It is January, and you are 4 weeks into the New Year. You are 1 month into whatever resolutions or goals you set for yourself. A month ago, you set out on a journey, or at least on a curious exploration, aspiring to grow and make changes. Maybe your goal was to lose weight, to eat healthier, to learn to cook, to save money, to exercise more, or to find a new job. 28 days provides ample opportunity to get sidetracked in circuitous blog posts, to wonder aimlessly down Internet rabbit holes, and to get blinded by endless news articles. Let’s use this one-month marker as an opportunity to stop, look up, and reevaluate. This is your One Month Goal Check, Gut Check.
I've previously discussed how lessons learned from hiking have helped guide me as an entrepreneur. Again, I draw upon hiking experience to address goals we set. On the trail, taking a break like this would mean finding a dry rock with a decent view. You refuel and rehydrate. You assess where you’re going and use your experience so far on the trail to modify the effort it will take to get there. You run down your checklist both to gain confidence and to learn from experience.
Evaluate your progress by asking yourself 3 questions:
1) The Views, before you and behind you: How can you learn from the past to adjust for the future?
Look ahead. Is your goal still clear? Inclement weather, closed trails, and detours might reroute your hiking goal. Be flexible. Some things lie beyond your control. Mother Nature has an incredible power of reminding that we are not to blame when goals must change. On the trail, it becomes very clear when snow, sleet, or flooded river passings force you to adjust your goals. In real life, it is a bit more muddled, but sickness, pregnancy, and family emergencies can also force us to reevaluate and adjust our goals.
Ask yourself: Does your goal need to change to better suite your current situation? How can you use the experiences of the past to guide your next steps into the future?
Setting goals, we want them to be SMART (Specific, Relevant, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). Does your goal need to adjust in any of these areas to better fit your current situation? Make any adjustments so that you can keep moving in the right direction.
2) Your Equipment: Do you have the right gear for the next leg of the journey?
When taking a break on the trail, you adjust your gear to best fit the conditions. Climbing to altitude, you might add a jacket or a wool cap. You might shed a layer if the heat of the sun is bearing down on your back. If you’ve been told that there are great views ahead or a good chance to see some wildlife, you make sure your camera is hanging at a handy spot and not buried deep in your pack. You make a mental note of anything taking up too much space: Did I really need to bring that color-detailed foliage map? Maybe water tablets weren’t necessary for a hike in the Smoky Mountains. Yet a poncho is almost always a good idea.
Ask yourself: Do you have the right resources to foster success? Is there anything excessive that is merely weighing you down?
Be honest with yourself. Let data help clarify any emotional ties. Hiking on a trail, the weight of 5 extra pounds from an unnecessary guidebook clearly indicates excess baggage. In real life, it becomes murkier to figure out what things are not serving you. Did investing in a personal trainer help you lose weight? Is that new app really motivating you to workout? Do you even like the new recipes from that blogger? Is it paying off to post on Instagram every 2 hours? Is your financial advisor helping you save money? Examine the metrics of the situation (pounds lost, times gone to the gym, new recipes you’ll make again, Instagram followers, money saved) and let the data guide your assessment.
3) Body Check and Pace Check: Are you taking care of yourself to maintain this pace?
When starting a new hike, the excitement of the trail can carry you away. Your heart is pumping, your adrenaline starts churning, and your eagerness sets you off with great enthusiasm. After about 2 hours into it, though, your pace sets in. Now is the time to refuel, rehydrate, and to find a steady rhythm that you can maintain. This is your Maintenance phase.
Ask yourself: Have you have had slip-ups and setbacks but have been able to get past these snags? Have you found creative ways to keep going and stick with your routine?
These questions come from the National Institute of Health, but they apply both on the trail and in daily life. Again, be honest with yourself. An experienced hiker might have dealt with a twisted ankle and a bee sting without any hesitation. A newer explorer might have been shaken by such setbacks. Do you need to slow down? Are you physically able to keep your speed? How can you keep moving forward for another 2 hours? 4 hours? 10 hours?
Again, Mother Nature’s power can be incredibly humbling when faced with sheer physical exhaustion. I remember day 3 of the Incan Trail, where the last 4 hours were nothing but down…down…down. My legs were shaking and my knees were yelping with every landing. My “I’ll be at campsite by 6” goal had to change to “Just get there before dark”. It is much more beneficial to listen to your body and be realistic about what it can maintain. We all have our limitations, and being honest with ourselves will help us focus on the achieving our goal rather than get caught up in the self-judgement.
Sometime this weekend, I encourage you to take a 1 Month Goal Check, Gut Check. Find a clean rock or a quiet space in your home, and run down this checklist. Make notes, document achievements, acknowledge weaknesses. Reflect on what the past month has taught you so that you can continue to move forward. Give yourself this time to stop and breathe. This will make your ultimate view even more delicious
For more help on setting SMART goals and understanding the steps to changing habits, check out these resources:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Performance Development, SMART Goals: http://hrweb.mit.edu/performance-development/goal-setting-developmental-planning/smart-goals
National Institute of Health: Changing Your Habits: Steps to Better Health, http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/diet/changing-habits/Pages/changing-your-habits.aspx
About the Author:
Chef Katie Simmons
Katie is a Personal Chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. Outside of the kitchen, she is a Fitness Instructor for Equinox, with over 13 years experience in the fitness industry, and a blogger for Kuli Kuli Foods. For fun, she loves to travel, with her most recent travel involving 10 days of hiking in the Patagonia of Argentina and Chile.