Some thoughts on goal-setting. (It’s that time of year). 

I used to have my Jawbone UP (like a Fitbit) set to the goal of doing 8,000 steps a day. That’s not all that many more steps than I would do just pottering about on a normal day and some days I would walk that many steps without trying. It seemed like an attainable goal without requiring much behaviour change on my part. 

I failed to hit that goal most days of the week. Every week. 

A couple of months ago I made a change, and pushed my goal higher, to the 10,000 steps that is recommended for basic health and fitness. 

The thing is, I would never hit 10,000 steps by accident on a normal day. If I wanted to hit this target I would have to set out specifically to walk 

So that’s what I did.

For the last couple of months I’ve built a daily walk into my day, and other than when extreme events have intervened (not weather events, I walk come rain or shine) I have hit the 10,000 every day. Go me! 

What was it about having a more demanding goal that made it easier to achieve? 

I think it was because it forced me to make a really conscious and deliberate change to my routine, which I have now repeated often enough for it to become a proper habit. Before, when I was often nearly at the goal, I told myself I’d probably make it without much extra effort, and if I missed it by a few hundred steps, it didn’t matter very much. That meant that I didn’t really try very hard and if I failed I already had my get-out clause: “it’s no biggie”. Now I know that if I want to hit the goal, a walk is a must, and if I miss the goal it’s because I made a conscious choice not to try. I don’t want to consciously not try – that would be a rubbish way to go after a goal – so that gives me the extra motivation I need to steer myself away from the comfy sofa and to put my shoes on again to notch up a couple of thousand extra steps. 

I now know a whole range of circular walks that get me from 1,000 to 7,000 steps on the clock, and I’ve walked many of them with my children, who seem happy to come along. (This has been a pleasant surprise). 

It’s caused me to reflect that a more challenging goal may perversely be easier to achieve because it requires a significant, observable change in behaviour, and that can actually be more motivating than going after “marginal gains”. 

Works for me anyway. Happy walking. 


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