Goal setting is an essential step in achieving personal success. Effective goals can improve both your mental and physical wellness. They provide a challenge, improve focus and confidence, help manage stress, and increase both physical and mental performance.1,2 However, poorly designed goals can end up doing the opposite; they can bring you down, strip you of your confidence, and cause you to underperform.2
How could something as abstract as a goal hold so much power? Well, goals are mental benchmarks of success. Goals affect your attitude and outlook on life because they are a mental construct that tells you when you succeed. Therefore, it is important to set more effective goals so that you can benefit from them.
Now that you know goals are an essential part of success, are you developing effective goals in your daily life and are you reaching them? If not, it’s time to learn how! Here are six steps to setting more effective goals:
Step 1. Start thinking about your short-term and long-term goals. To create a longterm goal, think about where you see yourself in a year or more. For short-term goals, you want to think about what you need to accomplish within the next few weeks to months that will help get you to your long-term goal.
Step 2. Focus on process goals to improve the fundamentals. Process goals are based on enhancing key parts that make the whole. For example, a powerlifter may want to focus on improving their form during lifts which therefore allows them to lift heavier weights while reducing the chance of injury. Process goals are also about developing a strategy to your success. Sticking to a daily meal plan could be even be considered a strategy.
Step 3. Develop performance goals instead of outcome goals. Performance goals are based on our own personal performance, whereas outcome goals focus on being better than someone else or being a “winner”. Performance goals can include those that beat your own personal records. For example, having the goal to run a half marathon when you have ever only run a 5k. Staying away from outcome goals is critical since they are often out of your control.
Step 4. Create goals that are in your control. Goal setting is about becoming your best “you”. Try to leave off goals that rely too heavily on outside factors that may be out of your control. Outside factors can include things such as other person’s thoughts or feelings, someone else’s abilities, and luck.
Step 5. Make your goals realistic, specific, and measurable. Choose goals that are achievable for you, your abilities, and your lifestyle. Don’t choose goals that are so unrealistic it is likely you won’t be able to reach them. Being able to achieve your goals is the whole purpose of goal setting!! Basically, don’t tell me that you want to lose 50lbs in a month, it’s wholly unrealistic and unsafe! Be sure to specify exactly what it is you will do and how you will measure your impressive accomplishments.
Step 6. Be accountable for your goals. Set daily reminders to work on your goals. Tell friends or family about your goals and ask them to help hold you accountable for them. Write your goals on sticky notes and post them to your bathroom mirror so that you are reminded of them daily. Join support groups with like-minded individuals to help you along the way. Finally, sign a “contract” to yourself stating that you will reach your goal.
Now that I’ve talked a bit about how to set more effective goals, I’ll give you some examples of effective goals to help you get started with creating your own.
Effective goal example #1: My goal is not to eat takeout for dinner for the next month. To complete this goal, I will buy groceries every Sunday morning and I will prep 7 dinner meals every Sunday evening to eat during the week. Each night of the week I will eat these pre-prepared meals for dinner. This goal will help with my long-term goal of saving money and sticking to my nutrition plan.
Effective goal example #2: My goal is to be able to squat 153lbs by Spring 2019. To achieve this goal, I have also put in place some practice goals that focus on flexibility, technique, and strength. I plan to do ankle, hamstring, and hip stretches for at least 10 minutes daily. I also plan to practice squat technique by performing wall squats, offloaded squats, and goblet squats at least five minutes each five days out of the week. Lastly, I will improve strength by performing barbell squats (as many reps as possible, no specific rep target) two times a week.
Now it’s time to do something great and set those goals! To help you out, visit our FREE subscriber-only resource library to download the effective goal setting worksheet. Not subscribed to our newsletter yet? You can sign up here and get access to the worksheet!
Already set your goals and are feeling great about your them or do you still have some questions? Share them in the comments below!
1. Locke EA, Latham GP. Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year odyssey. American Psychologist. 2002;57(9):705-717. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.57.9.705
2. Burton D, Raedeke TD. Sport Psychology for Coaches. Champaign, Il.: Human Kinetics; 2008.