Dream with a Deadline

Creating a Plan to Set and Achieve Your Goals

By Cindy Williams
[Classroom to Client]

How successful are you at reaching your goals? Pause and take a moment of truth. Think of (or better yet, write down) the last 2–3 goals you set for yourself, be they physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, or financial, and ask yourself if any or all were met. If any weren’t met, how close did you get and why didn’t you get there? What were your obstacles, and what was your response when each obstacle appeared?
The happiest and most successful people set goals. They don’t casually set them in their minds—they create an action plan outlining what steps need to be taken to make their goals a reality. They are focused, clear, and self-directed. When reflecting on past and/or present goals that weren’t met, did you take the time to create a plan? What was missing in your goal setting that may have helped you succeed?

Characteristics of Positive Goals
In order for a goal to be met, it must begin with a few characteristics.

Independently Chosen
Your goal must be your own. If someone else tells you what goal to set, it will likely not be truly personal to you, in which case you are less likely to achieve it. Determine what matters to you and why.

Positive and Motivating
Words carry power. When determining your goals, choose the words you use to describe your goals as positive, clear statements. Instead of saying, “I hope to see 15 clients a week instead of eight,” say, “I am building and maintaining a consistent schedule of 15 massage clients per week.”

While it’s important to challenge yourself, goals that are too big or unrealistic can cause you to feel overwhelmed or defeated before you even get started. For example, if you recently graduated or returned to the profession after a move or a break, setting a goal of 20 clients per week right out of the gate can cause you to feel discouraged if it doesn’t happen immediately. It can also be detrimental to your physical health if you go from a few sessions to 20 in a week too quickly. Another example would be setting a goal of exercising every day for an hour to build strength and longevity for your practice, or for quick weight loss. Immediately adding an hour to your schedule every single day could be too much, too fast, and possibly cause mental, emotional, and physical frustration.

Measurable, Specific, Time-Bound
Being realistic involves breaking big goals down into bite-size chunks. Long-term goals are more likely achieved when they are first broken into short-term and intermediate goals. Using the previous example, set an initial goal of increasing from eight to 12 consistent, weekly clients within two months and create daily action items that will get you to that level of the goal. Then, reassess at that benchmark, celebrate your accomplishment, and move to the next level. Or, create a plan to exercise 30 minutes, four days a week, for one month, then reassess, celebrate, and up-level. Celebrating your smaller accomplishments along the way will give you the motivation to keep going toward the big goal!

Types of Goals
As touched on earlier, consider how setting a goal in one area of your life might affect other areas. Take a big-picture approach. Think of how one type of goal can be supported by other types of life goals. When you set forth to meet financial/work-related goals, for example, you will need personal resilience when obstacles appear (and obstacles will appear). Resilience in the face of obstacles primarily arises from strong mental, emotional, and spiritual health, which can affect and be affected by physical health. Therefore, it’s important to look at all these areas and set goals to support each one. A categorized list might look like this:

Physical Health Goals
Physical health goals might include planning clear and consistent actions like exercise, healthful diet, regular sleeping and waking times, self-care during and between massage sessions (such as stretching and hydrating), and receiving bodywork.

Spiritual Health Goals
Spiritual goals might include incorporating meditation, prayer, worship services, community service, or a combination of soulful approaches that personally connect you to your higher power on a daily basis.

Mental and Emotional Health Goals
Mental and emotional health goals might include talking to a counselor, creating affirmations specific to potential life obstacles, taking a class or reading a book about the power of thoughts, developing skills to identify and transform negative self-talk, etc. Thoughts, feelings, and emotions all play off each other and can be the key to unmet goals of any kind.

Family and Social Goals
Family and social goals generally include scheduled time with your children, your parents, your friends, and/or your spouse. Humans are social creatures and must feel connected to others to truly thrive. Plus, you need to have fun, be relaxed, and feel happy if you are going to stay on track with other, possibly more difficult, types of goals. Positive relationships and ample play time create a sense of freedom when you might feel bogged down with tasks. It’s important to not leave this part out!

Financial/Work-Related Goals
Financial goals typically include workload, income, and budgeting. Money is often one of life’s greatest stressors, so seeing a financial planner, getting on a budget, and feeling positive about your balance of workload to income can be a great stress reducer. A financial planner is an excellent resource for planning and accountability. Work-related goals aren’t just financial, though. You may have a dream of someday owning a massage clinic that employs multiple therapists. Going from being an independent massage therapist to larger business owner is multifaceted, so having a plan for reaching this goal, in addition to maintaining your success once you get there, is essential.

Out of Your Head, Into the World
There are websites aplenty that offer worksheets for plotting out one’s goals. If you are serious about designing a life you love through setting and achieving goals, it’s best to get the plan out of your head and on to paper. Writing out a plan transforms a goal from a vision into an actual occurrence in the material world. Posting the plan where you can see it daily and check off action items keeps you on track and creates momentum you might not otherwise have with a plan that’s only in your mind.  
While writing your plan, foresee obstacles. The more you practice the skill of goal-setting, your patterns will emerge and you’ll be able to proactively plan for those typical, individual challenges that stand in your way of greatness. If your goal is to eat healthy foods, your daily plan might include slowly removing processed foods and sugar, and adding in more vegetables, fruits, and water. You might plot out a weekly food plan, and shop and prepare food ahead of time for ease during a busy week.
Even with the best-laid plans, you may know from previous experience that your mind will say, “I’ve done so good for three days, I think I’ll veer from the plan and eat some chili-cheese fries. One little cheat won’t hurt anything.” Yet, in the past, veering from the plan like this has caused you to lose track altogether. Creating affirmations that you memorize or post, such as, “I love myself enough to eat only nutrient-rich foods that give me vitality!” will support you in a kind, gentle, and powerful way.

From Dream to Reality
You are powerful and full of possibility. Yet, realizing your dreams can sometimes seem far out of reach. It doesn’t have to be. Choose something that deeply matters to you, be realistic about what you can do to move toward it in the short-term, commit to at least one daily action in each goal category that supports your dream, plot it out on paper, and foresee the obstacles. Then, relish in the success that manifests from your efforts! After all, as American explorer Jeff Rich said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Since 2000, Cindy Williams, LMT, has been actively involved in the massage profession as a practitioner, school administrator, instructor, curriculum developer, and mentor. She maintains a private practice as a massage and yoga instructor. Contact her at cynthialynn@massagetherapy.com.