Beating yourself up because you didn't achieve a goal? Don't.
Let's be clear: taking the initiative to set a goal is always something to be proud of. Setting a goal means you've admitted to yourself that you want more from your life, and you've decided to make a real effort to get there.
However, oftentimes the positivity of setting a goal is destroyed by the guilt, frustration, and even helplessness that comes along when you don't manage to reach it.
We don't need to get upset about not reaching our goals. Instead, we need to set better goals in the first place. Setting the right goal in the beginning is the key to successfully reaching it. But how do we set the right goals?
A Helpful Goal versus a Harmful Goal
A quick litmus test: Think of the last goal you set. Did you write it down on paper?
If you never wrote down your goal, it is pretty much a guarantee that your goal is a harmful goal. That's because harmful goals are vague and undefined.
If you set a goal to "Work out more!", or "Wake up earlier!", what are you actually saying? Until you define "more" and "earlier", your goal is essentially meaningless. This makes it a harmful goal because it will lead to negative feelings of inadequacy when you don't, or can't, achieve it.
Goals are also sometimes harmful because they are too lofty.
Let's say you set a goal to "Get a six pack by June." Sure, this goal is more defined, but it's not necessarily realistic. If your goal is out of reach, you are setting yourself up for failure before you even begin.
Setting Helpful Goals
On the flip side, helpful goals are defined, realistic, and measurable. They are also more action-oriented versus outcome-oriented, and make you feel empowered, accomplished, and successful.
"Do 15 crunches every morning for two months" is a helpful goal. It is defined (2 months), measurable (15 every morning) and realistic (15 crunches is possible and plausible.)
This goal is also action-oriented, meaning the focus is on making a daily change instead of on an eventual outcome. Who knows if or when your stomach muscles will form a six pack? It's better to focus on action steps that are in your control instead of an arbitrary end result.
Ultimately, goals are achieved little by little, everyday. Next time you want to make a change, grab a piece of paper, and write out a few measurable, well-defined, realistic, and action-oriented goals that will motivate and empower you to reach your full potential. I guarantee you will see more results, and you'll feel better about yourself in the process.