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Goal Setting For Success (part 1 of 2)

Now that it’s mid-February and the vast majority of people who made New Year’s Resolutions have already given up on them, it’s time to talk once again about goal setting. If you can master this simple (but not easy) skill, you’ll find success in anything you put your mind to – not just health and fitness – but business, career, financial security, and LIFE! While fitness will be the primary focus here, I believe in a holistic approach to health and fitness, so we will touch on all areas of your life when going through the goal setting process.

Why do so many resolutions fail?

Resolutions fail for a variety of reasons: the person has set too vague of a goal (ie “I want to get healthy”) and doesn’t know what to do to achieve it, chooses something that they feel that they ought to do rather than really, really want to do (often to please someone else), or the lifestyle changes necessary to achieve the goal are perceived to be more painful than the place the person is currently in. Sometimes the desired outcome seems completely overwhelming and unrealistic, when it truly could be achievable with the proper steps which I’m going to show you. Most of these things I learned over 17 years of coaching experience and by taking three different sports and exercise psychology courses in graduate school, but I highly recommend checking out Jinny Ditzler’s Best Year Yet site and reading her book to get more in depth info about her own successful 10 step method. Easy to understand and I use some of her methods in my own goal setting.

When is the best time to try goal setting?

Whenever you feel inspired to make progress in a particular area of your life, which is most likely NOT going to be January 1. If it is – that’s great! If it isn’t, then there is no time like the present!

Get out your pen and paper and let’s get started!

What Went Right?

Let’s take a look at the last year in your life since it will give you more insight than just the first 6 weeks of 2014 when most people have already given up on their resolutions. What were some of your successes and accomplishments? It doesn’t have to be something you planned and succeeded at; it could be something that landed in your lap unexpectedly, but made you feel good (such as the birth of a grandchild). Pay special attention to any goals that you had and achieved so that you can learn from your past successes. Job promotion, birth of a child or grandchild, weight loss, finished a remodeling project, improved eating habits, started an exercise program, etc. I’m betting there are quite a few things that went well for you last year. Write ’em down.

What Went Wrong?

Just like reviewing all the good stuff that happened last year, we need to review our disappointments if we expect to learn from them and make corrections. Some of these could also be beyond your control, but we’ll give more attention to the things that you could have done and didn’t. Didn’t lose the weight that you resolved to lose as part of your New Year’s resolution, job loss, stopped your exercise program, suffered an injury or loss, etc. Life happens. Write ’em down.

Lessons Learned

What did you do (or not do) to cause the successes and disappointments that you identified? Too often, people focus only on the negatives without realizing that they did in fact accomplish something good! While it’s important to learn from our mistakes so that we don’t keep repeating them (ie the same resolution to lose “x” pounds in the new year over and over again because you never achieved it), I believe it’s even more important to focus on the positive. Based on what you identified as your past successes and disappointments, what are some positive reminders that you can review on a daily basis to keep you happily on track? As a stressed out business owner and personal trainer putting in 12-14 hour work days, two of mine are: “practice gratitude” and “take time to recharge.” Just a few short, 4 words or less reminders to live by on a daily basis. I’ve got them written on a sticky note pasted right next to my computer screen where I can see them every day. What are yours? Remember – keep it positive! Write ’em down.


What is the biggest obstacle to your success? One of the most common excuses that I hear from clients or potential clients is “I don’t have time.” Everyone gets 24 hours in a day, and people choose to spend that time on things that are important to them. When I ask clients to document how they spend their time over a few days, they are usually surprised to learn how much time they waste on trivial, meaningless crap like playing computer games, chatting on FaceBook, or surfing the internet. No matter what self talk you practice, the obstacle behind the excuses usually boils down to “I’m not good enough” or “I’m likely to fail.” Basically, a lack of confidence. How can you shift your attitude to more empowering self talk that finds a way to take action and produces the results that you want? Perhaps something like “I have the ability to live an active lifestyle.” or “I’m really good at cooking healthy meals.” Whatever it is – it needs to resonate with you. Remember, you may not be there yet – this is where you aspire to go (but make it present tense anyway). Keep it positive, powerful, and simply stated. Write it down.


What is most important to you? Family time, a favorite hobby, job, health, education, feeling like you make a difference? What are the personal values that you cherish most? Honesty, integrity, perseverance, confidence, trust, equality, authenticity, life balance? What are your negative drivers? Stress, perfectionism, fear, need to be right, martyrdom? I know of people who quit pursuing their goals because they had a single setback, and the perfectionist in them told them they failed and couldn’t achieve their goal. Don’t let a setback derail you – learn what went wrong, adjust, and continue. You probably did everything else right (remember – focus on the positive), but one slip-up does not spell failure. Perhaps learn to value perseverance? It’s not how many times you fall, it’s how many times you get back up. As I already mentioned, stress is a big negative driver for me – which is why “practicing gratitude” is pasted next to my computer. Yes, I have to go through all of these steps to set my own goals too! Write down what you value most as well as your negative drivers.


What roles do you play in life? Parent, sibling, bread winner for the family, head of household, caregiver, employee, business owner, boss, athlete, friend, volunteer, cook, skilled occupation, self curator, etc. For each role that you play, rate how well you think you did last year on a scale of 1-10 (1 = poor, 10 = outstanding). Which ones did you do well at? Which ones need more attention? Write ’em down.

Spend some time thinking about each of these things. Get out a pen and paper and write it all out (an act that I find rather cleansing when I do it myself). Be open and honest with yourself – it won’t work otherwise 😉

To be continued in a second post, where we will actually set our SMART goals for each role, choose the top 10 most important of the bunch, and make sure that you achieve them!

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