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Goal Setting

What is goal setting?

Goal setting is identifying something to aim for and a plan on how to get there. When there are lots of things you want to do, it can help to focus on the things that matter most to you. Setting a goal and planning how to achieve your goal can help focus your time and your energy towards things that will make a difference.

Why is goal setting important?

How do I pick a goal?

Sometimes choosing a goal is a hard thing to do. We all want to be better and as quickly as possible; however, you might need to take smaller steps to getting there.

Some useful things to think about might be:

  • What is your overall goal? In other words, what would ‘better’ look like to you?

  • Is it realistic to aim straight for the ‘big goal’ or might there need to be some smaller goals first to help you on your way to the ‘bigger’ one? In other words, if your long-term goal is to walk to the shops but you struggle to get out of the chair, perhaps a smaller goal is to look at improving your strength to help you get out of the chair first.

  • Any goal should be challenging but realistic. You don’t want to set a goal that you will achieve straight away, but at the other end of the scale you don’t want to set a goal that you have no chance of achieving. Goals that are too challenging and unrealistic can leave you disheartened and unfulfilled, just like ones that are far too easy.

  • Remember your goal needs to be important to you. Choosing things that are personal to you (and not just someone else’s idea) means you are much more likely to want to do something about it.

  • A lot of people will often go for the easy option of “I want my pain to go away”. It understandable that people may want to choose that as their goal but that is not always easy to achieve, especially if your pain has been with you for some time. Thinking about what you’d like to do within your pain (walk further, lift more, play with the children etc.) often helps set more realistic goals.

The best goals are SMART goals:

Specific – means setting out exactly what will be achieved

Measurable – means deciding how often, how much or for how long

Achievable – this ensures your goal will be realistic

Relevant or Rewarding – make sure your goal will be enjoyable or matters to you

Timed – means when are you going to start

So let’s check...have I got my SMART goal, and what now?

Have a think about:

When will I aim to achieve my goal by?

What really matters to me?

What problems might I encounter and how will I overcome them?

How much will I do / how long will I do it for?

How will I do it / what will I do?

Where will I do it? What do I need?

Here is an example to help you.

“I will walk the children to school in the morning instead of driving. I want to do that by the end of term.”


How and where will I do it?
“I can currently walk 10 minutes before I start to find it hard going. I’ve worked out the best route where the walk is about 10 minutes but there are places to stop and rest. I’ll make sure I give myself a bit more time so I can stop for a rest on the bench on the way there and on the way back.”


How often will I do it?
“Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays initially, and once I can manage the distance I will increase to every day.”


When will I do it?
"I will make sure I’ve got everything ready for the children the night before (lunches/bags packed) and make sure we leave the house 10 minutes earlier than we normally do.”


What problems might come up and what can I do about them?
“It’s a real rush in the morning and we’re normally late leaving, so I need to talk to the children about my plan so they can help. I might be able to talk to my partner/friend as well, as they might be able to help.”

What do I do when I achieve my goal?
When you have achieved your goal, celebrate! We’re often not good at patting ourselves on the back but achieving a goal, no matter how small, will help move you in the right direction.

When your goal becomes easier, you can start to look at increasing the challenge a bit more. Again, it is best to keep thinking SMART, but generally thinking 'more/longer/heavier/more often' are easy ways to progress most goals.


What happens if I do not achieve my goal?
If you are where you want to be with your goals, sometimes going back to look at the goal is a good idea. Was the goal challenging enough? Was it too challenging? Did you stick to your action plan? Try modifying your action plan, thinking in terms of how often, how much, when and what you’re doing. It is important to be kind to yourself and to learn from your experiences. Failure is often one of the best teachers.

For further help with goal setting or just looking at it from a different perspective, visit:

OK, so I think I’ve got my goal, where do I go next?

Although the information on these pages doesn’t have a particular order, you may find looking at our page on ‘Pacing and Activity Management’ next may help you with your action plan.

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