How to set goals you can actually achieve!

As a personal trainer and wellness coach I can’t count the number of times I have talked to people about their goals – generally fitness and wellness goals, but I have heard hundreds and maybe even thousands of goals from hundreds of people.  A general trend I have observed is that people don’t know how to make goals…or at least goals that will hold any weight when it comes to motivating them to take steps toward achieving what they’d like to accomplish.  I hear the following type of goals all. the. time.

“My goal is to lose weight.”  “I want to tone up.”  “I would like to look like Michelle Obama.”  “I really just want to be more fit.”

Reality – those goals are crap.  Yes, they are a start, but they are crap.  How much weight?  By when?  What does “tone up” mean?  You see these goals aren’t SMART and it is likely that whoever set them will never stick with them.  It the fitness industry (and across the board anywhere where there is goal setting…maybe you’ve used it in your workplace and just haven’t thought to apply it to your life in other ways) we like to set SMART goals.  Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant, and Timely (I wish I could take credit for coming up with that genius acronym, but alas I can’t…someone about twenty years ago came up with it!).  Let’s break it down.

Specific: Your goal needs to be clear and free from ambiguity.  The goal should answer the “W” questions: Who, What, When, Why, Where…so for instance instead of “my goal is to lose weight” someone could write, “my goal is to lose 10 pounds by July 1st so that I can set a good example of a healthy lifestyle for my kids.”

Measurable: There needs to be some way to measure progress toward your goal and to note when it is accomplished.  “To lose weight” does’t meet the criteria to of being measurable because you don’t know when you have accomplished your goal.  To say ten pounds is measurable.

Attainable: The goal can’t be extreme and so far out you cannot reach it – it also helps to answer the question of how you are going to do this.  You don’t have to write it in completely with your goal, but you should have a plan for how you are going to achieve your goal to make sure it is attainable.  Ten pounds in six months is attainable if you have a plan of attack.  So how are you going to do it?

Realistic/Relevant: Both terms are frequently used, but is this goal something you are willing to work toward?  It is worth your energy and effort to go for it and will you?  If not then your goal is not realistic or relevant, but if you are willing to put in to the effort to work toward it (really work toward it) than it is probably realistic.

Timely: Goals can’t last forever, they need a deadline or the motivation will never be there and the date probably shouldn’t be more than six months or sometimes a year out.  Often six to eight week goals are most helpful because motivation starts to wane when you can’t measure specific progress toward your goal for a long time.  You could break down the ten pound weight loss goal into two five pound segments if six months seems daunting.

So there you have it – how to set SMART goals that you are much more likely to stick with – not just for fitness and wellness, but for the new year.  How many resolutions have you made only to break…probably because they weren’t SMART goals.  As I have thought about what I’d like to accomplish in the new year in light of these parameters here are few goals I’ve set for the new year – without going into detail about how I will accomplish them:

1.). 12 races within the 12 months of 2012 so I can improve my fitness level and enjoy competing once again: I want to complete 12 races in the year 2012 – road races, triathlons, duathlons, whatever they may be…12 races this year…an average of one per month although I have the flexibility to do more than one in a month if I know that a particular month will be difficult to find a race that I can do.

2.) Complete an Olympic distance triathlon by the end of August so I can conquer my fear of the swim and prove to myself that I can do it:  That doggone swim has stunted my progress for too long and I refuse to let it hold me back!

3.) In addition to my regular quiet time, set aside one additional hour per week for prayer to deepen my relationship with and dependency on Jesus.

One final word about goals: You need to WRITE THEM DOWN.  The reasons why would take a whole different post…but writing them down makes them much more concrete and real and you’ll be more likely to achieve them.  If you don’t know where to start with goal setting think about setting goals in one or more of the following areas: physical fitness/health, spiritual, mental, emotional, relational.  A list of twenty goals will be daunting, but five or six well written goals will send you on your way to achieving them in the new year!

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