How to set achievable and fulfilling goals.

We’ve all done it a hundred times.

Failure to achieve goals leaves us empty, we lose motivation, we start thinking there is no point and we often end up worse than we started. So why do we do it? Because ‘they’ tell us to. But believe it or not, they have good reason… Goal setting has the potential to work wonders. Goals can increase productivity, encourage us to work harder and give us a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when achieved.


The biggest mistakes:

-Setting large and/or unrealistic goals.

-Not having a game plan to achieve your goals.

-No accountability to your goals.

-A lack of specific and measurable details.

-Inability to adjust goals based on regular evaluation.

-Not prioritizing or trying to set too many goals.

-And my favorite, setting goals based on what others can do rather than yourself.

The important thing, of course, is what you SHOULD be doing. So here are a few tools you can use to set some really good goals that will help you on your way to success, whatever that means to you.


First, understand what type of goal you want to set (we will discus from a health point of view but of course it can relate to any aspect of life):

Outcome Goals: focus on competitive results that depend on not only your performance but that of those around you. For example winning a race.These can be risky. Though in terms of health these goals can also refer to reaching a healthy blood pressure or cholesterol level.

Performance Goals: these are based on your current abilities and where you want to get to. For example achieving a 50Kg strict press or 70 minute 12Km run. These tend to be more flexible as they do not depend on someone else’s performance.

Process Goals: Focused on a particular action during performance. This is usually something that will assist in accomplishing a performance goal. For example maintaining a steady stride length during a run or bar path during a lift.


So what kind of goal should you set? All of them! Here is an example of goals working together by a hypothetical Weightlifter:

“I want to place on the podium at my next weightlifting competition (outcome goal of first, second or third). To be in with a chance I need a 130Kg clean and jerk, currently I have 122Kg so I need to improve it by 8kg (performance goal of increasing a lift record by 8Kg). I have a bad habit of loosing it forward in the jerk  so I am going to focus on keeping my weight in my heels and driving straight up during training and especially when attempting maxes (process goal of specific body positions and cues)”


Still not sure?

Here is a simplified version of the principles of goal setting as outlined by Weinber and Gould (2007) based on years of research. As you may notice, they tend to be opposite to the mistakes we outlined earlier.

  1. Set specific goals: Specific and measurable goals have more potential to positively influence behavior. The more specific a goal is the better it is, the easier it is to measure and reevaluate.
  2.  Set difficult but realistic goals: moderately difficult goals lead to better results! If it’s too easy then why bother, you aren’t going to make any significant improvements. If it’s too hard then why bother, you can’t achieve what you can’t see. It’s kind of like goldilocks and the three bears, you have to set one that’s juuuust right.
  3. Set long and short term goals: Major change doesn’t happen over night, and as we just discussed it can be too difficult to have a massive goal that will take 18 months to achieve so it is important to set a long term target and smaller short term goals that will get you there. This way, you can constantly feel the thrills of success and effectively monitor and update your long term goal as you go. Shot term goals are the stepping stones to success.
  4. Set goals based on performance and process more than outcome: It can be hard not to focus on outcome. You want to win, or you want to be 20Kg lighter. But a healthy focus on performance and process will leave you in a much brighter psychological state. Instead of obsessing over the scales look at how far you can run or ride now, how much more you can lift or how much better you feel after a mobility session. For the athletes, we all know that desire to win and the disappointment when we don’t, but that sting can be eased by the knowledge of improved performance. “I didn’t win but I got a snatch personal record because I had that perfect bar path I’ve been working on”.
  5.  Record goals and milestones: Ever heard the saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’? This is relevant here. Many sport psychologist’s agree that goals should be written and placed somewhere seeable, as should progress. This is why Human Movement have a goals board centered in the gym.
  6.  Develop goal achievement strategies: It’s all good and well to set a good, specific goal such as wanting to be able to do your first strict pull up within the next 3 months, but what good is it if you aren’t working towards it? We will help you with that too: Goal specific programming to help you get there. Things you can do in the gym and at home that will help.
  7. Understand your motivation and make clear commitments: So why do you want that pull up? Why do you want to lose 20Kg? Why do you want to win your next competition? You can do this on your own or with a coach, but it really helps if you can understand the underlying motivations you have for each goal. It is easier to commit when you know why you’re doing something.
  8. Evaluate goals regularly: This is where an outside opinion can really help. Not just in evaluating the goals but everything, your movement, your health, your motivation, your progress. Evaluation and feedback are essential parts of facilitating change!


We aren’t just interested in you coming along, paying your money and going home again. We want change! We want you to be healthy, we want you to feel good, we want you to be injury free and we want you to achieve your goals. We will help in every way we can even if it means a phone call every morning to interrogate you about diet or mobility!

Next time you’re in for a session pin a goal or two up on the board as your first step to success and let’s get to work!

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