In any aspect of life, setting goals is necessary to achieve success. In the 1960s, pioneering goal-setting researcher Dr. Edwin Locke found that employees were much more likely to be both productive and motivated when they were given a clear objective. Goal-setting increases a person’s desire to achieve, and the same can be said of fitness ambitions. Follow these steps and set clear, concise goals for yourself. Once you do, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier routine.
SMART is an acronym championed by everyone from the University of Virginia to MIT to Fortune 500 companies for how to set actionable goals. Objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Realistic and have a Timeframe. Specific goals will keep you accountable. “Lose weight” is too vague. “Lose 15 pounds in six months” gives you much more direction and allows you to have a way to measure your progress.
Make yourself accountable
Accountability is important in goal-setting. Studies are torn on whether you should tell people your intentions — some say it will make you more accountable; others say it opens you up for judgement, making you less likely to follow through. Decide what method of accountability works best for you — whether that’s telling a friend so that he or she can become a workout partner or keeping to yourself and setting a phone calendar alarm to remind yourself to exercise — and stick to it.
Regardless of which option you choose, you should write down your goals. Place your fitness objectives in a place you can see them — on a bulletin board or your computer desktop — to constantly remind yourself to work toward them.
Once you’ve set your goal, you need to come up with a plan that emphasizes consistent effort. The idea of goal-setting is to challenge yourself each time you set out to work toward your larger goal. Setting up smaller, intermediate check points will help you track your progress and keep you motivated to work out on a regular basis. Remember: slow and steady wins the race. Small wins equate to big results. When people set out to run a marathon, they don’t immediately run 26.2 miles. They increase their mileage every week. Channel that same mentality as you set up a plan that allows you to realistically achieve your goal.
Know when to scale your efforts
Be mindful of how your body feels as you work toward your objective. It’s important to realize when you need to scale your efforts — up or down. For example, if your resting heart rate rises, this could be a sign that you’re exerting yourself too much and could use a less stressful workload. If you’re never sore, or you don’t notice changes in your body after a few weeks, that could indicate that your goal isn’t challenging you enough.
Track your progress
A time-tested way to stay accountable is to track your progress. So, you could include your day’s fitness achievements in your planner. Or, maybe it works better for you to download apps that track your fitness for you—Run Keeper and Nike+ Run Club both save your fitness progress, whether that be running, jogging or cycling. Consider investing in wearable technology that gives you a better idea of your overall health.
However you do it, monitoring your fitness will help you stay on track to achieve your goal.
Related: 11 Habits of Truly Happy People
Be mindful of the power of now
You can’t control what the future will hold, so delaying your goals may render them unachievable one day. There’s no time like the present to start living a healthier life.
Setting specific fitness goals will ensure you’ll jumpstart your routine and achieve a lifestyle that’s right for you. Follow the above tips to keep yourself on track as you work toward creating a healthier life.