The Problem with Time Bound Goals

The other day I found an old notebook that I took with me to a lecture to take notes. Flicking through my old notes I discovered in the back a list of goals I was aiming to complete by the end of 2012!

The last time I had looked at that piece of paper I had only ticked off one or two on the list of goals, and it was very rewarding to see that I could now tick off another four that I had completed without even realising that I had completed them, and without even referring back to the list.

This got me thinking…

In my profession as a PT we of course put a great emphasis on goal setting – and it IS important. Specifically we put an emphasis on making sure our clients have SMART goals which means they must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound.

I would agree that goals need to be SPECIFIC and I think that this is the main problem – most people are far too vague with their goals. But these days I am reconsidering how important the time bound aspect is.

This is because, to be completely honest – a much greater percent of the time people do NOT achieve their goals within the timeframe they have chosen. Sometimes it’s because they were unrealistic about the timeframe. Sometimes it’s because life got in the way. Life is unpredictable, and goals and their importance can fluctuate over time.

The problem with this is that when people realise they haven’t achieved a goal, such as to lose a certain amount of weight by the end of six months, for example, this can be more detrimental to their health than if they hadn’t put a time frame on it. People say if there is no time frame then no one would put in enough effort which is the reason we need a timeframe. But from what I’ve seen having a time frame isn’t what motivates people or gets people to achieve their goals – what motivates them is independent of time – it is a desire to get healthier, a love and enjoyment for the exercise or a very big life change coming up (.ie. a wedding) that they can focus on. Time alone is not enough of a motivator.

Now of course we all begin with a motivator – a desire that makes us want to achieve a goal. If it’s the desire to stop other people pressuring us who want us to achieve the goal, already we are unlikely to have the level of commitment that is needed to achieve that goal. On the other hand even if the desire comes from within, many times this desire is not STRONG at the beginning of the journey. After all if it’s motivating for you to work towards your goal of losing 20kg so you can be a healthy weight, would you have put that 20kg on in the first place? Often times we do have a strong knowing and a longing to improve our health but if we become so unhealthy in the first place it’s usually because there are many other factors in our live that provide a bigger pull i.e. the satisfaction gained from eating junk food. It is often only once we start out on goal journey using at first a lot of self will and a working on self confidence that we truly discover what will and can motivate us.

When people set out to achieve a goal and do not have a strong force behind them or are in the ‘development’ stage of working on their confidence of achieving that goal, and then they see that they have not managed to achieve their goals by their predetermined time this can act as a huge blow to their existing effort. They may have been exercising regularly all the time but haven’t achieved their goal because they haven’t fixed their diet. Do you think seeing that they haven’t achieved the goal will shock them into changing their diet? Maybe. But emotional reactions aren’t usually like that. Often it will turn the other way with an attitude of ‘why am I even bothering? All this hard work for nothing!?” and so on.

Success breeds success so we should avoid highlighting failures with time bound goals. This is another reason why it’s good to make many small goals rather than one big goal.

So what do we do?

  1. Make specific goals
  2. Make a bunch of small goals (in addition to a bigger goal if you have one)– depending on how achievable they are between 3-5 o4 5-10. You don’t want to be overwhelmed with too many to work on at once.
  3. Review the list often write a reminder in your diary/phone to review the list every week, every fortnight or at the very least and the end of each month
  4. Don’t put a time limit on the goals but ask yourself every time you review the list, what am I doing (daily or weekly) to contribute towards these goals?

Number four is the most crucial step that I have found from my own experience. The reason that I completed those goals was that I never stopped working towards them, event though I forgot to review them. Luckily my job supported that, but if it didn’t that’s where the reviewing the list often would be very important.

The most important thing I have realised is not time, but that we are continuously working towards those goals for as long as they are important to us. What you can do might change, how you get there might be slower than you thought but crawl, walk, or run as long as you are moving forward you are still on the path and getting close and closer to your goals. Let each small success become more motivation, do it right at this will naturally increase, as well as the speed towards which you achieve those goals.

Swadhyaya – the importance of constant self-study


Today I was reading an issue of The Australian Yoga Journal (July 2013) which is filled with many enlightening and inspiring articles on how to live  a healthy, natural energising life.


In one article, entitled “Opening up to Love” by Helen Hawkes, she talked about a term I had not yet come across – Swadhyaya.


“Yoga practitioners are in a constant process of swadhyaya or self-study – the fourth niyama. Any activity that cultivates self-reflective consciousness can be considered swadhyaya – it teachers us to burn out unwanted and self-destructive tendencies…”


Although this specifically seems to mean self -study in ways of a spiritual quest/development I think that self- study and reflection is an important matter through aspects of life to ensure that you  are the best person you can be at any given time, to make life easier for you, and to make life more fulfilling for those around you.


I have always been a self-analyser, self-reflector, self-studier. Constantly I ask myself questions, how do I feel about something? Why did I do something, why didn’t I do something? What path am I on and am I happy with that path? Some people find me crazy to constantly be asking myself these questions and reviewing and analysing things in such detail, but by constantly reflecting on these things I see patterns that I might otherwise have missed, I bring to the for subconscious emotions so that they can be dealt with, I learn from the past. But it self-study isn’t just about asking question or reflecting on events – sometimes it is simply about giving yourself time to calm down, go somewhere quiet, give yourself time to breath and stop thinking about all the things you have to get done, and then in that space, see what comes to mind, what you start thinking about. That is also a form of self-study where you may learn things about yourself that surprise you.

Some people it may be because they feel that it is a waste of time, to take the time in their days to actually self-reflect. Others feel like this puts them in the category of ‘needing help’ (like a psychologist). But this process is something that needs to be intertwined into everyday life, so much so that it becomes natural. I’m not talking about being hard on ourselves or critical of ourselves at every turn,that will of course hinder us but we owe it to ourselves to try to look at things as unbiased as possible, the more we practice trying to reflect on our own behaviour unbiased the better we will become at it and this can be incredibly beneficial in our learning processes.

Keep a diary/journal, blog, meditate, or just give yourself some quite reflection time, even if it is just 5 min a day, reflect in a patient, understanding way, and don’t be harsh on yourself

From the age of about 11 I kept a diary, and still keep a journal. When I have a lot on my mind or significant things happen in my life I write them down and in that process often I discover more about myself, see connections or figure things out. And if I don’t , I still ease some of the weight off my mind knowing that it is written down and if I need to re-reflect on things at a later date it is written down instead of  just buried into my subconscious ready to re-emerge without warning or effect future events without my understanding. Yes I make mistakes but thanks to this constant process of swadhyaya I can see the benefits and learning from every experience so there is virtually nothing I regret in life – which greatly sets me free.

Self-study is also important for you to check that you are not stagnant – everyone should constantly be growing as an ever learning student of life. You should be able to look back on yourself and see positive changes, improvements, or developments/skills etc that you have worked towards, acquired or things you have overcome or understood that make you proud and keep you forever moving forward. If you feel like you are exactly the same person you were a year ago, then you need to be making more changes or bringing new challenges/options into your life.

The reason I wrote this post is because I know far too many people that simply do not want to self-reflect. They think that they know themselves but they don’t allow themselves a pause to reflect on their actions or journeys, they simply throw themselves into constant action and if there are things they are not so proud of or feeling things they can’t understand or say things they regret, rather than reflecting on the matters they would rather pretend they didn’t happen. They build walls and refuse to revisit this giving some excuse like the past is the past and we cannot dwell in it. Self-study is not the same as holding onto the past, if anything it is the opposite. Things happen to us in life so that we may grow and learn from them, but how can we learn if we just keep moving forward without a second beat?  This is not the way to growth or happiness. If you are already into the practice of self-reflection good on you, but if this sounds like something you don’t do enough, just try every day to think about how you went that day. Are you proud of the choices you made, the way you behaved? How are you feeling? Is it the same way you felt the day before? What changes can you make to set yourself in the right mindset for the upcoming day? Don’t get bogged down in this. Even to just write down one note for yourself, such as “I feel good about helping (name) today, I must make an extra effort to find new ways to help or encourage those around me” creates a link in flow of constant swadhyaya!