To train effectively, you must have a purpose behind it. That purpose comes from setting goals – and sticking to them. Without goals, you will have nothing motivating you to stick to a diet or consistently go to the gym. You will find it difficult to focus on the task at hand without falling off the wagon.
Evidence has shown that those who work towards specific goals are far happier than those who do not have strong dreams or aspirations. Without goals, you will live your life with no direction and no incentive to act. Unhappy people tend to be bored, unmotivated and lacking goals.
How to set goals
Your goals must be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For example, the goal of losing 10 pounds in three months is a SMART goal. It is specific because it clearly states a target weight loss, and you will know when you have achieved the goal. It is measurable as it can be assessed with the use of a scale. It is attainable, as you can develop clear steps to achieve the weight loss.
The goal is realistic, as it requires a gradual, healthy speed of weight loss. It should be noted that your goals should not seem too easy either – for example, a goal of losing 10 pounds in three years would provide no real motivating force. Finally, the goal is time-bound as a clear period has been stated to reach the goal. Conversely, without a time frame, there is no sense of urgency and therefore no real reason to take action.
Compare that instead to the vague goal of ‘losing weight’. If your goal is not SMART, there is no real way to measure your progress, and nothing to hold you accountable.
Write down your goals and place them somewhere you will see frequently. It is easy to become overwhelmed with a huge list of goals staring back at you, so instead try to just focus on one or two goals at a time.
By breaking down your large, long-term goal into smaller, short-term targets, you will set yourself up for success. By regularly reaching milestones and checking items off your list of goals, you will breed positivity and each target will become easier than the last. Always keep your larger goal in the back of your mind, but focus most intensely on the short-term objectives.
If you want to run a marathon yet have never run a day in your life, having a single goal of running 26 miles is undoubtedly setting yourself up for failure. Instead, aim to run for five minutes without stopping, then five miles, and then 10, and so on.
Choosing a goal
It is important to chase goals that are your own, which hold value and meaning for you. They must genuinely make you happy, and not be constructed out of anyone else’s desires. When you feel coerced or pressured into making goals, you are likely to quickly lose enthusiasm and interest.
You should also think of goals in positive terms. For example, “to be fit and healthy” is much more positive than the goal of “to not be fat”. When you always think in negative terms about what you should not do, that negative thinking will eventually become a reality.
Staying on track
The best way to stick to your goals is by monitoring your progress. You are your biggest source of motivation! Throughout the journey, you must remind yourself of your goals and the original reason for selecting them. Regularly weigh yourself, take your measurements, have your body fat tested or take photographs of yourself to track your progress. Seeing the physical evidence of change will keep you on the path to success.
That being said, achieving your goals will not be easy. It may involve failure, and overcoming that failure to remain committed to your goals. You will have to deal with your own self-doubts as well as external challenges and pressures, such as your friends calling you boring because you don’t want to drink alcohol with them. When you prepare for potential setbacks in advance you will be less likely to throw in the towel when challenges present themselves.
Also be sure to announce your goals to your closest, most supportive friends and family. This will greatly increase your chance of sticking to your goals, as you will not want to disappoint your loved ones.
Finally, you should reward yourself for achieving milestones to increase your chance of future success. Be careful not to reward yourself with items that go against your goal. For example, instead of rewarding yourself with a piece of cake after losing five kilograms, instead indulge in a massage.
What is the biggest goal you have, and what steps must you take to achieve it?