The Seven Stages of Goal Setting
Goal setting is an important part of health and fitness and can help keep you motivated. Exercising without a goal is like going on a journey without a map–you don’t know where you are going or why. If you are trying to lose weight, get fitter, improve your health or build muscle, setting a goal will make your actions more focused and improve your exercise adherence. When setting goals, use the acronym SMARTER, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Recorded, Time bound, Enjoyable and Revisited, to make your goals more structured.
What exactly do you want to achieve? Rather than generic goals such as feeling fitter, having more energy, or losing weight, set goals which are specific. For example, if you want to lose weight what you would ideally like to weigh. A specific fitness goal could be a distance you want to be able to run or a weight you’d like to be able to lift. Specific goals will help you to focus you efforts.
Make your goals measureable. Fitness goals could be a distance you want to be able to run whereas a weight goal could be the number of pounds you’d like to lose. Health goals could include measures of blood pressure, cholesterol levels or blood glucose. Whatever your goal, try to apply a numerical value to it so you can measure your progress.
A non-runner setting the goal of running a marathon in 6 weeks time, whilst being specific and measureable, is not very realistic. Make sure that your goals are challenging but not impossible. Set yourself up for success by making sure your goals achievable. Enhance the achievability of your goals by trying to predict potential obstacles and devise methods to overcome them. For example, if you can’t make it to the gym what exercise can you do instead? If you forget to take your lunch to work, what healthy food can you purchase as a replacement?
Write you goals down. You don’t have to share them but doing so can aid in motivation. Keep referring to your goals whenever your motivation starts to diminish to remind yourself what you are working towards. You may find it beneficial to stick your nutritional goals to your refrigerator or your exercise goals to your exercise bike. Taking before and after pictures can also be a motivational way to record your progress.
Set a date by which you would like to achieve your goal. By applying a deadline, you will be more focused. Working towards a goal without a definite deadline can reduce your commitment and motivation as there will be no urgency. However, make sure your timeframe is realistic and achievable.
Some sacrifice will be necessary in pursuit of your goals but if you find the process wholly unpleasant, your chances of success will be significantly reduced. For example if your new diet consists of foods you don’t enjoy, it’s unlikely you’ll stick with it for long. Make sure you can enjoy the process and well as the end result.
Periodically revisit your goals, especially if they are long term. You may find you need to revise them to account for external factors you failed to consider initially. Think of this as fine-tuning which will increase your chances of success.
Now you know what a SMARTER goal is, grab some paper and jot yours down. Then, look at your current training and eating and decide is your current routine taking you towards your goals or are you shooting arrows off target? Change your training and diet so they drive you towards your goals and not off in another direction. Start your new goal directed nutrition and exercise plan on Monday and enjoy the fact you are taking positive steps towards achieving the levels of fitness and health you have set for yourself!