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.
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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

  • HPY2BE
    More and more I am embracing the concept of persistence over perfection. This is a kinder and more realistic attitude for me to embrace because I want this behavioral/attitu
    dinal change to effectively carry me through the rest of my life. - 11/7/2015 7:57:11 AM
  • BOBBIE513
    thanks every one who made this site , I weigh 312 the most I ever weighed and need to drop 50 pounds so my back dr will do the surgery AS MY BACK IS GETTING WORSE I sorry for the caps im new to this site hoping the support and tips I get from you all will keep me going thanks so much every one , Bobbie - 4/29/2015 6:50:11 AM
    I am just starting out and goal setting was a little overwhelming. There were so many choices. Thanks for a well-written article. - 4/25/2015 7:00:34 PM
  • Good tips to use.
    I found setting a certain number of pounds to lose per week could discourage me if I didn't reach that goal. So instead I worked on losing 10 lbs ,at a time. Try to lose as soon as possible.
    At first it was within a month. but after the first 100 lbs or so It took a little longer , But because I had the goal of 10 lbs, I was happy with my success.
    Too many people lose hope when weight loss doesn't happen as fast as they expect it .
    It takes longer and more dedication to lose than to gain.
    But it is so worth it to hang in there.
    I - 4/24/2015 10:57:48 AM
    All good tips, especially the buddy system, no excuses for not walking when your buddy is waiting for yourself you. - 4/24/2015 7:40:20 AM
  • Good informational article and some really good suggestions from the community. I will put into practice some of these. - 11/1/2014 1:59:08 PM
    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
    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

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