Healthy Goal Setting

It’s the start of another new year, and that means a lot of people will, yet again, crowd into gyms, crash diet, and inevitably, abandon the whole lifestyle within two or three weeks.

Why?

There are a tonne of reasons: a lack of planning, going too hard too fast, and, perhaps the most critical, not having a goal in mind.

I’ve written about goal setting before. How goals are critical to success. How it’s easier to set your intentions (your why) and achieve success if you have goals.

But, how do you set a goal? And how do you know they’re realistic or achievable?

When I first started on my fitness journey, I made a big mistake in saying that I wanted to lose 20 pounds, and run a marathon. And that was it. I thought I set a healthy goal. Except I didn’t think ahead, or break it down. I didn’t think about goals within the big goals. As a result, it took a few false starts before I hit my stride. What I learned? Instead of seeing a big 42.2 kilometre number staring at me, I set weekly mileage goals. Those were much easier goals to hit than always thinking about the big number. As for the 20 pounds, I broke that down, too. Slow and steady vs crash dieting. I decided that it was easier to focus on making small changes to hit my weight loss goal weekly instead of focusing on the number on the scale.

So, break it down. Mini goals within the big goal are easier to focus on and achieve. And it leads to a lot more celebration along the way.

Another thing that derails so many people is expecting instant results. I’m going to hit you with some truth: you won’t. It took a long time to gain weight/lose fitness/decide that you didn’t have time for a healthy lifestyle. It’s going to take time to see the results of positive changes. It can be discouraging, that I understand. But by setting slow and steady progress marks and expectations, it will be easier for habits to stick, and you won’t be expecting instant magic.

Finally, going too hard, too fast. That’s a recipe for getting discouraged and possibly getting injured. Expecting to go from the couch to working out seven days a week is not sustainable. Especially if it’s been a while since you were last active. Committing to a few workouts a week – perhaps two to three at first – will make it easier to stick to your plan. And make sure you put those workouts in your calendar. Schedule them like you’d schedule any other important meeting. Injury is a very real possibility as well. The more the better is not necessarily the best option when it comes to starting a health and fitness routine. Same with nutrition. It’s a rare person who can quit unhealthy food or eating habits overnight. Just doing something like committing to drinking more water, or not drinking pop three days a week if you’re used to having a can each day can make a huge difference in how you feel.

In short, three simple steps can help you set some healthy goals:

  • Set mini goals within a bigger goal – daily, weekly, monthly, etc. Smaller goals within the bigger goal will be much easier to achieve, and will keep your motivation from waning
  • Instant results are not possible. Don’t get discouraged if things take time
  • Going too hard, too fast is a recipe for getting discouraged, or getting injured. Remember that the tortoise was victorious precisely because he didn’t try to rush to the end

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