The Truth About Goal-Setting (and How to Follow Through)

Will Pike Love Fitness Goal Setting Blog HealthNot making any progress in your health and fitness? No panic; here are a ton of strategies to keep you on track, including the one goal-setting tool that will kickstart deep subconscious changes.

"So, what's your goal?"

The big G buzzword is on the lips of every Personal Trainer and their dog.

And with good reason: they are a key ingredient to your health and fitness life and pretty much essential to your success.

Yet it’s easy to get totally confused by the amount of information that is available. So to clear your mind and ease your pain, here is a complete guide to goal setting. And keep reading for a crazily good tool to communicate what you want to your subconscious mind.


Why set goals?

To start things off, let's make a case for goal setting and why if you're not already, it's probably time to do so.

I like to think of goals as a roadmap. Imagine if your health and fitness was a road trip: you would need to know where you were going, no? Unless you're the adventurous type or the kind of person that likes to get lost!

So your health and fitness goals are your roadmap: they give you a clear direction towards which to aim. And we all know that the best way to achieve anything is to have clarity AND direction.

So not having any clear idea of your goals is a bit like setting out on a trip, without knowing how to get there or even where we are headed.

Ever heard of the saying "Focus creates reality?" What you focus on day in and day out becomes your life. So if you have no focus, what reality are you creating?

A recent study from the University of Liverpool has found that people without a focus are more likely to be depressed: “We found that the goals that people with clinical depression listed lacked a specific focus, making it more difficult to achieve them and therefore creating a downward cycle of negative thoughts”

In other words, without a specific goal, you won’t be achieving anything, and therefore will be unable to build your Trust Muscles and by definition your self-esteem!

So needless to say, goal setting is pretty darn important.

But how, I hear you say! Read on for more info.


Defining Your Goal

Although research does point to the need for strong goal commitments, there is no right or wrong when it comes to goal setting. The key is to understand what works for you.

The first thing is to select the vocabulary you wish to use. In her book “The Desire Map”, Daniela Laporte tells us: Vision, mission, wishes, aims, objectives, aspirations, intentions, goals... Choose a term that has gravitational pull to your own.” 

In other words, it doesn’t matter which word you use to describe your goal. Simply select one that resonates best for you, and gives you more motivation to move forwards.

Now, we’ve all heard of the traditional SMART goals, which are widely used in coaching. For the uninitiated, SMART stands for:

  • Specific: the goal must be defined
  • Measurable: we must be able to check the outcome of the goal
  • Achievable: the goal must be appropriate
  • Realistic: the goal must be reasonable
  • Time-bound: there must be a time limit on the outcome

An example of a SMART goal could be:

“Drop 2 dress sizes by the 30th of September 2013”

Here the goal is specific (weight loss), measurable (6 kilos), achievable and realistic (the goal is 2 months away), and time-bound (by 30th of September).

Pretty. Simple. Stuff.

SMART goals have been used for years and there is solid evidence that they work well.

But the key to setting a great goal for yourself is to add more dimensions to it:

Outcome & Process

You can pad out your goal by clarifying both the outcome i.e. the end result and/or the process i.e. the habits to build.

For example, your goal could be to “Fit into my old jeans” and/or “Jog 3 times per week.”

Extrinsic & Intrinsic

Then you can further clarify your goal by defining the external (extrinsic) i.e. dress size, weight, body shape and/or the internal (intrinsic) i.e. the way you feel on a day-to-day basis.

For example, your goal could be to “Be a size 14” and/or to “Feel like a Fitness Warrior.”

Because behind every extrinsic goal is the desire for an intrinsic feeling, these two generally go hand in hand.

So, using the SMART goals described above, a clear, multi-dimensional goal could be:

By the 30th of September 2013, I will:

  • - Have dropped 2 dress sizes
  • - Be running 3 times a week
  • - Feel like a Fitness Goddess

Now compare that to the first SMART goal: “Drop 2 dress sizes by the 30th of September 2013.” Which one feels more powerful, more real?


How to Set Awesome Goals: Brian Mayne’s Goal Mapping

A few weekends ago I was introduced to a powerful goal-setting tool, which encapsulates all the dimensions mentioned above (and more!)

Brian Mayne’s Goal Mapping is a very engaging technique, designed to not only gives you great clarity but also kickstart subconscious changes, by engaging both sides of the brain.

By mapping out your main goal, sub-goals, desired feelings, start/end dates, processes and support network you create a realistic vision of your goals. And by writing and then turning your goals into drawings, you use both the left and right-hand side of your brain to communicate with your subconscious: “your thought pictures become your commands, to your subconscious, for your future”.

You can find more information and download the goal-mapping sheets here.


How to stay on track

Of course, goal setting is the easiest part of the change process. When done properly, it will give you a huge boost in motivation.

But the important part is the follow-through. Here are a few quick tips to stay on track.

1. Daily visualisation and review

Put your visual goal map somewhere highly visible, such as the fridge door or above your computer. Read it thoroughly every day and dream you’re already living it now.

2. The If…Then technique

A 2010 study by NYU found that people doubled the amount of exercise they did when they had previously thought of possible obstacles and ways to avoid them.

In the study, participants were asked to set goals, and the make 3 “If…Then…” statements:

  • One to overcome an obstacle from the mind (“If I feel exhausted when I get home from work tonight, then I will put on my running shoes and go for a jog in the neighbourhood”)
  • One to prevent the obstacle (“If I hear the clock chime 5 o’clock, then I will pack my things and leave the office to go for a run”)
  • One to identify a good opportunity to act (“If the sun is shining, then I will go for a 30-minute jog in the park”)

Use the same technique on your current set of goals. Think which obstacles are you most likely to encounter, and create If…Then statements to overcome them.

3. Tracking

In his book “The 4 Hour Body”, Tim Ferriss notes that tracking anything will lead to better results.


Because it keeps you more aware of your actions, on a day-to-day and moment-to-moment basis. You’re less inclined to let your subconscious run the show.

There are various ways to track:

  • Paper: keep a journal or a daily log of your food intake and your exercise patterns
  • Application: there are tons of applications to help track both your food and your workouts (myFitnessPal or Fitness Buddy for exercise, and NutraCheck, Livestrong or Food Diary for food)
  • Technology: Nike Fuel Band is a good way to count your calories and steps throughout the day

4. Accountability

Last but not least, as mentioned in my previous article "Growing Your Fitness Tribe", finding a network of supportive individuals can hugely increase your chances of success.

Build your Fitness Tribe by using websites such as New Vita or Nerd Fitness, and find people that can hold you accountable for your goals.


TAKE ACTION: Now is the time for you to set yourself some awesome new goals. Download the goal-mapping sheets from this link, and follow the step-by-step instructions to create your own vision for your health and fitness. Be sure to write your goals in the present, as if they have already happened. Then leave a comment below with your results and how it made you feel.

Good luck!

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Love & Health

Will x