Goal Setting: 6 Tips to Help You Achieve Health Goals
It’s easier to set goals than it is to achieve them. These tips will help you change the way you approach goal setting, so you can accomplish more and make progress on specific personal goals for fitness and healthy eating.
Gooooooalll! Set yourself up for success.
It’s probably happened to you before — sometime in March you start to wonder what happened to the lofty goals you set for the new year back on January 1st. Whatever happened to your plan to lose a few pounds, and why haven’t you signed up for that cycling club that looked like so much fun? You’re not alone. A 2018 market research study revealed that less than 10% of people who made resolutions had long-term success.1
But there’s good news! Past research has shown that changing the way you approach goal setting can make all the difference.2
Here’s how to make your goals easier to achieve:
1. Get Specific
A promise to simply “do better” may not get you anywhere. You need to plan out the specifics if you want results. Look at it this way: a goal like “drink less soda” doesn’t mean a whole lot. Will you even remember to skip one or two of those soft drinks by the end of the week? The specifics matter: planning to cut down to one a day is a solid goal, which may keep you on track.
2. Get Realistic
A challenge is good, but don’t go overboard. If you aim so high that your goals feel impossible, fear of failure may destroy your motivation. Don’t plan to run a marathon next week when you haven’t gone for a jog in years. You may not even get off the couch, and the only thing you’ll marathon is the latest season of your favorite show.
3. Get Feedback
You’ll be more likely to stay on track if you know how you're doing, so check your progress along the way. If you’re doing well, you’ll feel rewarded and stay motivated. If you’re falling behind, you can course-correct. So, instead of planning to lose twenty pounds, create a mini-goal of two pounds a week. You’ll either have a mini-celebration each week, or you’ll know to double down on your efforts next week.
4. Get Challenged
Being realistic doesn’t mean aiming low. Starting simple is a good idea but going big can be motivating. You may actually put more effort into your goals if you feel challenged. After all, will doing five pushups really feel like an accomplishment when you can already do four and a half? Nope, and you know it, so aim for ten. Big goals are more work, but they’re more rewarding, too, so you’ll stay committed. That may make all the difference.
5. Get Accountable
We’re not saying you should hop onto the internet and broadcast the details (and fails) of your planned self-improvement to the whole world — not everyone needs to know about your midnight ice cream binge! But sharing your goal with a few friends may keep you accountable. Better yet, maybe they’ll join you.
6. Get Ready to Try Again
Of course, there is always a chance you won’t reach your goal. But we have good news there, too. Research shows that although achieving goals makes you feel good and try even harder, failure doesn’t have to lead to feeling bad and giving up on your goal. Instead, you may want to take a little break, reconsider the steps above, and give it another go with renewed determination.3
It’s not just the goal itself that matters, but how you pursue it. Set challenging, specific goals with plenty of rewarding steps along the way, and maybe this year you’ll mark some of your goals as done instead of forgotten!
1 New Years Resolution Statistics, Statistic Brain, 2018
2 Building a Practically Useful Theory of Goal Setting and Task Motivation, American Psychologist, 2002
3 Affect in the aftermath: How goal pursuit influences implicit evaluations, Cognition and Emotion, 2011
Last reviewed March 2018
Copyright © 2018 American Heart Association, Healthy For GoodTM, heart.org/healthyforgood