Guiding Principles for Setting Effective Goals

By Jonathan Dugas

Setting goals for yourself is one of the most effective tools for improving health and health behavior. That may sound simple, but when it comes to goal setting, not all goals are going to set you up for success. Following some guiding principles can jump-start your goal and make sure you’re on a path to successfully improving your health.

Guiding Principle #1: Set both short-term and long-term goals

Experiencing success with short-term goals a little more frequently can motivate you to stay the course for your longer-term goals. It can be easy to set an overly ambitious goal when you are motivated to improve your health; however, taking a step back is more likely to help you succeed in both the short-term and the long-term. Breaking down your long-term goals into more manageable chunks allows you to work towards a shorter-term benchmark and make adjustments to your next short-term benchmark until you reach your ultimate goal.

Guiding Principle #2: Write down your goals

While the idea of writing your goal on a post-it note and sticking it to your mirror may sound a little cliché (but if it works for you, do it!).  But writing down a goal can take many forms. You can record it in a journal or diary for privacy, or you can hang it on your fridge at home for extra accountability from your family. If the physical act of writing down a goal on a piece of paper is too old school for you, try using the notepad app on your smart phone or tablet, or even just saving a document with your goals in your files. Here’s the thing:  where and how you record it isn’t the point. Instead, it’s the act of recording it that counts and helps make it powerful.

Guiding Principle #3: Get a “Goal Buddy”

If you want to add some extra accountability, get a “goal buddy.” Share your goal with someone you know. Your goal buddy could be someone striving to achieve a similar goal, or it could just be a trusted someone in your life who can check in with you from time to time. Going at it alone can make it harder than it should be and having goal buddy can help you feel supported.

Guiding Principle #4: Put Your Plan in Place

Finally, consider what it will take to achieve your goal. Will you need to get any special equipment or make plans for activities like reserving spots in classes or groups? Whatever you require, map it out beforehand. This can help you understand if your goal might be too ambitious. Or perhaps you thought it was a short-term goal but after looking at the activities to succeed you realize it’s actually a long-term goal that would benefit from being broken down into shorter-term goals.

Goals can be powerful, which is why goal setting is a key part of the Vitality program – we want to help you achieve whatever it is you set your mind to and be rewarded for it! Get started today and let goals help you achieve your healthiest self.

With a PhD in Exercise Physiology, Jonathan Dugas spends his days thinking about how we can help more people be more active. With four Ironman finishes and 13 marathons and counting, he’ll see you out on the road.

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