Goal setting is basically defining a preferred outcome to serve as the aim of your actions, in our case it could to be lose x amount of weight in the next 12 weeks.
Goal setting has been shown to increase performance in a variety of settings from education to business and beyond. There are a number of ways to approach the task of setting goals but the most taught method is known as ‘SMART’ goal setting.
Your goals must include numbers in them. I want to lose some weight is not a specific goal. If your goal can't be quantified somehow then you can't know if you do or don't achieve it. ALWAYS use numbers in your goals.
Your goals must include units as well as numbers. Whether kilograms, centimetres or percentage of body fat. This makes your goals more specific and much more meeasurable.
Your goal probably won't be actionable right away, that's where I come in. An actionable goal includes the method to get you to your goal. An example would be losing 2 kg per month by eating 550 calories fewer than your calorie expenditure.
In order to achieve your goals they must be humanly possible. I'm sure you know that although losing 20kg is possible over the long-term, it is definitely not a realistic goal for next Thursday.
To make a goal time bound you must include a unit of time in your goal; it could be days, weeks, months or years. Deadlines produce results and results are what we want.
In addition to defining your goals, you should identify your motives. Perhaps you want to lower your risk of heart disease or diabetes, maybe you want to be fit and able again or most likely you want to look good! Nothing wrong with that, being fit and healthy is essential for good self esteem.
What prompted you to take action?
- Was it an embarrassing measurement on the scales?
- Feeling self conscious?
- Being bullied?
- Not getting noticed like you used to?
Whatever it was or is, think about and recognise it for a moment. You don't have to write this down if you don't want to but just knowing what there is to gain is a big incentive.
We identify our motives because it's easy to get discouraged, you have to keep in mind the better life that you're moving towards or you're not going to put the same level of effort in as time goes by.
Your Complete Goal
Your complete goal will be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound whilst identifying your motives and for now we'll only set a relatively short-term goal for the next twelve weeks. You goal might look something like this.
‘I will lose 6kg over the next 12 weeks by maintaining a calorie deficit of 550 calories each day until the end of the programme. I want to achieve this because I've felt sluggish for a while and my clothes don't look as good on me anymore.’
Learning Goals vs Outcome Goals
As much as we can do everything right, there are still times when things don’t go to plan. If you have a low activity level or below average metabolic rate, there is a chance that you will fall short of your expectations. Likewise if you have lived an unhealthy life for a long time you may fail to stick to the programme and that failure may do more to damage your motivation than to provoke it. In this case, an outcome-based goal isn’t the best call.
Learning goals are another approach that encourage the development of skills. Rather than letting an external outcome dictate whether you succeed or fail, or indeed feel like a success or failure, you are able to base your goals in an area within your locus of control.
As you go through this programme, you will find that various lessons that cover the skills needed to achieve optimal health. Learning how to control your calorie intake and learning how to cook a range of healthy meals are not performance-related goals but they are certainly achievements that help you to lead a healthier life.
The Art of Moving Forward
There is absolutely no substitute for making up your mind and taking steps every day towards your goal. The day you stop moving forward is the day your progress stops and you either stall or start going backwards. You have to take some enjoyment in the process and welcome the challenge of getting better because if your journey is something that you can't wait to be done with then sooner or later you will give up.
This is the reason that having your own plan is important, what brings success and enjoyment to one person might bring nothing but failure and disappointment to another. You have to enjoy the journey to create a sustainable lifestyle.
Set your own goal that is specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound and post it in your progress log. Write one long-term goal and then use smaller short-term goals as stepping stones towards your goal. Don't worry about getting it perfect first time, just get it written out and I'll help you to refine it.
- Locke, Edwin A., et al. "Goal setting and task performance: 1969–1980." Psychological bulletin 90.1 (1981): 125.