Once you have decided that you are ready to make a change, it’s time to set a goal. Goal setting is an extremely important life skill that many people either lack, or just plain overlook.
Why Is Taking The Time To Set A SMART Goal So Important?
Think of all the things that you have to do in order to achieve your goal as a journey – a road trip if you will. In this analogy, the road map to your journey is your goal.
If your map is out of date, inaccurate, or vague – your chances of making it to your destination are not good.
The same is true of goals. If your goal is not specific, or if it’s based on inaccurate information or expectations, you are not likely to reach that goal.Trying to achieve a poorly defined goal is like stumbling around in the dark – you're more likely to run into a wall than to complete the task you set out to do. Click To Tweet
The most common goal I’ve heard as a trainer and coach is: “I want to lose weight”.
What’s wrong with that you ask? Well… it’s a good start. Losing weight can improve health, self-esteem, and quality of life among other things.
However, this goal is extremely vague and is not likely to be achieved.
The purpose of this post, is to teach you the goal setting skill set by walking you through the process one step at a time.
We will first cover SMART goals, and then two upgrades that are necessary for success.
We will use the “I want to lose weight” as an example. By the end of this post, this vague goal will be transformed into a well-defined, specific goal that has a much greater chance of being achieved.
Then, using this new skill set, you will be able to set your own goal using the SMART Goal Setting Worksheet that I have provided!
I would recommend downloading this worksheet from the Free Resource Library now so you can follow along as we go.
Use the SMART Method to Clearly Define Your Goals
By now you’ve probably heard about SMART goals. Setting a SMART goal is a great place to start, but it’s still not quite enough.
Let’s start by setting a SMART goal, and then we will upgrade it from there.
SMART stands for:
- Specific – The goal should be as clear and well-defined as possible.
- Measurable – You should be able to measure this goal in some way so that you can definitely say whether or not you reached that goal.
- Attainable – The goal needs to be possible for the person setting it. Avoid setting an impossible or misinformed goal.
- Realistic – This is one of the most common places that people make mistakes when setting a goal. Make sure that you’ve given yourself a reasonable amount of time to accomplish the task you have laid out.
- Timely – The goal should have a time limit, meaning that it should be achieved by a certain date. This decreases the temptation to procrastinate.
First of all, let’s transform our example goal into a SMART goal.
By using SMART goals, we more clearly defined our goal – going from “I want to lose weight” to “I want to lose 50 pounds of fat in the next year.”
We’re off to a great start, but don’t stop now, we’ve still got some work to do to set you up for success.
Break Long-Term Goals Into Several Short-Term Goals to Stay Motivated
We have set a very large (but doable) goal here. Some people might be motivated by a challenge like this – however, most people might feel overwhelmed and demotivated by such a big goal (losing 50 pounds is far from easy!).
For example, let’s imagine that the person trying to achieve this goal of losing 50 pounds is pretty new to exercise and healthy eating.
A huge goal like this would likely seem impossible. When goals seem impossible – by human nature, we tend not to put much effort into them. After all, if they are impossible, all that effort would be wasted!
How Can We Make Big Goals Feel More Manageable?
What if I said, instead of focusing on losing 50 pounds in 1 year, to focus instead on losing just one pound per week – would that seem more doable?
The majority of people say yes! So what did we do there, and why does it work?
We broke our goal down into smaller bite size goals! Instead of having one big goal of losing 50 pounds in a year, we now have 50 smaller goals of losing 1 pound per week.
We call these smaller goals short-term goals, while the big goal is a long-term goal. Focusing on the short-term keeps your mind focused on what you can do now to achieve the smaller, more manageable goal whereas looking too far ahead at the long-term goal can often seem overwhelming and impossible.
It’s okay to set long-term goals – our journey needs a destination! But make sure to schedule pit-stops (short-term goals) along the way.
On your journey to achieving your goal, just focus on getting to the next pit-stop instead of worrying about how far away the final destination is.
This will make the whole trip more enjoyable and help keep you motivated to continue on towards your destination!
Focus On The Process Instead Of The Outcome To Stay On Track
So far we have a long-term goal of losing 50 pounds of fat in the next year that we broke down into smaller short-term goals of losing one pound per week.
What we don’t have yet, is any direction on how we should go about achieving that goal. How are we going to lose all that weight?
This brings us to the topics of outcome and process goals.
What Is An Outcome Goal?
Our goal right now – losing 50 pounds of fat in a year – is an outcome goal. It focuses on the end result.
Outcome goals can lead people with good intentions astray. The reason for this is that outcome goals don’t specify HOW the goal should be completed, only that it should.
When people feel unsure about how to achieve a goal because they feel that they lack the knowledge or skills to do so – they’ll often look for quick fixes to the problem.
For example, if we set the outcome goal of losing 50 pounds in one year but the person that was trying to achieve this was new to exercise and wasn’t sure how to go about improving their diet, they might opt for a quick fix like a fad diet or diet pills to lose the weight.
What Is A Process Goal And Why Are They Preferable?
When the emphasis and importance is placed on the PROCESS (the “how”) of achieving a goal, rather than the outcome (losing 50 pounds), people tend to make healthier choices which they are more likely to stick to long-term.
A process goal focuses on what we need to do day in and day out to achieve the end goal.
Similar to a short-term goal, a process goal allows you to focus on the here and now. You might imagine a process goal like a checklist. For example, today I need to do X in order to stay on pace to achieve my goals.
Let’s set a process goal of working out on a regular basis.
So our full goal up to this point is to: “Exercise on a regular basis in order to lose 1 pound of fat per week.”
We are getting close! Just one little problem… do you see it? The part where we added “Exercise on a regular basis” is vague. Let’s make sure that is a SMART goal too.
So our final goal is…. “Lose 1 pound of fat per week by walking for 20 minutes every day.”
Note, that our short-term process goals don’t have to be the same month after month or even week after week. It can be a good idea to progress these goals as you become accustomed to more exercise. See the table below for an example of how to progress your short term process goals.
Let’s take a look at the transformation from our original, vague goal to the final result which is well defined and gives us direction.
Now that we have set SMART long and short-term process goals – our journey has a road map! This will help to navigate potential pitfalls on the way to our destination.
So, when you are planning to make a change – don’t overlook the value of setting a good goal!
Setting vague or poorly defined goals can hold you back, whereas setting clear, well defined goals, can make it much more likely that you will be successful in achieving them!
When setting goals, here are a few things to remember:
- Make sure your goals are clear and well defined using the SMART method
- Set long-term goals so you know where you want to end up, but also set short-term goals to help you stay motivated.
- Focus on the process rather than the outcome to make sustainable choices and stay on track with your goals.
Don’t forget to download the free SMART Goal Setting Worksheet from the Free Resource Library!
Once you’ve set your own SMART goals check out the following posts for your next steps!
- 3-steps to make time in your busy schedule for your new goal.
- How to motivate yourself to get started on a new goal.
- How to make an action plan and get started on your goal today!
Finally, do you have any other goal setting tips/tricks that have worked really well for you in health, business, or other parts of your life?
If so, please share in the comments below. You never know, your tips could help someone else achieve their goals!