Motivation Articles

Do's and Don'ts of Goal Setting

Key Pieces to the Puzzle


Goal achievement, especially when it comes to health and fitness, can be a mystery. Most of us have no trouble with Step 1 (Setting the Goal). Setting a goal is the easy part, it's those other steps that can be a puzzle. But you CAN turn achieving your goals into a science with the right strategies. Here are a few of our favorites:

DO create a plan. DON’T wait for "someday" to roll around.
Setting the goal is just the first step. Know where you’re going, what resources you’ll need, who can help and – most importantly – what Plan B is when life throws a monkey wrench into Plan A.

DO start small. DON’T focus on too many things at once.
Try focusing on one goal at a time. Use a small goal that you know you can do each day for the next two weeks, like getting up without the snooze or drinking eight  cups of water. Build that first habit to boost your confidence and pick up speed.

DO write it down. DON’T forget to give yourself a deadline.
Deadlines turn wishes into goals. The act of writing down your goal is powerful enough to keep you committed and focused. Better yet, find a visual that represents your goal or how your life will be different. Seeing it makes it seem more possible.

DO be specific. DON’T deal in absolutes.
Avoid the words ‘some’ and ‘more’, as in "I will get SOME exercise" or "I will eat MORE veggies." It leaves too much wiggle-out room. Deal in measurable things that you have control over. And never say ‘never’ or ‘always.’ All or nothing is a common attitude that leads people back to bad habits.

DO leave room for failure. DON’T expect perfection.
Persistence is key. Accept the fact that you might not make it on the first try. In a recent study, only 40% of people who successfully followed New Year's resolutions did it on the first try; 17% of resolution achievers took six or more tries before they got it right – but they did get it right.

DO track your progress. DON’T fool yourself into failure.
Memory can be pretty selective. It conveniently forgets that extra brownie while remembering activity that never happened. The only way to know for sure is to track goals regularly with a checklist or journal.

DO reward your success. DON’T beat yourself up over failure.
This is the step that trips up most people. Negative thoughts are usually in our heads, telling us every day what we’re doing wrong. This is not the approach to take to succeed with your goals. Why not focus on what you’re doing right instead? If you take a step back, learn from it and take two steps forward.

DO find a support system. DON’T try to do it alone.
A goal buddy can make all the difference this time. People that can help are all around you – on the SparkPeople support message boards, at work, even in your own family. Just add one person to your support group, and you double your motivation, double your energy, double your commitment – and double your FUN.

DO make a commitment. DON’T ever forget that you can do it.

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Member Comments

  • Setting a goal really helps me!
    I've failed at this so many times, I have very little confidence that I will ever accomplish this! I weigh more than I ever did, and I am beyond frustrated. So, here I am starting again - setting a goal, which is to just get through this week without gaining any more pounds. My willpower is nonexistent at the moment, but I will try!

  • My plan is to EMPHASIZE THE POSITIVE and also promise to do 10 minutes of cardio each day for a month. Do-able!
  • Small changes that I can do. I hope so.
  • I CAN DO THIS! All of it except don't do it alone. I have no friends who can help me, but I think I can also depend on SP. I hope everyone has a Super Duper & Blessed Saturday! LYL!
  • As someone else said, working it one step at a time. Learning to tolerate the water (bleah) then will start adding some exercise in.
  • Easy to say but hard to do!
  • Very informative article, thanks
  • Hi, I am back again! I hope to regain control of my body both in eating habits and exercise. I have been off the boat for more than 6 months due to sciatica, arthritis, etc. But with God's help I am back and hope to lose some of my excess weight.
  • This is a great reminder. I tend to set to many goals at once and then find I can't keep up.
  • Mike, I am printing this to put on my mirror so I will see it every morning again. I have been with Spark People for about 3 years and I need this little punch to start my 2017 off with. Thank You
  • I really get hung up on committing to too many changes or new habits.
    I'm going to start with a new habit (like drinking 64 ounces of water) until it becomes automatic, then add another (like exercising for 10 minutes) until THAT becomes automatic.
  • I take many steps forward and then a few back. This article helped me a lot. I will be taking my goals a little slower this time around.I have to tell myself this is not a race.
  • The article was inspiring and informative. I had a car accident and need to gain my pre-accident status. I was trying to rush myself and was not able to keep up. I will be reading this article again and again.
  • DO chose a goal that you have total control of; DON'T choose a goal that will be impacted by many factors outside of your control.

    So, DON'T choose "lose x number of pounds by y date", since how much weight is lost will be impacted by your genetics, your hormonal cycles, the weather, stress levels, just how much of your food is actually digested, and a host of other things that you have no way of controlling. You can do absolutely everything "to the numbers" and have the weight loss be nowhere near the prediction due to things you can't do anything about, which would mean that YOU "failed" to meet your goal - right?! WRONG. It mean that the GOAL failed, not that YOU did. Seriously - DON'T GO THERE!

    Choose goals that you CAN control - minutes per week of exercise, average calorie intake, average vegetable intake, progress in cardio or strength training, or even how many rooms you will clean each week - so that your level of success in reaching that goal is entirely yours to celebrate and be proud of.

About The Author

Mike Kramer Mike Kramer
As a writer and artist, Mike has witnessed countless motivational stories and techniques. See all of Mike's articles.

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