If you are not goal setting or taking the time to actually write down specific goals within a time frame, you are seriously hindering your ability to actually achieve what you set out to do. Something magical happens in your head when you organize your thoughts and have to put it down on paper. Don’t worry, you are not alone. It is believed that 80% of Americans don’t have goals. It’s unfortunate because people who write out their goals on average earn nine times as much over their lifetime compared to those who don’t and are more likely to achieve what they set out to do. Next, I’ll discuss a few quick points to help you write effective goals that will lead to results.
First off, before you write anything down make sure that the goal you have is your own personal goal of importance to you and not anyone else. If your goal isn’t personal or of high importance, the chance of you actually achieving it is slim to none and probably will not happen. Start out by asking yourself a very simple one word question: why? This might be difficult to answer, but it is paramount that you understand why you want to achieve your goal. Once you understand why it’s important, you will feel a greater sense of purpose and focus.
The next step involves using SMART goals:
Instead of saying, “I want to lose weight,” which is vague and generic, try saying, “I want to lose 10 pounds. in 5 weeks.” If we look at the SMART goal acronym, our goal is in alignment. It is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and, lastly, we have a time frame for when we will reach the goal. That is the easy part.
Now that we have our SMART goal set, we can move on to the next step, which will be to identify any barriers that could hinder your performance. A barrier can be as simple as having to go to a cookout or a party that could tempt you to indulge or overeat on foods that will hinder your progress. Since you only have 5 weeks to reach your target weight, every day counts if you are truly committed to your goal. So you will then need to be creative and brainstorm how you will respond to that environment. You could even take it a step further and use a technique called mental imagery or mental rehearsal. All you need to do is take yourself through a play-by-play in your head of what will happen when you are at that cookout. Use lots of vivid details so you can smell the foods and hear the voices of your friends pressuring you to take just one bite. Play out how you will respond to the temptation by selecting lots of vegetables and lean protein.
Simply having your goals on paper is not enough; it’s like a dream and it’s not real. To reach your goals, you need to behave appropriately. Write out a variety of specific behaviors that you will complete weekly to help you achieve your goal. For example, I will engage in 30 minutes of vigorous cardio two times per week, I will strength train three times per week, and I will prepare five meals ahead of time over the weekend because I know I will not want to do it after a long day of work. If you behave accordingly and focus on the process, you won’t even need to step on the scale to check if you’re losing weight because you will be. On the other hand, if you haven’t taken the right actions, don’t even think about stepping on the scale because you’ll only be disappointed. You can’t expect results without effort and sacrifice.
Lastly, it’s all about accountability. You will want to share your goals with a couple of close friends that you trust. In addition, there are some further strategies to keep you on task over the next few weeks until you reach your goal. I recommend that you write your goals on an index card and keep it with you or visible at all times to keep you focused. Reviewing your goals daily, or at least weekly, should be a high-priority task on your to-do list. At the end of the day, journaling should be the last thing you do after brushing your teeth. Reflect on the victories and struggles that you may have faced throughout the day. Similar to the way you ended your night, you will start your day by writing down what you will complete to bring you one step closer to your goal.
There are certainly a lot of steps to this process, but that’s why it’s called bulletproof goal setting. If you are careful to commit to the steps highlighted in this article, you will have a clear picture of where you are going and the necessary tools to get you there. Reaching your goals will not be an easy task, but I believe you are worth every second, penny, and drop of sweat to get you there. These steps can be applied to any goal that you may have. If the goal is important enough to you, you will do whatever it takes to get there.
Thiago Santos is a personal trainer at Fitness Together in Lincoln, RI. Thiago has bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island in Kinesiology and has been training at Fitness Together since 2011. He is also certified through ACSM. Thiago has worked with a diverse clientele and has a passion for helping others.