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The art of goal setting

By Brian Lehner | July 20, 2016
The art of goal setting

Exercise instructor Brian Lehner in the Sewall Health Living Center at Sharp Coronado Hospital.

"A goal is a dream with a deadline." — Napoleon Hill

What do you get up and work toward each day? Are you on the path to achieving that dream? One of the most important steps to reaching your dreams and aspirations is to set goals.

Some people will go through life with big dreams and aspirations, but never seem to get any closer to reaching their destination because they haven't set the right goals. Often goals are vague and lack guideposts or markers on the path.

Here are five tips for successful goal setting:

1. Goals should be specific and measurable.

A specific and measurable goal will help you know exactly what your outcome will be.

"I want my body to be ready for bikini season" is vague and has no way of measuring success, whereas, "I want to lose 10 pounds of body fat" is a specific and measurable goal. Body fat can be calculated and we can track success with how many pounds of fat were lost. This also gives us motivation when we see that progress is being made.

2. Challenge yourself, but keep it realistic.

Your goals should force you to get out of your comfort zone, at least a little. You don't want to make the goal too challenging, however. If you set a goal that you can't reach, then you will feel let down when you do not achieve it.

However, if the goal is not challenging enough, you will not get the results you are looking for. When we do not get the results we are looking for in a timely manner, we can become discouraged. Using our earlier example, generally, a half to 1 pound of fat loss per week is to be expected.

3. Stay in it for the long haul.

Achieving success usually doesn't happen overnight. Creating mini goals or steps along the way will help you feel the progress that you have made. You should have a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goal. Writing them down helps keep them fresh in your mind. It also helps to have as a reference point for when you start to stray off track.

For example, if you weigh 180 pounds with 25 percent body fat and you want to drop down to 150 pounds with 14 percent body fat in the next year, you would need to lose 24 pounds of fat. That would be 2 pounds per month, which takes time.

4. Determine if yours is an outcome or behavior goal.

When a client visits me and I ask about his or her goal, the response I usually get is an outcome goal.

"I want to be promoted by the end of the year." "I will lose 10 pounds in 12 weeks." "I want to make $100,000 a year." These are all examples of outcome goals.

It is not wrong to have an outcome goal. We need an outcome goal to see where we want to go. The problem is we have no direct control over an outcome-based goal. A behavior goal allows us to control the outcome. By having one to three behavior goals for every outcome goal, we are setting ourselves up for success.

Using our fat loss example, here are three behavior goals:

  1. I will increase my weekly exercise to three days per week of strength and conditioning training.

  2. I will snack on fruits and vegetables when I get a craving for sweets.

  3. I will eat only until full and not stuffed.

We have a direct input when it comes to behavior goals. We want to make sure that they are working toward our outcome goals, whatever they may be.

5. Create accountability.

You should tell someone about your goals, but choosing the correct person is paramount. Tell people who are supportive of your goals - they will be your foundation when things get tough. They will also be there to celebrate when you achieve them. Telling someone your goals will motivate and inspire you to do things you didn't think were possible.

Remember to spend some time thinking about your goals before rushing in headlong to achieve them. Plan and prepare. Be ready to ride out the lows and fly with the highs. A few well-written goals can make the difference between success and mediocrity. Now, get out your pen and paper and write them down.

Brian Lehner is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, and an exercise instructor at the
Sewall Healthy Living Center at Sharp Coronado Hospital.

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