Goals help us work hard, stay focused and strive for things that may not come easily. They’re helpful in all aspects of our life, from professional to personal. I’m sure you can think of several goals over your lifetime that you’ve set and (hopefully) achieved. Even if you fail in achieving your goal, we learn things like confidence and grit that may actually add fuel to the fire to try harder to achieve it in the future.
According to NYU School of Medicine psychologist Rachel Goodman, Ph.D, “every action and everything we do is for a reason; even if we’re not conscious of it. What’s more, it’s really hard to accomplish things when we don’t have goals or a plan.” It’s also important to remember when setting goals that they are relatively specific and attainable, or else it can become easy to feel overwhelmed and give up. This means making a plan to lose 20 pounds over 6 months rather than deciding, “I’m going to lose weight.”
With the amount of time that it can take to reach a goal, like the months it takes to train for a marathon or the years it can take to perfect a handstand in yoga, your next step once you’ve accomplished a goal can pose another challenge.
Once you’ve finally completed a goal, you may be wondering what to do next and how to keep the momentum going.
Below are some thoughts on what you can do after achieving your goal.
Take time to appreciate your goal
Achieving your goal may leave you with feelings of “what next?” After working toward something for a period of time, not having to put in that same level of work can be jarring to your routine. For example, you may have built your schedule around training for a competition. After you’ve competed, you may need to alter your schedule now that you are no longer putting in those hours training.
Before leaping into another project or goal, make sure to take some time to appreciate the work you’ve dedicated toward your goal and what you’ve accomplished. At the gym where I work out, for example, we consistently follow training plans that are aimed at increasing your strength on certain moves. During the last training cycle, I came close to being able to squat 200 lbs, but failed at 195. I told myself that by the end of the next cycle I wanted to be able to hit 200. I put in the work and by the end of that next cycle, I was squatting 200 lbs.
Rather than be dissatisfied with that number, I appreciated how far I had come from the beginning and gave myself credit for doing the work it took to get there. It might be easy to move on to the next thing, but take time to internalize reaching your goal before jumping to the next one.
Check in with yourself
It can be easy to push forward while working towards your goals and not take the time to appreciate the journey. Once you’ve reached a milestone, stop and check in with yourself. How do you feel after reaching your goal? Do you feel satisfied or like you need to push harder for a different goal? Why do you feel that way?
When we blindly search out goals without knowing the why, it can make reaching them anticlimactic and unfulfilling. During a harder time in my life, I felt like I needed to exercise more in order to become a certain clothing size. I was doing it because I felt like my outside appearance was more important than who I was as a person and it started to make me feel even more depressed the longer it continued. When I reached that goal, I was no happier than I was before I started; in fact, I was the saddest I could remember being for a long time.
Knowing the “why” behind your goals helps you know what to do when you’ve reached them.
For me, my first big fitness goal was to run a half marathon. I trained for three months and was able to run 13.1 miles – something I never thought I would do in my fitness life. It might seem like a natural progression to go from training for a half marathon to a full one, but I had no interest in pushing myself to run 26.2 miles. For some people it’s a lifelong goal, but I’m happy maxing out at 13.1. Once the race was over, I wasn’t sure what I should be doing. I didn’t know if I should keep running or try something different.
Ultimately, I did a little bit of both. I continued to run because I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t training for anything in particular. I went back to the gym and worked on weight training as well so that I could challenge different muscles that weren’t always utilized during runs. I knew that overtraining certain muscle groups can lead to injury and unbalanced development, so I went back to weight training to prevent that from happening. I had always enjoyed challenging myself in that way, but I could have just as easily picked something like yoga, pilates, or any other type of exercise that I knew I enjoyed.
Challenge yourself to try something new but don’t be afraid to continue what you’re doing if you truly enjoy it.