I know that this guide is going to be massive.
But also exceptionally worthwhile in helping you to figure out a goal such as for weight loss and get a starting plan in place for what you need to do.
So honestly, I would not suggest trying to read this all in one go. I would say to bookmark it and work on each section at a time.
1. Why Goal Setting Is Important
You might have already seen a lot of goal setting posts.
They tell you how to set SMART goals (I will in a future post) but they rarely tell you why it is important.
Especially why correct goal setting is important to your weight loss goals.
So here are some rough stats:
- 25% of people give up after the 1st week
- 60% of people give up within 6 months
- 80% of people give up before the year finishes (I’ve seen higher stats too)
-95% of people who lose weight on a diet regain the weight
There are many reasons why the stats are so high from not setting your goals properly through to not knowing how to deal with issues as they arise and then giving up.
I genuinely don’t want you to become one of those stats.
I want to see you not only reach your weight loss goals but maintain it afterwards because yo-yo dieting is miserable & frustrating and your own health & happiness is way more important.
This is why I will provide you with information and strategies to help beat these stats.
2. Think About What You REALLY Want To Achieve
In the previous post I gave you some stats as to why setting the right goal is important.
I think a lot of goal achieving is cursed from the start because:
1) You Don’t Spend Time Thinking It Out
Don’t jump into specifics yet, let’s start with broad strokes. What do you want to achieve? No right or wrong. No traps. Only what you want to achieve.
It’s easy to automatically say “I want to lose weight” because…
That’s what you’re meant to say at New Years, isn’t it?
You don’t give a shit about losing weight right now.
In that case, don’t make it a resolution. Don’t stress out on something you don’t care about and then feel crap for giving up on it.
I mainly work with weight loss clients, it sounds weird for me to say. However, with all the will in the world, the tools and techniques I can provide, if you really don’t want to lose weight I cannot make you. Down the road you might want to do this in which case cool, message me when you’re ready.
ACTION POINT: Sit down and think what you want to achieve. Don’t focus on what you *think* you should say, just want you want
2) Your Goals Are Not Set In Stone
You’ve set your goal. You’re going to lose 4 stone.
Now you’re in this mindset of ‘you achieve 4 stone weight loss or you give up completely.’
I’m here to tell you that if you found your goal was too tough or things get in the way which means you won’t reach it…. You, as an adult, are entirely allowed to scale and adjust your goals accordingly.
I think this point is VERY, VERY overlooked because of how we fall into rigid mindsets.
We never stop and think “Ok, I know I won’t lose 4 stone so instead of giving up completely, how about I make my goal to lose 1 stone? I can reach that!”
Instead we go “I’ll never lose 4 stone, what’s the point? I give up completely, where’s the Dominoes menu?”
TO CONSIDER: Set your goal. If it’s not working out as planned, adjust it.
3. SMART goals for weight loss
In the previous step, I gave the advice to think about what you really want to achieve. Thinking in broad strokes so you have a general idea.
The next step is to run it through the SMART framework. When I left the corporate world in 2013, it’s something that came with me as I found using SMART type goals really helpful – nearly 8 years on and I still use this framework which is a strong sign it should help you with your goals too.
S = Specific = This is where you can pin down what you really want. For example from “lose weight” to “lose 2 stone” or “get fitter” to “run 5km” or really specific “run 5km in X time”
M = Measurable = When you set a goal, can you write down where you are right now, where you want to be and somehow track progress? If you can’t then it’s likely the goal isn’t measurable. Using the 2 stone example, you would know if you weigh 12 stone right now and can measure your weight loss as it happens.
A = Achievable = Is it something you believe you can do. For example running 5km is possible. Running a world record 5km might be too much of a stretch for now.
R = Relatable = Is your goal linked to what you want to achieve? If you want weight loss, your goal should reflect that. To put it another way, if you want to run 5km, you wouldn’t set a bench press personal best as your goal.
T = Timely = Have you set a deadline for achieving the goal. The idea is that is creates a sense of urgency for you to reach that goal. However, recently I have moved away from setting deadlines or at least hard deadlines. I will cover this more in a later post as to why these can work against you.
Using this frame, the idea is to transform your goal from “I want to lose some weight and tone up” to “I want to lose 2 stone and 4 inches off my stomach by 1st June”.
Hopefully you can see it will give you something more definite to aim for, add more purpose to your goals.
ACTION POINT: Have a look at the goals you want to achieve in 2021. Do they seem vague or specific? Use SMART to help you.
4. Your Why = More Meaning = More Chance Of Achieving
I always felt that SMART, whilst useful, was lacking something.
And that was adding a why
An emotional element.
It makes the goal much more important to you.
The more important you can make a goal to you, the better the chances are you will stick to achieving it.
It has meaning now.
A simple way to work through this process is to literally keep asking yourself “why?” until you run out of answers and uncover the real reason.
For example, you might want to lose 2 stone but that is the outcome. The real reason is why you want to lose the 2 stone in the first place.
The process would go like this:
“I want to lose 2 stone by 1st June”
“Because I feel fat and unfit”
“Because I have my wedding coming up and I want to look great in my wedding dress”
This is a short example and it can sometimes take up to 7/8 times of asking to start uncovering the reason.
Once you find your reason, you can then add it to your goal “I want to lose 2 stone by 1st June because I want to look amazing in my wedding dress.”
Uncovering that reason and using it as a reminder for why you are doing it can be a powerful motivator for you taking action.
Something very important which is often overlooked when you are being asked to uncover your why….
Your why is entirely personal to you and what you want.
There are no right and wrong answers because it’s your reason for setting the goal.
There can be a tendency to feel morally obligated to give a prim & proper why i.e. “because I want to feel fitter and healthier.”
If your real reason is more along the lines of “so I can look hot and have more sex”
Then use that as your reason.
You don’t have to tell other people that is your real reason (as it’s personal to you) but at least be honest with yourself and own that reason.
It will help you far more with sticking to achieving your goal.
ACTION POINT: Sit down with your goal or goals and work out the real reason WHY you want to achieve them.
5. ADD THE HOW
Hopefully you have thought about why you want to achieve a goal that is important to you.
That’s not the end of it.
In order to achieve a goal it doesn’t go like this:
a) You set a goal you want
b) Something magical happens
c) Goal achieved, hurrah!
Just because you’ve set a goal, it won’t suddenly happen. You need to work on it.
You must start figuring out those first steps to take to start moving towards your goal.
This is the how:
“How will I achieve X?”
This will form the starting plan for what you do next.
Even if that action isn’t perfect, taking any action towards your goal is better than taking no action. You can always correct as you go along.
You need to make the how relevant to you, your goals & your abilities right now. Think of the ‘how’ as a series of behaviours and habits you should look to adopt as they will support the goals you are aiming for.
For someone who would like to lose weight, the successful types of behaviours are along the lines of:
- Aim to eat 2 or more portions of fruit or veg most days
- Aim to drink at least 1.5 litres of water most days
- Aim to be active for 30 minutes most days
- Aim to exercise at least twice a week
- Aim to sleep 7 hours most days
This is a general idea, if that looks daunting then think about what you could do right now. For example, could you eat 1 extra portion of fruit or veg most days? Could you drink 1 extra glass of water?
The best possible tip I can give you is to strongly focus on the behaviours that support your goal and work on them as best you can.
You keep the goal the goal, but the behaviours are what moves you from where you are now to where you want to be.
You may have also noticed that I wrote “most days” on a lot of those habits. Don’t expect 100% perfection with everything, every day. Aim to do the right thing most days and you will make great progress without the pressure of thinking you’ve failed everything if you have a bad day or two here and there.
ACTION POINT: Sketch an outline of the steps and actions you will take to achieve the goals you want
6. Upskill Your Behaviours For Better Weight Loss
In the previous section, I gave you tips on how to identify behaviours to support your goals.
What is often overlooked is getting started with the behaviours in a way that doesn't overwhelm you and lead to you giving up.
Often, its a series of skills you need to learn.
Building the skills increases your competency and confidence.
This improves your willingness to stick to the behaviours as they become easier to do.
Let’s take a behaviour such as “I will eat 2 portions of veg every day”. There are skills that underlie this, such as:
- Know how to prepare & cook veg
- Know correct portion sizes
- Able to plan your meals
Some skills you might already excel at. Some you may need to work on.
The ones you need to work on – pick just 1 skill and practice it until you feel confident. Then move onto the next one.
Repeat until you are able to confidently do the behaviour to support your goal.
You might sit there and say building skills is tough or takes too long
Well, nearly everyone reading this has passed their driving test. When you first sat in the car and started driving, you weren't as good or competent as you are now. It took time, practicing a series of skills, and learning from mistakes to be as good (hopefully)and confident as you are now.
Building the skills to achieve another goal, such as weight loss, is no different. Learn, practice, make mistakes, continue practicing and learning.
ACTION POINT: Look at the behaviours you identified. Do you feel confident you can do them? If not, break the behaviours down into a series of skills and figure out what you need to practice.
7. Increase Your Chance To Succeed
Did you know that roughly less than 20% of people write down their detailed goals?
Did you also know that writing down your detailed goals increases your chances of succeeding, on average, by 42%?
Think about that - over 80% of people don’t write down the goals they’ve set for themselves and would massively increase their chances of success if they did.
I think one of the most common reasons people don’t achieve their goals is because they don’t write them down…
… and then simply forget.
I’ve seen it numerous times where someone has set themselves a goal and 2 - 3 days later they are doing the exact opposite of what they said they we going to do.
They simply forgot about it.
There is some neuro-science shenanigans going on behind the whole process of writing your goals down. I won’t pretend to understand it all but the general concept is two fold:
1) You create external, visible reminders (i.e. post it notes, sheet of paper, note on your phone / computer) which you keep seeing.
2) It helps your brain to process and remember the information better
I don’t want you to be like those people who simply forget.
I want you to succeed with your goals.
ACTION POINT: Over the past several posts, I have laid out how to build your goal into something detailed with a starting plan.
I want you to take all that information and write it down and keep it as visible reminders for yourself.
Personally I like using post-it notes. I generally have one in my wallet, in my phone case and slapped on my whiteboard behind my laptop. It helps to keep reminding me of what I want to achieve and why.
This method will work for you too.
8. What Gets Measured… Gets assessed.
Have you ever heard that term before?
If you think back to SMART, one of the important ideas was to make your goal measurable.
The reason for this is if you can make something measurable, then you can track and monitor it to make sure you’re on the right course and adjust if needed.
For example, you want to lose body fat so you could easily track your weight and some body measurements.
If you wanted to track the behaviours and action you need to take to lose weight, you could give yourself a tick each day you do them on a diary or tracker.
I think tracking and monitoring is important for a few reasons:
- We have been shown to have poor memory recall so it’s easy to trick yourself into thinking you’ve been doing the right actions when that might not be the case. However, tracking tells you if you’ve been doing the right thing most of the time.
- Linked to the above, if you can visibly see where your behaviours and actions might not be as frequent as you thought, you know to work on improving them. This leads to better weight loss for you.
- Seeing those ticks add up motivates you to keep that momentum going. A personal example for me. I’ve been doing daily lessons on Duolingo. I wanted to hit 10 days in a row. Then 50. Then 100. I’m currently on day 174 and would hate to see that broken so I’m motivated to keep the practice going.
I’m not saying being super obsessive over every little thing, you need to pick and choose the main areas / metrics / behaviours / actions for you to track.
ACTION POINT – Determine what you want to measure and track. Create / find a tracker to monitor them. Start ticking those boxes.
9. Recap and Putting It All Together
I appreciate that there is a lot of information in this post.
I wanted to recap and show you how it all fits together with an example:
1) Think about what you really want to achieve
2) Apply SMART to your goal to make it Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relatable & Timely
3) Think about Why you want to achieve your goal. What is your reason for doing it?
4) Look at How you will achieve your goal. What do you need to do?
5) What skills do you need to learn or practice to reach your goal more easily?
6) Write your goals down. Keep visible reminders.
7) Think about what to track and measure and then monitor
Now, I know you might be thinking that looks like overkill.
But here’s how that looks in practice:
If your goal is:
“I want to lose weight and tone up”.
And you apply the above steps, it would transform your goal to:
“I want to lose 2 stone and 2 inches off my waist by 1st June because I am getting married in June and want to look amazing in my dress for my big day.
To do this, I will focus on the following behaviours:
- Exercise 3 times a week
- Be active around 30 minutes most day
- Eat at least 2 servings of veg most days
- Drink at least 2 litres of water most days
- Aim to sleep 7 hours most days
I know that eating correctly is a weak point for me so I will work on the following skills:
- Learn about correct portion sizes
- Practice eating slowly and to 80% full
- Practice planning out my meals ahead of time
I will track my weight, waist measurements, how many times a week I exercise and how many healthy meals I am having. “
Then have that information noted down a few times where you can keep seeing it.
Hopefully you can see how these steps take your goal from something very vague to something very meaningful to you. Then how it makes it so much clearer for what you need to do to achieve your goal – it gives you a plan to follow.
If you’re still needing help with setting and then achieving your goals, I have spaces available for some new clients.
Drop me an email saying “Goals” if you want to know more.
This is my, mostly, Personal Trainer musings and information which I hope you'll find helpful!