Setting Goals


When I started on my path to eating and living more healthfully (gawd, that sounds so new-agey. sorry.), I didn’t really have a plan.  I started practicing free yoga in my living room in short twenty-minute sessions — where no one could see me fall over.

I found it made me feel good, so I kept doing it.

As I progressed, I continued to lose weight while improving my strength and flexibility (it wasn’t just the yoga — I started eating better, too).

Then a specific deadline sort of fell in my lap:  I was going to Hawaii with friends in the summer, and I wanted to have “six-pack abs” by then.

A few things happened:

1) I told my friends about my goal.

2) I worked hard to eat well and exercise frequently, all with my goal and time-frame in mind.

3) I didn’t get my six-pack.

I’m not upset about that last one, since I got pretty darn close.  I knew it was a bit of a lofty goal anyway, and I still felt good about how much progress I had made.

Nevertheless, determining both The What and The When made all the difference.

Once you have those two, you can work backwards to figure out the steps you need to take, and how long you have for each.  Including a time frame is critical, since it helps keep you from procrastinating:  “I’ve got to go to the gym today, or I won’t meet my deadline.”

My deadline came even though my rippling abs did not.  I was not deterred;  they would now have to be there by New Year’s Eve.  Yeah, okay, so five months into 2010 and I’m still working on it.  I’m awfully close — really! — so now I strive to have that washboard by, you guessed it, this summer.

I’ve got another goal for this August, too:  To complete an annual “mini-triathlon” on Catalina Island.  It’s a 1/3-mile swim, 1/2-mile kayak, and a 2.8-mile run.*

And in 2011?  I plan to finish that triathlon in first place.

It doesn’t truly matter if I actually achieve my goal by the date I specify — as long as I’m still making progress.  If the target keeps moving, so be it.

There’s a third element: The social aspect.  Sharing your goals with others can help keep you on track. That’s exactly what I’m doing by writing this post.

Beyond simply sharing your goal, surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family — who will encourage you rather than work against you — makes all the difference in the world.

So, there you have it.  Choose a specific, measurable goal.  Set a deadlineShare your goal with supportive people in your life.

What goals have you set, and what techniques do you find helpful for staying on track?

* The swim is the part that’ll kill me.  If you have any brilliant pointers, please post in the comments.  Any swim coaches out there?  🙂

Image of the Guillemins Train Station in Liège, Belgium by Philip Klinger.
A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

Welcome to Eating Rules!

Hi! My name is Andrew Wilder, and I think healthy eating doesn’t have to suck. With just three simple eating rules, we'll kickstart your journey into the delicious and vibrant world of unprocessed food.

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May 17, 2010 1:49 pm

Andrew, You sure have put up a lot of good content in so little time. I agree that setting a goal with daily actions is the key. My simple rules are: 1. 3500. This is the number of calories that must be reduced or burned to eliminate a pound of weight. I assumed that at 45 years of age and doing sedentary work, my maintenance calories were 1600. So if I could eat 1350 calories per day (more if i exercised), I would reduce or burn an extra 1750 calories per week and lose 1/2 lbs per week. In 50 weeks I would be 25 lbs lighter. And i figured if I could take a year to get my result, I would build habits I could keep for the rest of my life. I logged my food and exercise every day. and I shed those 25 lbs. The part about… Read more »

Kelly W*
May 11, 2010 4:15 pm

I think that setting a deadline is great, but for many people, planning too far ahead may be discouraging. I like to take the advice that I once read, and that’s to print out a monthly calendar and make it a goal to work out a certain number of days in the month. But since even a month can be daunting for some people, I’d suggest setting a goal of working out, say, 3 days a week. No scheduling specific days, just doing it when you can (no guilt that way). Beyond that you can set goals to increase the number of days (or minutes per workout) that you exercise for future weeks. As for the swim portion of your triathlon, I’d suggest training for that sooner than later. A friend of mine did one and even with her swim experience from her younger years she had a rough time… Read more »

kathy daruty
May 11, 2010 8:51 am

This was very motivating. I seem to set goals and loose track along the way. My hubby calls me a talker not a doer, I shall prove him wrong!

May 8, 2010 2:46 pm

I don’t know what you’re talking about; there were many six packs in Hawaii. Twelve packs even!

My swim coach, who I love, does private technique lessons. In San Diego. Roadtrip?