A Guide to Effective Goal Setting

Goal setting. What is the point? Most of the time you end up setting some great goal for yourself, write it in your diary or on some random piece of paper, set it aside, and forget about it until a later date where it pops into your head and you feel a sudden pang of guilt for not staying the course. In this context, goals setting is more harmful that beneficial, as time spent worrying about things that never happened is time wasted. However, with a bit of know-how, you can set yourself up for real success if you hit the right notes with you goal setting. Here are three steps to setting good goals that will help elevate you to you highest ambitions.

1. The first thing to do is to take some time to set you ultimate goal. Think big, and aim for something that you currently perceive to be impossible for you to achieve. For example, if you want to be able to do a half marathon, why not aim for the full marathon. If you are currently a size 16, and think its possible to get to a size 14, but 12 is just on another level, then aim for the 12. If you want to be able to perform 5 chin up, then shoot for 5 chin ups as you big goal. Write you big goal on a blank piece of paper in front of you.

Your ultimate goal is the big motivator. Something that you are going to consistently work towards, and that is going to keep you on track for the long term. When you feel yourself starting to slip, look at your ultimate goal and get back on track. What you need next are some stepping stone goal. Things that will bring you step by step closer to the big goal.

2. Your ultimate goal is outcome orientated. It is based on achieving a particular outcome (body weight, clothes fit, a measure of strength etc.), but you also need stepping stone goals to help bring you as far as the big one. Achieving smaller successes along the way is important as well. If you want to loose 5 stone, then you must first loose 1 stone, and before that a pound. Having a bit of guidance with setting these goals is important so that you can set stepping stone goals that are not too far from your reach so that you can experience success early on in the training process. Its the small victories that will keep you going!

3. After your ultimate goal and your stepping stone goals are in place, the next set of goals are process goal. They should focus on the processes and actions that you know will bring you a step closer to your big goal. For example, if getting to a size 12 is your ultimate goal, then drinking 2 litres of water each day for three weeks would be a great stepping stone goal. It focuses on one step of the process that you must go through to establish a healthy diet, which is obviously essential for getting into shape. If you goal is to perform 5 full range of motion chin ups, then your stepping stone goal should be to practice your overhead pulling strength three times per week.

Try this at home as a goal setting exercise:

1. Set your ultimate goal. Think big.
2. Write down 3-5 stepping stone goals that will help bring you up as far as the ultimate goal.
3. Write down 3-5 process goals that will help you achieve your stepping stone goals. Use process orientated goals here.


This article is by Ainle Ó Cairealláin MSc CSCS.

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