Key takeaways
  • Holistic goal setting involves integrating mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects, moving beyond the SMART framework. This approach encourages setting health goals that are not just task-oriented but also deeply connected to personal growth, well-being, and life's purpose
  • Common challenges in health goal-setting include vague goal articulation, external pressures, self-sabotage, limiting beliefs, and lack of emotional connection to goals

In 2024, I find myself lacing up for the London Marathon - a surprising turn of events after stashing my running shoes for the tranquillity of the yoga studio five years ago. This seemingly audacious endeavour unexpectedly crossed my path two months ago, and unlike my previous self, I embraced it with a resounding "Let’s do this!" right on the spot. I dared to dream big and courageously set myself a BHAG - Big Hairy Audacious Goal!

Embarking on a journey toward optimal health is not dissimilar to setting fitness challenges that seem beyond reach, like me running a marathon. From a health coach perspective, envisioning dreams of being healthy, especially when there are current health struggles, does seem a tad audacious and maybe even unrealistic. Though, from my experience, when you allow yourself to audaciously dream big, set yourself big hairy goals, feel the feelings of achieving such a feat, and break it down into small actionable steps, you experience the transformative power of setting such goals.

Setting BHAGs in health is like aiming for the stars. A BHAG in health sets a standard that goes far beyond ordinary expectations. It's about aspiring to achieve something that is significantly challenging and transformative. They propel you out of your comfort zone, challenge your limits, and foster a mindset shift. BHAGs in health encourage you to think beyond quick fixes and short-term gains, focusing instead on sustainable, transformative changes. Whether it's achieving a specific fitness milestone, (like running 42.2km through the streets of London with 50,000 others), overcoming a chronic health issue, or optimising overall well-being, BHAGs provide a roadmap for profound and lasting transformation.

When we talk about goal setting, the general approach is to use the SMART framework -writing goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound. While this is definitely highly effective, and something that I encourage to use, and if we know that setting goals is an important part of realising our success, then how come some of these are never fulfilled?

Common challenges in setting health goals

What happens when we set New Year's resolutions, and 4 weeks later they are forgotten about?

This can happen for a number of reasons. Some of the common obstacles you might face include:

  • Poor articulation (the need for clear, well-defined goals): One of the first stumbling blocks is poorly articulated goals. Vague objectives like 'get fit' or 'eat healthier' lack clarity and direction
  • External Imposition (societal and peer pressure): Often, our health goals are influenced by external factors – societal standards, trends, or even the expectations of those around us
  • Self-sabotage (overcoming internal barriers): Self-sabotage can manifest in various forms – procrastination, negative self-talk, or setting unrealistic goals. It's important to be aware of these tendencies and actively work against them
  • Limiting beliefs and past experience: Our past experiences and the beliefs we hold about ourselves can significantly impact our goal setting. If you’ve tried and failed in the past, it's easy to believe that you can't achieve your goals
  • Lack of emotional investment (connecting with your goals): The goals that resonate with us on an emotional level have a higher chance of success. If you’re not emotionally invested in your goal, it becomes just another task

Overcoming goal-setting challenges is a crucial part of your health journey. By setting clear, personal goals, being aware of self-sabotage, challenging limiting beliefs, and connecting emotionally with your objectives, you lay the groundwork for a successful and sustainable transformation.

And how do we do this?

Holistic goal setting: Aligning mind, body, heart, and soul

Did you know that health is not merely the absence of disease; it's about thriving in every aspect of life. Setting BHAGs in health involves envisioning a life where you not only overcome health challenges but also flourish mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

So if this is the case, then we need to move beyond just writing the goal using the SMART approach and align the goal to all aspects of ourselves - mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. The holistic approach.

Holistic goal setting, which aligns the mind, body, heart, and soul, ensures that all facets of your being harmoniously contribute to your success. Balancing every part of you is something SMART goals alone don't cover. Bringing a holistic approach to your goal setting makes sure you're not just ticking boxes but truly living and enjoying your journey to success.

Your goals should resonate with you on an emotional/spiritual level. Ask yourself why achieving this goal matters to you. Is it to improve your overall health, to feel more confident, or to be able to play with your kids without getting tired? Understanding your 'why' provides motivation and a deeper purpose to your goals. Especially important when we are working towards the big and hairy ones!!

Using the holistic approach, let’s break this down and use my marathon BHAG as an example.

Mind: conscious thought and analysis

The mind plays a pivotal role in setting and achieving goals. It’s where you:

Analyse and strategise: Use your logical thinking to set BHAG’s using the SMART framework mentioned earlier. Break down your overarching goal into smaller, manageable tasks and plan out the steps needed to achieve them.

SMART Goal: It is now 21st April 2024, and I have completed the London Marathon. This makes me feel energetic, motivated and alive!

Small action steps:

  • Buy decent running shoes/gear
  • Download a training plan
  • Get a running buddy

Visualise: Engage in visualisation. Picture yourself achieving the goal – imagine the feelings, the sounds, the environment. It’s not just daydreaming; it’s a practice. This vivid imagery helps solidify your BHAG and prepares the ground for setting actionable goals. Write a  vision statement. This is an energetic statement that vividly describes what success looks, feels, and acts like. The vision is your north star, a guiding light that propels you forward in life.

Example: "I live my life in radiant health, filled with the boundless energy and vitality I need to enjoy life to the fullest".

Identify limiting beliefs: Recognise thoughts that may be holding you back. For example, beliefs like 'running a marathon will never be possible for me’, ‘I’ve tried everything, nothing works for me, I’m destined to be like this’,  need to be acknowledged and then challenged.

Overcome potential blockages: Develop strategies to navigate around mental barriers. This might involve problem-solving techniques or seeking external advice or support.

Blockage: Negative thinking - “I can’t do this”.

Overcome it: recognise the thought and flip it - I can do this. I’ve done it before, I can do it again. Where my mind goes, my body follows.

Heart: Emotional connection

Your emotions are powerful drivers in goal achievement.

Embrace emotions tied to success: Focus on how achieving your goal will make you feel – proud, happy, and confident. These positive emotions can be a great motivator.

Feel the visualisation: Engage in emotional visualisation. Picture not just the achievement of your goal, but also feel the emotions that come with it. This emotional rehearsal can enhance motivation and commitment.

Picture: finish line of marathon - I feel the feelings of accomplishment, exhilaration, proud, happy, alive.

Body: Translating thoughts into actions

Physical action is where your plans and emotions manifest into reality. The doing part, and sometimes, the hardest! This is the part where a health coach may be of benefit.

Humans are very good at doing the same thing over and over again, not so good at making changes and sticking to them - a story for another day!

Behavioural changes: Implement the physical steps needed to achieve your goals. If your goal is to improve fitness, this might involve regular exercise, dietary changes, or establishing a sleep routine.

Check in with your body: Your body is always talking to you. Giving you messages like the little aches and pains, the runny nose, the upset tummy. Stop and listen. Bring some gentle awareness to this miraculous machine that is the human body.

Stop and ask: What do I need to know? What do you need right now?

Consistency and discipline: Develop routines and habits that align with your goals. Your body thrives on consistency, turning these actions into habits.

Routine: exercise clothes ready the night before for early morning run/strength training.

Anchor: a series of strength training exercises linked with my established yoga practice.

Routine: be in bed, lights off, by 10pm - rest and repair body time.

Anchor: prepare for rest by incorporating deep breathing practice directly after brushing teeth.

Soul: Connecting with the deeper ‘why’

The soul aspect brings a deeper meaning to your goals.

Connect with the vision: Ask yourself what the deeper intention behind your goal is. This might be related to personal growth, contributing to others, or aligning with your life's purpose.

Me: personal achievement. Believing in myself that I am able to accomplish something that seems impossible.

Connect with your intention: Regularly remind yourself of this deeper 'why.' It could be through meditation, journaling, or simply reflecting. This connection provides a sense of purpose and can keep you grounded and focused, especially when faced with challenges.

Practice: meditation, creating a vision board,  contemplation. Asking myself, what does my soul need today.

Connect with the goal: Often, our health goals are influenced by external factors – societal standards, trends, or even the expectations of those around us. Aligning your goals with your personal values and desires, rather than external pressures, is essential for long-term success and satisfaction

Ask yourself:  Is this goal really mine, or am I trying to meet someone else's expectations?

When there is alignment with all four aspects of self, your aspirations cease to be mere notions; they become the living, breathing essence of your existence. The symphony of your mind strategising, your heart pulsating with passion, your body moving in purposeful action, and your soul resonating with profound purpose creates a harmonious melody of transformation. Each step forward, fuelled by the resonance of your BHAG, brings you closer to the vibrant, fulfilling life you've envisioned. It's a journey of self-discovery, resilience, and unwavering commitment—a journey where the destination is not merely a point on the map but a state of well-being.

So, what's your next BHAG, and for what purpose?

kelly hamilton health coach wearing caramel dress standing smiling
Kelly Hamilton
As a health coach, Kelly helps patients understand and manage stress, listen to their body’s cues, and create new lifestyle habits that serve wellness.
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Kelly Hamilton
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{ "datePublished": "Feb 01, 2024" }