Everyone has goals.
Whether it’s a long-term goal like saving up to buy a house, or a shorter term goal like pushing that last bit to impress the boss before your performance review, the same principles of goal setting apply.
As do they when you set a fitness or weight loss goal, which so many of us do at the start of each year, the beginning of the month or, for some of us, every Monday morning.
While you know what you want to achieve, and the steps you must take to get there, there’s one element of goal-setting you may not have considered - and, it may be what determines your success!
What’s that factor, you ask?... Mindfulness!
Add mindfulness to your goal-setting plan
Achieving a goal is often thought of as a physical experience. You need to work to save enough money to put a deposit on that apartment you’ve been eyeing or, your need to spend more time designing that presentation to impress management.
When it comes to fitness and weight management, goals are also largely physical. You have to get your butt into the gym and eat specific foods that will benefit your body.
But, what about the mental side of goal-setting?
Being mindful about your goals and the way you approach them mentally can be just as important as what you do physically1,2.
Of course, some people think of mindfulness as something that belongs in a yoga studio or zen garden but, truthfully, it comes into effect in everyday life - even if you don’t realise it. After all, mindfulness is simply a reference to the awareness of your current state.
In goal-setting, mindfulness becomes especially important to create necessary behavioral change3. Are we doing things out of choice or habit? Out of desire or comfort?
For simplicity of explanation, let’s use a weight loss goal as an example of a fitness goal and discuss how mindfulness can help you to achieve it.
Read? Set? Goal!
So, you want to lose a little weight - say, 5kg.
You continue your exercise routine and you follow a strict but healthy diet. You might even surprise yourself at how easy you find it to say no to your mates when they ask you to join them for pizza and a drink. You know what you want to achieve, and you’re sticking to it. You feel proud as you have a cup of herbal tea and a nutrient-packed salad.
These thoughts are important. The feeling of pride and accomplishment toward your choices to be healthy and achieve your fitness goals.
It goes further.
These thoughts and feelings become far more essential to your ability to achieve your goals when, weeks down the line, all you want is to cave in to a cheat day and head out for that pizza and beer, after all.
At this point - when your thoughts begin to wrestle between sticking to your goals and tossing your new routine out the window - your mindset becomes the most important part of reaching your goal.
Being mindful allows you to assess what you really want in life and keep your eye on the prize, rather than caving to poor food and activity choices simply because you’ve been habitually programmed to select those unhealthy options.
Remember, you’ve got that extra 5kg on you for a reason. It’s not just about temporarily hitting the gym harder to shrink your waistline, it’s about changing your mindset and habits so that your daily life supports keeping that weight off, for good.
This long-term shift is what mindfulness gives you. So, let’s discuss how you can be more mindful.
Mindful goal-setting 101
To get started, set yourself a quiet time to sit down, without distraction, and formulate your goal. Write it down in as short, but powerful, way as possible. It can be as simple as ‘weigh 62kg’ for example. Take your time to think about it - clarity is important4 - and make it look good.
You will need to review your goal at least once a day, so keep the note in a place you will see it often. Why? Because repetition is the simplest way to train the brain and break previous habits. The reminder of seeing the goal regularly can help you to stay on track and remain mindful about what it is you really want.
Next, you should set an intent regarding your goal. Intent helps you to understand why you’re setting the goal in the first place. Think of intent in the context of your feelings about the specific goal; you’re more likely to stick to it when it’s for something you want for yourself instead of someone else5,6,7,8.
Take a few minutes every time you review your goal to visualize your accomplishment once you’ve reached your goal. Think about how you will feel, what you will see, and create a picture of the scene of successfully achieving the goal.
The physical elements of goal-setting are, of course, ultimately the most important when it comes to actually achieving the goal. You can’t achieve what you desire if you sit by and simply think about it without taking action.
Mindfulness, however, may be the most significant underlying factor that actually drives physical action. So, in order to get your body in check, you must get your mind in check!
Now, get out there and achieve your goal. Good luck!
- Furtner, M, et al. The mindful self-leader: Investigating the relationships between self-leadership and mindfulness. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal. 2018. 46(3):353-360(8).
- Creswell, J. Mindfulness Interventions. Annual Review of Psychology. 2017. 68;491-516.
- Sohl, et al. Complementary Tools to Empower and Sustain Behavior Change: Motivational Interviewing and Mindfulness. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2015. 10(6):429-436.
- Burke, R., et al. Flourishing in Life, Work and Careers: Individual Wellbeing and Career. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited. 2015. Chapter 10. 193.
- Strick, M., & Papies, K. A Brief Mindfulness Exercise Promotes the Correspondence Between the Implicit Affiliation Motive and Goal Setting. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2017. 43(5):623–637.
- Hofer, J., et al. Effects of motive-goal congruence on well-being in the power domain: Considering goals and values in a German and two Chinese samples. Journal of Research in Personality. 2010. 44:610-620.
- Hall, J. et al. Biopsychological and neural processes of implicit motivation. In O. C. Schultheiss & J. C. Brunstein (Eds.), Implicit motives. Oxford University Press. 2010. 279-307.
- Tang, Y., et al. The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 2015. 16:213-225.