Setting goals that stick: 8 tips for 2018

Setting goals should be the first thing you do in 2018.

Climb Mount Mitchell, from the base, in winter? Make it happen in 2018.

We begin a new year with great expectations of the adventures to come: of that section hike of the Appalachian Trail we’ll finally start, of plans to paddle at least once a month, or to hike an especially challenging trail in the mountains. Maybe even to explore abroad. We mean well, and we know we have the whole year to get it done. We’ll get right on that goal … tomorrow.

That’s where you get in trouble: 2017’s tomorrow somehow slipped into … today. Today, we offer some advice on setting goals and how to make sure you don’t find yourself in the same place come 2019.

  1. Choose multiple goals, ideally ones that build on one another. If you want to do five classic mountain hikes, for instance, make a subgoal to hike every week starting now (yes, now, in 20-degree weather). If you wait until warmer weather and the start of the mountain hiking season, you’ll blow the first month or two hiking yourself into shape; squeezing those hikes in after that will be near impossible.
  2. Don’t limit yourself to one goal. Choose goals that are attainable and and one that is ambitious. Meeting attainable goals accomplishes two things: one, you’ve met a goal, and that relieves you of the totally empty feeling of not meeting any goals when the year comes to a close. Plus, meeting one goal, even a simple goal, establishes a habit and makes those bigger goals seem less daunting.
  3. Get it on the calendar. This helps in several ways. One, seeing it on the calendar makes it more real. It also keeps you from scheduling over it: March 30th? I’d love to help you move, but I’m scheduled to hike Shining Rock that weekend. It’s been on the calendar for months! Putting it on the calendar also gives you incentive to train and prepare: Have I reserved a campsite? Did I request the day off from Mr. Dithers? I need to start breaking in those new hiking boots.
  4. Enlist an accomplice. It is so much harder to back out of challenge if you’re committed to doing it with a friend. Besides, it’s someone to train with, someone to share the experience with.
  5. Engage yourself with the goal. If, say, your goal is to section hike a portion of the AT, immerse yourself in that section of the AT. Learn what you can about the section, about everything from its water sources to its history. Get the appropriate guides and maps, seek out trail journals from hikers who have done the section. Join forums where you can pick the brains of folks who have hiked the section. Get to the point where you simply can’t wait to make your goal happen.
  6. Share your goal. This is a big one: be bold and tell friends, family, coworkers about your goal. Think this through first, of course: don’t start boasting about some cockamamie plan to mountain bike every trail in the Pisgah this summer until you’re sure it can actually be done. But once you make the commitment, once you’re done setting goals, share them. Who knows, you may even pick up some good advice.
  7. Don’t limit your goal setting to just this year. Some goals take longer to prep for. Maybe you need to save money, maybe you need to store up vacation days, maybe permits are involved. Start investigating now.
  8. Learn from those who’ve been there. There’s no better way to get a feel for an experience than by talking with someone who’s done it. This is where we come in. Last fall, we launched a series of Pints & Paths presentations by folks who had tackled some of the nation’s top long trails: the Appalachian Trail, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the John Muir and Colorado trails among them. This year, we’re expanding the concept with our Explorer Series, monthly presentations by local explorers who have done some pretty awesome things. We’ll include some more long-trail hikers, we’ll also include some adventures you may have heard of and are intrigued by, but haven’t the faintest idea how to prepare for. The presentations will be in our Raleigh and Chapel Hill shops. Look for details on our GetHiking! Triangle Meetup site.

If you entered 2018 bummed because of an unfilled 2017, don’t make the same mistake again. Start working on a more adventurous 2018.

As in right now.