There is no lack of evidence when it comes to the positive effects of setting goals. For most of us, the importance of goal setting as been drilled into us from a young age through the standard educations system. I remember my 7th grade agenda had a little section for me to set goals in. If I did set a goal, it was just me writing what I would like to happen on a piece of paper and forgetting about it. This trend continued well into my 20’s. Writing a dream down, with every ounce of ambition I possessed driving me, just to get caught up with life and forget what had completely consumed me a week prior. The problem was, I didn't know how to set goals for success.
In my experience, health and fitness is the most common area of a person’s life for them to set a goal. Whether it’s to lose a few pounds, to become healthier or more fit, to drink more water, or eat more vegetables. These goals seem to have a very high failure rate which deters us from wanting to set more goals. Who wants to fail like last time? This failure cycle directly contributes to the stigma of setting a New Years Resolution which is just a goal set at a specific time of the year and given fancy branding.
So why do we fail? There are a few reasons. The first one I usually see is that the goal is not specific. “I want to lose a few pounds” – How many is a few? Is it 10lbs, 20lbs, 60lbs? Is there an old version of you that you are trying to get back to? A pair of jeans sitting in your closet waiting for you to fit them again? “I want to become more fit” – What is your idea of fit? Do you want to run a marathon? Be able to do chin ups? Get up the stairs without getting winded? When you set a goal, ask yourself why as many times as you need to in order to really get down to the nitty gritty of what it is you are trying to achieve.
The next thing I see is no means to measure success. “I want to squat heavier” – How much weight do you want to add for you to claim success? “I want to run faster” – how much faster? How much time would you like to shave off your kilometer or your mile? If you can’t measure your success how will you ever know you’ve achieved it? This doesn’t mean its all over either. Success means it’s time to celebrate and then set a new one so that you always have something to strive for.
Deadlines! You need a deadline. Even my fellow procrastinators out there, you probably need it more. How else are you going to know when you only have a week left? “I can lose 30lbs before my vacation next week, right? Just need to do a water fast followed by a juice cleanse while doing a body wrap and killing myself with cardio.” FYI, at the end of this article you should probably set a proper goal about procrastinating because none of that crap is going to help you but that’s a topic for another article. The most important thing to remember with a deadline it to make it a reasonable one.
You want to set yourself up for success without giving yourself room to put your goal on the back burner. If you aren’t sure what a reasonable time frame is, ask someone that does. Find a Personal Trainer at your gym and tell them you are setting a goal to lose 30lbs and ask what they think is a reasonable time frame. They will probably ask you some follow up questions, but I guarantee they will not charge you for the answer and they likely have a lot of experience on the topic.
The final thing I see way too much of is people not rewarding themselves! You’ve worked hard, celebrate that. Set your reward when you set your goal. It doesn’t have to be huge it just has to be something to work for. It could be dinner and a movie, a new pair of jeans, new headphones, or as big as a vacation. Make it within your means but don’t leave it out of the equation. Rewarding yourself is an important step for your mind and your mind is what’s really driving your body to do all these incredible things.
Stepping stone goals are another thing I love. Celebrate your journey! If you have lost the first 10lbs on your way to a 40lb goal, get an ice cream cone. I promise it will not put that 10lbs back and you have earned it. That’s 35,000 calories you’ve burned off! 35,000 with a coma! Get the extra sprinkles and do a little dance because it’s going to push you to the next stepping stone.
Finally, tell us your goals! We would love to hear what you are working towards or what you have achieved. What was your system to get you there? How did you reward yourself? Also, if you would like us to expand on how to set goals for success leave a comment. This is a big topic and if you are still struggling, we want to fix it! Remember, goals are just dreams with deadlines.