April 16, 2020
Speaking on behalf of extroverts up and down the country, physical distancing is hard but life inside a bubble is HARDER. To distract myself, I’ve set myself a few goals around learning new skills I can tackle at home that I‘ve previously had little interest in, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?! The key has been all about self-discipline.
Goal setting has three underlying drivers: consistency of behaviour, appointment setting and accountability to one’s self.
Consistency of behaviour is actually just mini goal setting in disguise. Society has taught us that the best goals are singular and come in an oversized parcel; to either be grappled with until we succeed despite the odds, or until we give up in a miserable state of disappointment. There’s no better demonstration of this behaviour than in the gym, where goals all numbers based – kilos lost, muscle mass to body fat ratio, resting heart rate – and so it goes on. It can be incredibly demotivating when you don’t see the progress you think you should. Make your goals about consistency, rather, and suddenly the focus is on smaller more achievable short-term goals. For example:Instead of thinking "I want to squat 100 kgs" think "I want to do 5 sets of 10 bodyweight squats 3 times a week"; or instead of "I want to run 5-minute kilometres" think "I will run for half an hour every second day".
Refocus your goals on the behaviour you need to regularly exhibit to achieve the end game. In doing so, you will divert your focus to the one area that will actually get you to where you want to be - place practice. Because, as they say, practice makes permanent.
Book these goals into your day as you would an appointment. Book bite-sized slots in your calendar and think of this like you would an external appointment: make sure you’re on time and without other distractions. Even 15-minutes a day will be enough to see progress and the routine is a great sense of achievement.
And then hold yourself accountable with a check list. There’s nothing more satisfying than checking an item off your list. Keep track of your goal by writing down dates practiced, so you can see your effort visually. Keeping these lists in places that you regularly see them will remind you to keep focused, like next to your bathroom mirror. Those 30 seconds used to wash my hands is a great time to review what new Spanish words I have learnt this week!Finally, celebrate your achievements early and often. The human brain is wired to recall negative events or feelings more readily than positive ones. This negativity bias can discourage you from pursing your goals when the learning curve starts to get steeper. Don’t spend time replaying mistakes you’ve made. Reward yourself for taking a step forward, rather than berating yourself for the leaps you’re yet to take.
I’m a big fan of using Post-Its; a failing of qualitative researchers everywhere! Anytime something positive happens towards your goal, write yourself a note about it. This can be as small as feeling good after getting a workout in, to something more monumental like learning a brand-new song on guitar. If you can put these in a highly visible place, you will be surrounded with your achievements of the mini goals that all add up to eventually achieving the ultimate goal.
Now go out there and smash it! Just remember – be kind; to others and yourself. We’ll all get there together.