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A beginner’s guide to goal setting

So, you’ve decided to make some changes to your lifestyle. You’re ready to lose weight, build some muscle, improve your cardio or just live life in a healthier way. As great as that is, there’s more to setting goals than simply knowing what you want to achieve. In this guide, we’ll give you our top tips on setting yourself up for success no matter what, how big, or how small your goal is.  

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

What is goal setting and why does it matter?

The idea of setting goals has been studied for years, most notably by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham in the 1960s. For them, goal setting is more than just coming up with an idea of what you want to happen and trying to achieve it. It’s the type of goals you set and the way you set them that contribute to your overall motivation and success.  

Locke and Latham stressed the value of clarity, challenge, commitment, feedback and complexity. Nowadays, there are many variations of their goal setting theory, from SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based) to WOOP (wish, outcome, obstacle, and plan) goals. Here are 4 simple principles we believe will help you set goals, and achieve them, in the most efficient way.  

Set goals that matter to you

You might have goals related to fitness, career, family, saving, or any other area of life, yet the most important thing is to determine whether you truly and authentically care about them. Don’t set goals for non-intrinsic reasons. Do you really want to lose weight, or is it because you feel obligated, because your friends are doing it, or because you feel pressured? Take a quiet moment of reflection and ask yourself what’s really important to you.  

Make them SMART-ER 

You can find out more about SMART goals with Body&Fit ambassador Shelly Wubbe, but here, we’re making them SMART-ER. In his book, Your Best Year, entrepreneur Michael Hyatt adds two more criteria to the well-known framework.  

Exciting — if you’re not personally excited about running your first marathon, for example, you’re likely to be less motivated to pursue it when unexpected challenges arise, like training in bad weather or running through a stitch.  

Relevant — your goals should be aligned with your values, your stage in life, and your other goals. It might not be the best idea to train for your first marathon while training to swim the English Channel. You’ll get much more enjoyment, and success, out of doing one or the other.  

Write your goals down 

When you write down your goals, you’re stating an intention and setting things into motion. Use a positive and present tense form. A positively written goal is more likely to stick with you than a negatively written one. Also, goals written in a future tense (“I will build 2kg of muscle…”) often stay in the future. You want to make your goals a reality, so write them in the present and give yourself a deadline: I build 2kg of muscle by March 20th 2023 or sooner. 

Limit the number of goals you set 

Setting yourself more goals than you can remember is a sure recipe for losing focus. Select a handful of goals that you’re able to repeat from memory. If you want to live a healthier lifestyle, for example, you might want to eat a healthy meal five days a week, drink 1.5 litres of water per day and do 30 minutes of exercise each morning before work. Any more than that and you might risk being overwhelmed, confused or lost with your progress.  

Do you have any goals you’d like to achieve in the coming weeks, months or years? Go ahead and tag us @bodyandfit_official. Of course, you may only want to share your goals with a mentor, a close friend, or even keep them to yourself (although some argue that accountability can help). On top of that, remember to review your goals frequently, whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly. Ask yourself what could I do better; do I still want to achieve this goal; what is the next step I need to take to succeed? Over time, you’ll find they’ve become a reality and you’re moving on to the next.