Originally posted on Hello Healthy, the MyFitnessPal blog Did you know: gyms are at their highest capacity in March, not January? Why? Because, no matter how ambitious we get with our New Year’s resolutions, it takes the weather getting warm and the thought of wearing that bikini or a pair of shorts for most of us to actually show up.
There is a pitfall to most resolutions that shows up in studies: goal setting takes work and makes us feel good. It also makes us feel like we’ve done something when all we’ve actually done is think really hard. And often the goals we set are too unrealistic, too vague, or too generic. Here are my 7 steps for more effective goal setting.
1. Know what you want Not what you think you want; not what you think your family wants for you; not what the magazines tell you that you want; and not what you think the person asking wants to hear. When my client tells me they want to run a marathon I usually say, “No one wants to run a marathon. Marathons suck. We want to be the kind of person who ran a marathon.” So think long and hard about the kind of person you want to be and what skills and habits you need to become that person.
2. Failing to plan is planning to fail One of the biggest mistakes we make is coming up with an audacious goal then patting ourselves on the back for being brave in our own heads. What about the process of getting there? In order to get to your Big Goal, you need a bunch of Small Goals that lead up to it. As they say,“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
3. Aim lower, but more often Small goals focused on the process of building the skills and habits necessary to achieve your Big Goal are the secret sauce to success. My mentor, one of the world’s greatest discus coaches, has a saying, “how do you become a 200ft thrower? You become a 190ft thrower and you keep practicing.”
4. Focus on the process There are so many things in our lives that are out of our control, but we can practice and improve the skills, habits, and behaviors necessary to achieve any goal even if the opportunities prove scarce. By focusing on the process, we make achieving Big Goals as likely as possible. Henry Hartman summed this idea up nicely when he said, “Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity.”
5. Plan to fail We’re human. We overestimate, get distracted, and lose focus, but at least we know we will. So have a plan to get back on track. If you miss a few workouts, have a plan for getting back to the gym. My mantra: “There’s always Monday.” That way I’ll only lose 6 days at the absolute most. If your only option is perfection, then your only outcome will be failure.
6. Put yourself out there At my first Olympic weightlifting meet, I took second-to-dead-last. A middle school student lifted more weight than me. But Tommy Kono, a world record holder in four weight classes in weightlifting, pulled me aside and said, “You don’t learn to compete in practice.” It’s hard to get better by yourself, so whatever your goal, you need to practice it out there, in public, and in the wild.
7. Start Today The question I ask every one of my clients after a goal-setting session is simple: “What can you do today to get one step closer to that goal?” Then we put 100% focus and energy on that next step. Once the goal is set, we forget about it and focus on the next step until the next step is done.
In one sentence, goal-setting is about making your dreams real. Know what you want, make a plan to accumulate smaller habits and skills that will get you there, have a plan in case they don’t, put yourself out there, and get started right away.