Achieving health and fitness goals is not as simple as saying you want to lose weight or get fit. There are proven ways to properly set realistic goals AND actually reach them. Follow these steps to help you formulate the best goals and get you on the right track for achieving them.
#1 Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
Using this acronym will help you write out your goals.
You need to be clear on exactly what you want to achieve. Saying you want to get more healthy or lose weight is too vague. Getting specific with numbers is crucial. For example:
For body shape:
“I want to lose 10 pounds in the next 3 months”
“I will lose 4% body fat in the next 4 months”
“I want to be able to do 10 pushups on my toes by Christmas”
“I want to do an unassisted pistol squat by next September”
“I want to run a 10K race by spring”
“I want to reduce by sugar intake to 25 grams per day”
“I want to make homemade healthy dinners 5 nights per week.”
How will you track your progress? When you are specific with your goals it is much easier to measure your improvements and know if you are on track. It is helpful to take your long-term goals and break them down into smaller pieces. For instance, take your 3 month goals and set up smaller weekly and daily goals with action steps to help you move in the right direction.
If you can not envision yourself achieving a goal then it is not the right goal for you. There are things that people would like to achieve but if they can not actually SEE themselves accomplishing it then they will never be able to achieve it. Make it do-able.
I also find that it is hard for people to know what is an achievable fitness goal. This is where your Fitness Trainer can help. For instance, losing 1-2 pounds a week is a realistic and achievable goal. Losing 1% body fat per month is another realistic goal. You can ask a Trainer to help you chose an achievable goal.
Is this goal important to you? How will your life change if you achieve this goal? Make sure this goal is something YOU want and not something that you think you want based on external pressures from people around you. You need to have a big reason WHY you are bothering to go after this goal. Be clear on what you want but be even clearer on WHY (more on this at #3). Otherwise you will quit when things get tough.
There needs to be an end point. Once you have decided on your goal, you need to set a realistic end date and work towards that goal in achievable steps.
#2 Be accountable
I can really speak from experience on this one. I have set many goals. Written them on paper, looked at them regularly, had a plan but never told anyone and guess what? I failed. I feared the feeling of embarrassment if I shared my goal and never hit them. But here’s the thing, sharing your goal makes you accountable. Sharing your goals allows your biggest fans to be your cheerleaders. Sharing your goals makes you keep going when you want to give up.
If you keep your goals trapped inside yourself expecting to be internally motivated and inspired, I can tell you this – you will fail. There are so many obstacles and bumps on the road to your success. If no one knows what you are trying to achieve, it’s so easy to give up. Finding the right people (a friend, an accountability partner, a coach, a trainer) to fuel your fire, keep you inspired and help you stay focused is so important.
#3 Find your WHY
You will need to dig deep and find out WHY this goal is important to you. This WHY will drive you when you feel like giving up. This WHY is something that is deeply emotional for you. You just need to figure it out. Here is a technique to discover your biggest motivators and your WHY:
- Start out saying your goal – for example: “I will lose 5 pounds in one month”
- Then ask yourself “What will that do for me?” and answer that question. For example: “My clothes will fit better.”
- Then ask yourself again “What will THAT do for me?” and answer that question. For example: “I will feel better about myself”
- And keep asking this same question “What will that do for me?” until you reach the final answer. THE REAL ANSWER. You will discover what is really important to you. You will discover your WHY and the deeper, emotional reasons you want to achieve this goal. This is what you need to know in order to be successful.
#4 Fuel your FIRE, Everyday
You will not wake up every morning and feel motivated. There are challenges and roadblocks that will constantly knock you down. You will need daily inspiration to keep you fired up for your goal. Here are some suggestions:
1) Positive self-talk. We all have limiting beliefs that are stopping us from achieving our goals. You may be surprised how negatively you talk to yourself when you really listen. Examine your self talk and try saying positive affirmations out loud everyday. You can post positive notes on your bathroom mirror or somewhere that you will see them multiple times a day.
2) Visualize yourself having already achieving your goals. What will your life look like after you have arrived at your destination? See yourself enjoying your success.
3) Look at motivating pictures to stay motivated and inspired. Use photos or quotes. Post them where you will see them daily.
4) Have a cheerleader, a coach or an accountability partner and check in regularly. Choose someone who will pick you up with you fall. Someone who believes you can do it.
5) Listen to inspiring music or watch motivational videos or read powerful books. Anything that sparks the fire within you to keep on keeping on.
#5 Identify your obstacles and make a plan to overcome them
There will always be challenges on your way to success. It isn’t going to be easy. Take a look at what is stopping you from achieving your goals right now. What are your roadblocks? Do you have bad habits or sabotaging behaviours that you need to change?
For instance, do you sit on the couch watching TV and snack on junk food? This is bad habit, an obstacle that needs to be overcome. But how? Our habits become ingrained and so hard to break. They are neural pathways that become stronger with repetition. Think of a rut on a road that your car tire gets trapped in. That’s what happens with our habits. Getting out of that rut requires a new pathway. And making a new rut in the road isn’t easy!
One way to make a new neural pathway (and habit) is to use visualization. For example, if you are a late night TV snacker (I’m talking to myself here!), imagine yourself sitting on the couch watching TV. Visualize yourself getting the munchies for a fattening snack. Instead of eating that sabotaging food choose a different response. Visualize yourself getting up off the couch, and making a green tea or grabbing a book or going for a walk or snacking on veggies instead. Choose a behaviour that you can substitute and actually visualize yourself acting it out. This is the beginning of changing a negative neural pathway into a positive one.
Not all obstacles are bad habits. Some are just poor planning and bad time management. For example, if you haven’t taken the time to pack a healthy lunch you may be stuck for good options and only have unhealthy choices available. We need to be prepared and plan ahead. That being said, I just want to make one side note and say “sh*t happens”. Life isn’t always a bowl of cherries. You can NOT beat yourself up for being human. Tell yourself it’s ok and move on.
#6 Take Action, Everyday
Small actions are cumulative. I heard somewhere that people overestimate what they can achieve in a day and underestimate what they can achieve in a lifetime. Do not assume that small, daily acts towards your goals are not going to add up – they are!! Staying consistent is the key. Taking actions towards your goals everyday will help you get to where you want to go and help you stay focused.
I hope that helps you on your road to success. Happy goal-setting!