Author: Brian Oddo
Overview: This article explains why goal setting is crucial to achieving what you want and how to set goals using the S.M.A.R.T system.
Estimated Read Time: 4-6 minutes
“Sometimes I start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going, I just hope I find it along the way.” - Michael Scott
I wrote this post with the intention of teaching you all how to set clear, well-defined goals so that you don’t have to play the guessing game in hopes of achieving what you promised yourself you would: whether it be to lose that pesky last five pounds, get a stronger bench press, or run your first 5k.
Don’t be a Michael Scott.
Working out is hard enough as it is. I can’t think of anything more frustrating than putting in an extraordinary amount of effort just to be left feeling like you're spinning your wheels not going anywhere. This especially becomes an issue when your motivation is primarily driven by pursuing subjective goals such as how you look. Working out is a cruel process where you can do everything perfectly and still not see any noticeable difference for weeks.
So what do we do to make sure we are on the right track? How can we alleviate some of that stress of wondering if you’re headed in the right direction?
Introducing S.M.A.R.T goals.
“I want to be successful” Okay, cool! What does that even mean? “I want to look better!” Great, but what is better?
These aren't the best goals because they are overly vague and too broad. Goals should be specific. You need to narrow down your focus to define what really matters to you.
Instead of wanting to be successful, let's go with “I want to get a promotion to X job title so that I can gain more responsibility within my company and make a larger impact.” Instead of saying I want to look leaner, try “I would like to lose 10 pounds to improve my body composition because that would help my confidence, improve my energy levels, and make me feel better.”
If you can’t pinpoint what you want, how in the world are you supposed to know how to achieve it? That would be like hopping in an Uber without ever telling the driver your destination and expecting to show up somewhere you want to be.
Me: “I want to go to a restaurant”
Uber Driver: Okay, which one?
Me: Hop to it
Uber: But like, McDonalds?
Me: You’re at 4 stars now, sir. Keep it up
Uber: No neighborhood? I’m not sure what to do here
Me: Do you know how long this is going to take? I’m very late for important meetings
The next step in creating a goal is to make sure that it is measurable. This is probably the most important one of them all. You will never know if you are headed in the right direction if you can’t track the progress along the way. Using one of our goals above, let’s show a good and bad example of measurability:
Good: I want to lose 10 pounds. Pounds is a unit of measurement that can actively be monitored. You have a scale that can be used as a tool and you can track that data in numerous apps to see how you are trending week to week.
Bad: I want to look better. What’s better? At least with the lean example, you can measure body fat levels to track if you are losing fat, but if you are relying on some society-driven ideal, you are going to drive yourself nuts. How can you possible track improvements in certain things that are completely genetic and are out of your control? You aren’t going to change your proportions, hip width, height, etc. Looking “better” is a magic dragon you won’t likely catch. I strongly advise my clients to pick performance based goals so that they can steer away from situations that might negatively impact their confidence and self worth, especially in the social media, comparison age.
When I was a little kid, I wanted to be Batman when I grew up. More than anything in the world. I didn’t have any English butlers in my network, so that dream was short lived.
Most fitness folks have a “you can do anything if you put your mind to it” mentality and that’s nice in sentiment, but not realistic in practice. You should always push your limits and try to reach your full potential, but let’s not aim to represent the United States in 2020 for the 400m butterfly if you can’t even be in the deep end of the pool without water wings.
You can have a specific, measurable, and attainable goal that isn’t ideal because it’s simply not relevant to your life. Is it worthwhile? Is it the right time? Does the amount of effort it is going to take align with the payoff? “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” so to speak.
Saying that you want to be a brown belt in karate while you are unemployed with a mortgage and four kids isn’t the most admirable goal. It’s not relevant to your needs.
Finally, the last step in creating a meaningful, SMART goal is to make sure that it is time sensitive. Draw a line in the sand. In combination with making sure it is achievable, set a deadline for your goal that is realistic. This timeline will hold you accountable and allow you to break up your larger goal into smaller, more digestible deliverables.
If I have an 8 week goal of adding 20 pounds to my bench press, what does day 1 look like? How much progress should I be making by week 2 to make sure I’m still on track to accomplish my goal?
Maybe it isn’t the goal that is the issue but it’s the time frame I am trying to accomplish it in. Sometimes, things take longer than anticipated.
Additionally, if a realistic timeframe has passed for your goal, but you aren’t seeing the results you were expecting, it might be a sign that your process is at fault and you need to re-evaluate your approach and seek some guidance.
I don’t believe there is a best way to do integrate SMART goals into your life. It’s simply whatever is going to get you to do it! Write it down in a notebook, bathroom mirror, cell phone, etc. Just try. Write down your goals. Follow the guidelines mentioned in this article and try, fail, revise, try again, and repeat until you get where you want to go.
Always remember, you only fail when you quit. If you keep trying, you will eventually get to where you want to go.