Setting Goals (part 1)


Thanks to everyone who sent me feedback - I'm glad that this series is proving interesting and useful. Do let me know if there's anything you want me to cover or explain further - just hit reply to this email.

So far, I hope you have understood why you might want to make a change, realised that you need to take action in order to feel motivation and taken stock of your current situation. If you haven't done that, then please read the previous emails before doing this next step.

When you're ready it’s now time to take action and explore some potential goals so we can turn your 'whys' into reality through taking action.

The SMART critiera is a well known framework for setting goals. There are probably others, too.

‘S’ stands for Specific. It’s all too easy to say ‘I’ll lose some weight, or drop a few dress sizes, or save some money’ but if you don’t commit to a specific outcome you’re wasting your time. This is because you will tend to rationalise in favour of underachievement. So be specific, and also state it in the positive and in terms of the final outcome. To me, ‘I want to weigh 70kg’ feels clearer than to ‘I want to lose 25kg’ - it’ll be obvious when I’ve got there.

‘M’ stands for Measurable. You can monitor weight, so that’s good. But you might be tempted to choose a goal which you can’t easily measure. ‘I want to be the most attractive I’ve ever been’, for example. It’s a great motivator, but you won’t know when you’re there.

‘A’ stands for Attainable. Is this a goal you can achieve without relying on other people, for example? Given the specifics and timescale, do you even have a chance of achieving it?

‘R’ stands for Relevant. Is this a goal that fits in well with everything else you’re trying to achieve in life? Are there any conflicts?

‘T’ stands for Time-bound. When will you have made this change? Make sure it’s realistic and specific - specify a date, not a time period.

The key thing I learned is that you should be prepared for a long haul if your goal is around weight and fitness. By all means set some interim goals - I did this myself - but you really need to commit a significant amount of time to get the result you want. For me it was 12 months.

I was sat on the beach on New Year’s Day thinking ‘this time next year I want to be transformed and weigh 70kg’. And I think it’s fair to say I achieved that. Note how I could have said ‘in 12 months I want to be less fat’. It wouldn’t have had half the power over me. I then identified some milestones such as reaching 85kg, reaching 20% body fat, etc and I tracked and celebrated achieving them along the way. I know myself well enough to realise that if I had said ‘I want to reach 85kg’ (with the intention of setting another goal when I reached that), then the chances are that I would reach that and then think I’m done. Does that make sense? 

If your goal is around weight loss, experts agree that you can safely and reliably lose 0.5kg per week. In a year you can lose 26kg. It’ll be hard work, not least because weight loss requires a lot of mental strength, as much as a physical commitment. But you can do it. 

Sure, there are quick fixes for rapid weight loss, but if there’s anything I’ve learned about the body, it’s the fact that homeostasis - the body’s tendency to maintain a certain weight - will do everything it can to sabotage your attempts if they are unrealistic. So stick to 0.5kg/week.

If you don’t want to track weight, you could track measurements or clothes sizes. I had much less of an idea about what size I’d become. Turns out I’m a 27” waist and a ‘small’ shirt size. I had no idea, given I was wearing 36” jeans and large shirts a year ago. But you might already know you want to be a size 8. If so, go for it, and set some interim goals around sizes.

If your goal is around money, you could at the very least save 10% of your net pay per month. Perhaps more, once you get into the swing of it.

If 12 months is too far out, you could consider a minimum of 6 months. If you start now (21st December), you could weigh 13kg less in time for next Summer. Or perhaps there is a significant birthday, anniversary or event coming up. Plan ahead! But give yourself enough time to make sustained and continuous progress.

I’ve got a confession to make. This year was just part of a 3 year plan - to be in the best shape of my life for my 50th birthday. That’s a more high-level goal, and I now need to get clarity on specific goals for the next 12 months. They might well be expressed in terms of strength. That’s my homework for the Christmas holidays.

I’ll write more about goals soon. For now, start exploring possible goals around the changes you want to make so that we’ve got something to work with. Write some ideas down - on paper - and give them some thinking time over Christmas. Make sure they're well-formed, using the SMART criteria.

Until tomorrow, take care.