Have you ever thought that it is time to make a change but you are not sure how to get things started? Perhaps you have already got the wheels in motion, have set a number of goals but keep failing to reach them? It's time for a new approach.
If you want long-term success, be clear about what you want to accomplish. To help you succeed, use the S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) goal process.
‘You must have long term goals to keep you from being frustrated by short term failures’ – Charles C. Noble
Avoid vague goals and be specific. A goal of 'I want to lose weight' is not effective goal setting. How much do you want to lose? 1lb? 150lbs? Do you want to lose water? Muscle? Perhaps Fat? When do you want to lose it by? Tomorrow? 10 years? A more specific goal would be to lose 10lbs of fat in the next 10 weeks. Other examples of specific goals are: cut sugar out of my diet entirely for the next 10 days. Drink 2 litres of water minimum for the next 7 days. Improve my rowing time from 5:20 to 4:50 within the next 90 days.
‘People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going’. - Earl Nightingale
A goal is measurable when it is easy to determine if it has been accomplished. Picking a goal such as to reduce my running time by 1 minute can easily be measured. Picking a goal such as 'to feel fitter' cannot. If you cannot measure your goal, how will you know whether you have accomplished it?
One of the biggest mistakes people make when setting goals is that they are unrealistic. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious so long as it is attainable. When deciding, make sure that the reward equals to the amount of effort you are willing to put in. If your goal is to lose 3 stone and your plan is to just exercise once per week whilst changing nothing else then that is not realistic. Failure is inevitable and you are setting yourself up for disappointment. I had a long term client who wished to run the London marathon. With no prior running experience, she left herself 15 weeks to prepare for it. Despite telling her this was unrealistic for her level, she was determined to do it. I prepared her with a running plan aiming to gradually build up her distances each week (knowing it was not achievable). Unsurprisingly after 10 weeks she pulled out due to fatigue and the odd niggle. As a consequence we wasted 10 weeks of training and she was worse off than before she decided to start the marathon training. So make sure your goals are attainable, but just as importantly - CHALLENGING!
Your goals are your motivators to continue exercising, so make sure they are important to you. A good personal trainer will suggest goals for you or will even suggest what you need to work on. But ultimately they should let you have the final say as it is almost impossible to stay motivated and committed on a program designed to achieve goals you have little interest in. A partner may suggest you need to start looking after yourself and lose a little weight. However, if it is not important to you then you will more likely fail as it is difficult to fully commit to something when you cannot give it your heart and soul.
Your boss comes to you one day and places a big pile of paperwork on your desk. He needs you to work your way through it but in your own time. 'Finish it when you can' he says. You have all the intention to get through the paperwork, and indeed you made a start, but with higher priority jobs coming in all the time, you never seemed to get around to doing it. Had your boss told you that the work needed to be completed in 4 days - a clearly defined time goal - then there is no doubt that it would have taken a higher priority in your working life and would maximise your chances of getting it done.
An error gym goers make is that they have a goal in mind but do not set themselves a deadline. 'I want to lose 2 stone' they say. But with no timeframe to work towards, they never feel inclined to really get going. Before they know it, a year has passed and they had still not really got going.
The above goals cannot only be applied to your end goal, but also smaller goals leading up to it. For example, your end goal is to reduce your body fat by 6% in 10 weeks. By week two your goal is to lose 1.5%; by week five you want to lose 3.5 %; and by week seven you aim to lose 5%. This will help the end goal seem less daunting and will encourage you to stay motivated and on track. It also allows your end goal to be more measurable as you are able to measure whether you are behind or on track.