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Motivation Articles  ›  Picking Yourself Back Up

Do's and Don'ts of Goal Setting

Key Pieces to the Puzzle

-- By Mike Kramer, Staff Writer
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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.
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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.

Member Comments

  • VEROVEE
    Thanks for this article! and looking through the comments I saw @WILK_2013 's comment using the star system, I think its an awesome system! I am now motivated and will start my star system as well. - 9/3/2013 11:48:37 AM
  • Great article! Yesterday I posted my intentions on my blog with specific goals to work on, then this article shows up today! I'm going to post my goals on my calendar where I can see them every day. I like Wilk_2013's idea for gold stars on days I complete the goal. - 9/2/2013 8:40:55 AM
  • Great article. Saved it for the future. - 7/9/2013 5:13:42 PM
  • Right now, I am concentrating on losing 5% of my body weight. Staying within the calorie limits that Sparkpeople set for me (which is higher than I would of set for myself), but a lot lower than what I usually eat. And fitness. Right now I just want to burn at least 1000 calories a week, but consistently exercise several (4-5) days a week, not just burn it all in one or two days. - 7/9/2013 12:20:35 PM
  • IVYANDBEAN
    I feel out of control. I want to snack. How will I ever lose weight? - 6/6/2013 9:02:36 PM
  • I put up a calender with a little space underneath each day. There i write down when i go to the gym to keep track of when i do go or other things that i do that keeps me active. Its a great way for me to see how often i go and how much i have improved in changing my life. I only write the things i have done which is a nice reward and also a good keepsake for me later on. Good luck to anyone looking to change their life for the better and don't give up! :) - 1/18/2013 3:47:30 PM
  • on my monthly wall calendar, i put different colored stars up when i reach a goal.
    red star = no coke for the day
    green star = strength training
    gold star = cardio + strength!!
    i feel motivated to keep my gold star streak going or make a pattern for the month. it keeps it interesting without feeling overwhelmed.
    it might sound silly, but the visual reminder everyday is the only thing that has helped me. the last thing i want is a day with no stars!! - 1/14/2013 11:25:32 PM
  • Thanks for a good common sense article. Sometimes a reminder is what's needed :) - 11/4/2012 1:24:43 PM
  • Thank You. This has clear up things. My next big goal at getting healthier is to quit smoking. It is going to be hard since my spouse smokes.I have failed at this one before. I think now it was for a couple of big reasons. Number one was I really did not want to. I had no one to support me. I husband said he was too and made no effort,and I decided if he's not I am not either. I know now I have to do it for me and not what anyone else wants. And following this will work for that too. - 10/4/2012 8:40:42 AM
  • Thanks for this article. Being motivated is a huge step in success - 10/4/2012 7:47:06 AM
  • I'd like to save this article for reference but do not see a save button... - 7/10/2012 7:45:49 AM
  • JANNUNN
    Thank you Mike great article,I need to over haul some of my goals,as in make sure they are all written down,and make sure they are small steps ..funny how everytime i log on and go to an article its just what i need :) - 4/9/2012 6:39:13 AM
  • Thank you Mike for a good article. It seemed just to be for me because I needed to hear that so much. It seems I've been having trouble forever, one week after another and I know it's just because I'm not serious enough about my goals or that my goals aren't clear enough and specific enough. So I will make them more clear and specific tonight! Thanks for giving me this idea of help! - 3/4/2012 10:34:04 PM
  • FITANDFINE5
    Thanks for a very timely message. Most of the time i'm telling others that very same thing. Set small achievable goals, but because I am a goal setter I sometimes forget it's only human to fall off from time 2 time. I don't think of my slips ups as failures because I learn from them, and as you so graciously put it (Things Happen) thanks :-)) - 3/4/2012 8:50:42 PM
  • GREAT article - I've been beating myself up all day for a series of major slips this weekend - 2 parties and dinner out - willpower out of the window! Really feeling bad about letting myself down - AGAIN! However, this has been really helpful in making me resolve to get back some focus instead of sliding further. Off to make some new notes on my planning process. Thank you so much, Mike. - 3/4/2012 4:08:45 PM