Goal Setting: You’re doing it wrong

Every week I talk to a handful of potential clients about their goals. Almost always they are completely vague and non descriptive. “I just want to be active”, “I want to tone up”, or “I want to be healthier”. Goals that look like these are great in theory but there is one main problem. You don’t want to set goals that you’ll measure by saying “well, I’ll know when I get there”. Today my goal is to show you why that is not only ineffective but it is actually counter productive. Then I’ll show you what we can do instead. Ready? Let’s go!

Why Vague Goals Suck!

So you want to “tone up” you know you need to “eat better” and you need to “exercise”. All great things. Here’s the thing, while you might have some idea of what those things mean. They have no real direction associated with them. How often do you need to exercise? What do you mean by “eat better”? Does this mean cut junk foo? What are you supposed to eat in place of this?

This lack of clarity leads to a lack of direction. There is no way to track your progress to know if you are making incremental changes. You will make changes that might not be necessary and may even be too intense. You become discouraged with your lack of perceived progress and eventually you quit.

Many of my clients who start working with us have said “this is the most consistent I’ve ever been in my life”. It’s not a coincidence, it’s a deliberate process that uses your psychology to your own advantage.

Biting off more than you can chew 🙁

When it comes to goal setting sometimes we can be a bit ambitious. We have had clients who come in wanting to workout 5 days a week

  • The thing is they don’t workout at all now.
  • They don’t have their schedule mapped out in a way where they can easily get to the gym.
  • There is no understanding of how much fatigue that will generate.
  • Just because you did it before doesn’t mean you can do it right now (not to say you can’t in the future).

This over zealousness leads to the same discouraging result as the vague goal setting. You don’t go as often as you’d hoped and now you feel bad for missing 2 session a week when while you still hit 3 days.

The Solution

Now, what can we do?

Sure we can make S.M.A.R.T. goals but I feel we can dig in a little bit here.

What is the result you want? To tone up? Great! How will you measure your progress with this goal? Your pant size? Okay, is there anything we can do on a weekly basis that might let us know we are making incremental progress? Pant sizes won’t change every week you know.

You want to exercise. Awesome! How many days? Is that actually realistic given your schedule and lack of clarity surrounding your schedule? Let’s shoot for a goal amount of sessions you could attend with an 80% success rate or greater.

What are common road blocks you are likely to experience? What can we do when everything falls to shit (so to speak)? What’s our contingency plan? How do we get back on track as fast as possible?

What adjustments are we going to make to our diet? Eat less junk and count down on alcohol? Sure, but how are you going to quantify that? What can we focus on adding that might lead to a reduction? Adding more protein or fiber to your diet could leave you fuller longer so you don’t over consume during periods where you find you were “starving” in the past.

These are some of the questions we need to be asking ourselves so that we can have clarity and set realistic expectations. Expectations that are set on long term change, because change takes time. We need a sense of urgency in the moment but a clear long term vision and extreme patience in order to be successful. For little more on goal setting check out this podcast I did with James Macintosh here.

This process might be a bit daunting, but being able to get clarity here is actually an indicator that you are ready to change your life for the better. Once you’ve gone through this process and want to keep the progress going check out this blog on “How to get consistent results”.

My email is always open. If you have any questions about this subject or anything else health/fitness related feel free to email me at [email protected].

Hope this gave you a little more clarity on how to begin to set goals that will actually make you successful. Thanks for reading.

Stay Dope,

Steven Davis (Owner - Davis Fitness Method)
Steven Davis (Owner – Davis Fitness Method)

He has been a Certified Personal Trainer for the past 12 years and still seeks to expand his skill set to better serve his client and community. Steven runs a private training studio in Seattle,Wa., podcasts, blogs, and creates content to help educate others.