuates too much based on sodium intake, hydration level, hormone levels, and more. So using this as your goal could be de-motivating if you fail to show that “needed” weight loss each week.
Another way to track success toward this goal would be daily tracking of the food you are eating. Success is accurately tracking everything you eat for 6 or more days a week. Fewer than that may mean you have to refocus on this goal.
When you set a goal, especially a long term goal, don’t forget to consider what progress toward that goal looks like. Just as you defined the goal, you get to define the milestones along the way. These will be your stepping stones; they will keep you motivated and focused on your ultimate success.
If you’d like continued support as you work toward your goals, please join my Facebook group Start Today and Continue Tomorrow.