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Goal setting: making your dream a reality

Goal setting: making your dream a reality

Some people think that goal setting is straightforward; that it’s easy. Whilst it might seem like everyone else around you is achieving their goals, that’s far from true: an incredible 92% of people don’t achieve their new year goals. But there are tried-and-tested methods which mean you will achieve your goals. We’ve outlined some of them here. 

The Womenclimb vision starts with this:

Womenclimb provides information, skills and opportunities to allow women to define and achieve their own goals in climbing.

As you can see, helping you to define your goals and achieve them is right up there at the top of our purpose. So, today’s article is about bringing together the best evidence about goal setting into a series of actionable things you can do, to make your goals genuinely achievable.

Here goes:

1. Break it down, & again, & again

Ticking off a big goal usually relies on us doing small things every day to get to the big one. Our brains are hardwired to respond to our achievements, but if we pick too many big goals that aren’t easily achievable, then we don’t stick with them, because it isn’t possible to keep having quick wins, and our brain becomes fatigued. 

What to do: Slim down your goals to just one or at most two, then break this down to what you need to achieve each month, to achieve the big goal in the time you have set for yourself. Then break it down even further into daily actions that you will need to complete, to achieve the monthly goals. By achieving these daily tasks, and rewarding yourself (more about rewards later), you will be getting the dopamine hits as you go along, and you will always be getting one step closer to your big goal. 

break it down & again & again & again

2. Make it smart

To be able to break down your goal, you need a SMART goal to start with. Make it: 






Goal: Get better at handstands (or climbing, or something else) 

How SMART is this? Not at all

Goal: Be able to do handstands with good form (or endurance climbing fitness, or skill in XYZ)

Any better? A little.

Goal: Be able to do a handstand away from the wall, holding it for 60 seconds, by July 2020. 


Goal: In four month’s time, to consistently lead any 6a route in the 21 metre indoor wall without falling or needing to ‘take’. 

How’s that? More like it! SMART!

Can you see how these last goals are specific? They are measurable (I will know if this I’ve achieved the goal – I will either be able to hold a handstand independently or not // I will be able to go to the wall and attempt all the 6a routes), achievable (it’s within my capability, even if I can’t climb/handstand like this at this moment), relevant (it’s something I’m interested in), and finally, time-bound (there’s a set date on the goals).

ACTION: Have a go at setting yourself a SMART goal right now. Sometimes, at this stage, you have to go back and adapt your goal, because you realise your original goal isn’t realistic. This often happens when you break the goal down into the actions you need to complete to achieve the goal. 

3. Write it down

Writing down your goal is a good start. What’s even better is writing down how this goal is going to improve your life – thinking about how you will feel, the joy it will bring and all the other positive things that you will get by achieving the goal. Get creative. Write the goal and every single reason achieving this goal is going to be great for you. 

When things get tough, you can go back to your goal and the daily actions and remind yourself why you are doing the daily grind. 

Emily's Climbing Goals

4. Put your goal somewhere visible

Writing your goal is making a commitment to yourself to do the tough things regularly. By keeping this in a visible place, the visual reminder prompts your brain to keep going, because you remember those vivid reasons why you are doing it all. 

Put your goals on your fridge.

5. Schedule it!

You are more likely to do the daily and weekly actions if you write them down and schedule them into your life. Put them into your calendar or diary or set a reminder. Make them part of your life and give your brain the expectation that you have set time aside for this. 

put it in your calendar

6. Don’t rely on willpower – it doesn’t work

If you want to get up early to go to the gym, don’t rely on willpower. What should you do instead? Put things in place to make it as easy as possible to get to the gym. Remove all possible barriers that you can. Here’s how I got up at 6am for 18 months to go to the gym before work: 

prep your kit the night before.

Set out my week’s clothes on Sunday night

Organised my breakfasts, so I had enough protein and was organised in advance

Packed my gym bag the night before (with my breakfast)

Put my gym clothes next to my bed

Filled my water bottle and put it ready

Bought an alarm clock and moved it to the other side of the bedroom

Charged my phone at the other side of the bedroom overnight to avoid distraction

Got an accountability buddy to check my progress

These things helped me to get straight out of bed and be in the car in less than ten minutes. This helped me to sustain a gym habit that I never thought I would have, but which I needed after a knee operation. 

7. Attach to an old habit

Building habits takes time. By attaching a new habit to an old one, you develop new neural pathways that make it easier for your brain. 

Want to build up your antagonistic arm muscles? Rather than going to the gym, perhaps you could do five press-ups every time you go to the toilet during the day. Loo time, press-up time. It’s surprising how many press-ups you can get into a day. 

do it after you've been to the loo.

8. Reward yourself

Rewards come in all shapes and sizes. Here we are talking about the daily small rewards which can boost the dopamine and keep your motivation going. Rewards like: 


A special cup of tea when you’ve done

Saving your morning coffee to after your task

Doing a little dance when you finish

Clapping and congratulating yourself verbally in a fun voice

Giving yourself a coin to put into a special kitty

Going for a walk round the garden

Calling a colleague for a reward chat

These don’t cost money. Often the successful rewards are the ones like doing a dance, which releases the endorphins, because you’ve got moving and achieved your daily task.

We know that it’s a bit of a strange time right now, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be working towards our goals in some way or another. Whether that’s a climbing goal for the future, or if it’s something related to your home or work life.

Let us know in the comments what goal you’re going to be working on. After all, that’s writing it down!

Good luck!

1 Comment
  • Lorna Fewtrell
    April 19, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    Great article with practical advice. Not all of my ‘goals’ are smart but some like ‘get to grips with technology’ motivate me, so I see an opportunity (e.g. zoom meetings) instead of a pain in the bum and something I can’t be bothered to do. I have been quite amazed by the things I have embraced rather than avoided simply by having it as something I think about. All my goals are written in my diary and each month in the ‘plans for the month’ section I set more specific things that I want to achieve (e.g. covering an average of 10km a day under my own steam).

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