Reaching Your Goals, Part 2

A goal without a plan is just a wish – Antoine de Saint Exupery

Since analyzing willpower two weeks ago, my interest turned to goal setting.  After all, we need to know where to apply this willpower.  I’m a pretty avid goal-setter.  It’s fun for me to set goals and then cross them off the list when I achieve them, but there are still goals that I’ve not get reached, and I wanted to know why that’s happening and what I can about it.  Goals can be risky – if setbacks start piling up and we begin to doubt ourselves, we may reach something called “action crisis.”  This is the term psychologists use for the internal struggle that you face with regards to quitting or continuing to work toward your goal. For those of us who have set a goal and fallen short in the past, there may be a simple fix.


Dominican University of California conducted a simple study on goal achievement.  Participants were randomly assigned to one of five groups, with requirements for goal setting ranging from just thinking about a goal to having weekly progress checks with a friend regarding the goal.  The results were as follows:

  • 43% of those who simply thought about a goal successfully achieved it.  So, if you have something in mind you like to achieve, there’s less than a 50/50 chance that you’ll accomplish it.
  • Another group wrote down their goal AND action items needed to achieve that goal, and they had a success rate of 64%.
  • The most successful group did the following: wrote down a goal and action commitments for that goal, shared them with a friend, and had weekly progress check ins with that friend.  This group showed an average of 76% goal achievement.  Accountability plays a huge role in goal achievement.  Knowing you are going to report progress helps you stay on course.

Goals are meant to challenge you.  With challenge comes obstacles.  No matter what the goal (fitness or otherwise), some common barriers are:

  • belief in yourself
  • inability to focus
  • ineffective time management
  • fear of failure
  • inability to visualize the end result
  • bad habits
  • lack of support

It struck me immediately that only one of these has to do with other people.  What typically gets in the way of us achieving our goals is ourselves.  I struggle the most with believing in myself, but I don’t think I’m alone in that.  If I don’t believe I can do it, why should anyone else?  We have to practice keeping our thoughts positive in order to avoid self-doubt.

I suggest that anyone looking to improve their goal setting start with the acronym SMART.

SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable (or Achievable), Realistic, Tangible (or Timely)



Setting a SMART goal can help to eliminate obstacles.  If you set a specific goal, it forces you focus in on what you want.  Having a measurable goal can help you deal with a fear of failure by knowing exactly what you are going to deem a success.  Belief in yourself is achieved by setting an attainable goal.  A realistic goal will address issues with time management, as well as bad habits.  Tangible goals are ones that you can visually see yourself achieving.  I’m not sure a SMART goal can eliminate a lack of support, but you if you need some just ask!  I’d be happy to help.  I also recommend letting your coach know your SMART goal, as well as using your friends at the gym as a support system.

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Performance of any kind can be defined as “potential minus obstacles.”  SMART goals can be used to eliminate obstacles, therefore maximizing performance.  Progress is a series of short term goals, set and achieved.  In the coming weeks I’ll be looking into success with long term goals and the grit that it takes to get there.



Posted on October 14, 2014, in Training and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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