Setting goals for oneself is something of a hot topic, training goals, diet goals and personal development.

I can only agree with my experience as a conversational therapist, PT, and area manager. It’s essential to have a clear plan and goal to move forward on, regardless of whether it is professional, applies to exercise or life in general. The plan will give you energy, be your backbone, and help you find focus as it should be based on YOUR situation, vision, and goals. The plan will make your dreams come true and not just stop at thoughts and a longing for something more or better. 

My experience, however, is that plans and lists easily stop at nice words on a piece of paper. We go through life expressing big words in the belief that it is enough to say one thing to become a reality. The job itself, which in itself is development, we skip.                              

A development plan needs to be a living document that we live, breathe and always have in front of us. Writing down what you want, dream about and want to achieve might give you the sense of invincibility, you start on a high and a “let’s do this” mentality; this is ONE thing. There and then, it feels so simple, and you are swept up in the excitement of the new, but then reality hits with obstacles and musts along the way, children who get sick, none of your planned gym sessions happen, or your husband who refuses to buy the food you want to eat and every dinner becomes a battle of wills. Therefore, continuous follow-ups and evaluations of the existing plan are everything. You need to ask yourself the following questions EVERY DAY: 

✅ Are you following the plan, and if not, why? Be honest with yourself. If you’ve had a lazy week, own up to it and have a dialogue with yourself about how much you want to achieve of what you set out to do. There can be a great risk of self-pity and thoughts that you need comfort in some form, perhaps a piece of chocolate or a bag of crisps. That’s how we humans’ function. Don’t buy into your tricks, be tougher on yourself than that. Do not give up at the slightest adversity. Changing your behaviour takes time and can be a process of several years. Some things we must work on for life. 

✅ Is the plan still up to date, or do you need to change anything? Life is changing, and what worked yesterday may not work today. Plus, something’s don’t work in practice. Fine-tuning is often needed over time. Be flexible and adaptable. 

✅ Is the goal still attractive enough? Is it worth the time, effort and sacrifices that are required? A question you must ask yourself when you formulate your plan and set goals: “is it worth the effort”? We get nothing for free in this life, so expect days when you want to scream and give up. At that point, it’s important that the goal is seen as a mirage in front of you, and the plan sits. If you wake up in the middle of the night, you should quote it like a mantra. 

✅ One of my favourite poets, Karin Boye, has coined a famous quote (translated from Swedish) “Sure, there are goals and meaning to our voyage, but it is the journey that is worth the effort”. What it’s saying is that in the end, it is the path to the goal that teaches you important things about yourself and the one that makes the sweetness of victory so deliciously good. When you think back on all the tears, challenging moments, moments of euphoria when you have overcome obstacles along the way and the feeling of slowly approaching what you have set out to achieve. Eventually, you will find yourself there, you’ve run your first mile, been accepted to the course you wanted to do for so long, managed push-ups on your toes, done three pull-ups or reduced your clothes size from a size 16 to 12. Regardless of your goal, it is important that your plan is clear, specific, and grounded in reality. I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth mentioning a model called SMART when it comes to setting goals: 

S – as in specific and nothing airy, such as “I want to feel better” is not specific enough. Break down “feel better” in smaller parts and find “be able to run 5 km without stopping”, “be able to plank for 1 minute” or what is part of YOUR “feel better” which can be several things so that you have short-term goals on the way to your big goal. 

M – as in measurable, which I mentioned under S, to run 5 km is measurable and reduce 10 cm around the waist or pass on the next exam. 

A – as in attractive enough for you to think it’s worth fighting for and making sacrifices. When you’re at the gym early on a Saturday morning, instead of lying in your warm bed, you want the goal to be something attractive that gives you the strength to start swinging those dumbbells. 

R – as in realistic. Consider your weak points that can rustle up excuses to skip the plan. Set a goal that is realistic for you to reach. No dream scenario that requires efforts you cannot possibly raise. Failing is part of the journey, but you should not expose yourself to things that you deep down know from the start are doomed. 

T – as in timed, for otherwise, there is no point in setting goals at all. A goal that runs indefinitely will NOT be met. “I thought I would start running in the future and invest in the mile” is replaced with “I will start running today and run three days a week to be able to run 10 miles in a year” (here is also a date). 

The responsibility is YOURS regardless of WHAT happens. If the conditions change, it is up to you to adapt your plan accordingly, and there is nothing you can use as an excuse. If your partner is not supportive enough or the results delayed, it is up to you to face that reality. Find a friend or colleague who will support you, start keeping a diary of your diet and exercise to see what you can change. YOU own the process and no one else. 

✅ See your development plan the same way you plan your vacation. You don’t leave it to chance thinking, “We’ll see where we end up this year; let’s just get in the car and drive”. Instead, you go online and compare prices and destinations, maybe take help from a travel company, ask friends for recommendations. You do research and talk to the family about what they think. Finally, you book tickets and accommodation, prepare passports and documents, get travel insurance if something happens. You think of every detail. I want you to do the same with your development plan. You have the ability to plan and think both short-term and long-term, so leave nothing to chance here either. After all, it’s YOUR LIFE you’re planning. 

✅ See your development plan as a great way to get to know yourself, your weaknesses and your strengths. It is just as important to be aware of your downfalls as your accomplishments. Please don’t turn a blind eye to attributes that may not be your most charming sides, dare to face them without thinking worse of yourself. This is who I am, and this is what I have to work with. Again – we are all humans with faults and shortcomings. Successful people turn failures into experiences and build their success around their strengths, which, as I said, requires that you’ve gotten to know yourself so you know how you function. Make an inventory on a piece of paper or computer. List the pluses and minuses and find which strengths you want to develop even more and see as valuable assets. You will be amazed at what a gem you are. 

✅ What should a development plan look like, and how should it be formulated? There are as many ways as there are people. What is important to include is: 

• Current situation – where are you right now, and what behaviours and lifestyle patterns do you want to change. 

• Desired location – list your goals with short-term goals that you can cross off the list along the way. Make regular follow-ups to see how they work. 

• WHAT do you need to do to achieve your goals – it can be anything from talking to a coach, getting help from a PT, buying new shoes, borrowing books from the library, shopping on other days, meditating every morning, sleeping more, eating regularly, buy gym cards. Make an inventory! 

• Obstacles on the road – list what you see as possible obstacles and difficulties and have specific strategies in place for how you intend to deal with them. This requires honesty towards yourself. As I said, no excuses, no kid gloves, you have more resources than that. 

• What would it mean for you to achieve your goals – are the effects of a possible change only positive? Or could it mean that people turn against you because of jealousy, you change jobs, divorce, replace your entire wardrobe? Be prepared for both “good and bad” when making a lifestyle change. Choosing one path means opting out of another. 

• Schedule – WHEN should the short-term goals be achieved? WHEN should you evaluate follow up? Not “some time”, set a date and time that fits into your agenda. 

• Personal touch – write on a computer or in a nice notebook, draw, paint, use photographs. Make your development plan personal and appealing to YOU. Let it symbolise your person and put time and energy into designing it to give it value from the start. 

✅ And finally: VISUALISE your goal, see it in front of you, live as if you were already there. Allow yourself to daydream about it for a while every day, read articles, books, watch TV shows that you can relate to your process and development. And do not forget to reward yourself along the way. Celebrate progress and milestones in different ways. Treat yourself to a nice dinner, go to the cinema with friends, buy some new exercise clothes, go for a massage or take a day without doing a single thing. You choose. 

So, what are you waiting for? Bring out the computer or paper and pen. Turn off the mobile phone, close the door and “make a plan”.