Setting Reachable Goals

RoadmapIf you ask someone what their goals are when they go on a diet or start working out, what kind of answers do you usually get?

  • Get skinnier
  • Get healthier
  • Get stronger
  • Get in shape
  • Get more chicks

Do any of you have those goals? If so, I have a question for you: have you quantified them? If you don’t have quantifiable, measurable goals, how will you know when you got there? What does “healthy” feel/look/taste like to you? What is your definition of “skinnier”? How do you know when you’re in shape?

Think about the last time you started out on a trip. You had your map. Maybe you made out directions. Maybe you knew someone who knew the way and they told you some landmarks to watch out for. You didn’t just know where you were going, you knew what to look for along the way to prove that you were heading in the right direction.

Now let’s say you’re driving to the next state over to visit a friend who recently moved. You’ve never been to his house, but you know he lives in Cityville. You can’t just set out towards Cityville and expect to find him. How will you know when you’ve reached his house? Furthermore, unless you’ve been there before, how do you know how to even get to Cityville?

You plan it out!

The road of fitness I have before me is long, and I started it by thinking I’ll just go and see what happens. But I’ve been thinking deeper, and I’ve realized that’s what I had always done in the past. I don’t want to repeat the past because all it’s done for me so far is keep me fat. It’s OK to head on down the road at first, especially if you know it’s long. That might be all you know how to do. But eventually, you need to define measurable goals to make sure you know where you’re going, how you’ll get there, and how you know when you’ve arrived.

So set some goals. Some of mine are:

  • Get to 200 – For whatever reason I’ve always been aiming for 220, and I said I would reevaluate once I got there. I want to take it a few steps further and get down to 200.
  • Run a sub-8 mile – My fastest mile ever was 9:08 in 10th grade. If I see a 7 in front of my time, I’m excited.
  • Run an entire 10K – I’ve done our local 10K four times. My fastest time is 1:24. If not this next one, the one after I want to run completely.

Break it down even further

Those are my ultimate goals for now. I’m sure they’ll get even more defined and perhaps more challenging. But they’re only the end picture. How will I know if I’m headed in the right direction?

  • Get to 200 – I’m not just going to lose 100 pounds. That number is big and daunting. My plan is to lose 10 lbs a month. I even take it more granular than that: between 2-2.5 lbs a week.
  • Run a sub-8 mile – As I get smaller, I’ll get faster. But I also need to jog. My wife and I are going out every day for 30 minutes. Right now, we’re walking. Eventually we’ll start jogging. And eventually, I’ll have my sub-8.
  • Run an entire 10K – I probably won’t be able to run it this year (it’s only a month away). I have found, though, a running plan that takes you from sedentary to jogging a full 10K. It’s allegedly 13 weeks, but I think it’ll take me longer. But I know that if I follow it, even if I have to repeat some weeks a couple times, I will eventually be running a full 10K.

The goals don’t have to be huge. The point at the beginning isn’t to make outrageous goals and then be disappointed by not reaching them. If you’re like me, you’ve done that your whole life. It’s time to set small goals and achieve them. Eventually you’ll become more confident and the whole thing will be easier.

Take a second to plan out *measurable* goals and let us know what they are in the comments. It could be a helpful exercise for others who aren’t sure what goals to set!


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  1. Hey Jason,

    Great post, I think your 4HB blog is probably the best one that I have found. I had a similar post (rant) about goals that was started by a comment discussion I had will a guy on quora, you can read it here

    One thing you didn’t mention was how you are going to track your progress, other than the scale which is obvious.

    Good luck and keep it up.


    • @Justin:
      I like when you leave comments, Justin. They always get me thinking and making concrete improvements. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I was about to update the post with the ways I’m going to track, but I think I’m going to write a separate post about tracking. I glanced at my three that I listed, and you’re right…I don’t have real solid ways to track my goals! I mean, I have a concept of what they are but I didn’t lay them out. Expect an article next week about how I’ll track my efforts towards my goals!


  2. Ah, I finally have some time to leave a comment on your post. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    When I asked the question I consciously decided to use this kind of answers and give the people the choice to leave their own answer too. When I tell people about my strength training and my eating I always hear those kind of answers. And if you browse the web you find a lot of websites that promise six pack abs or more sex appeal or something like that.

    I think it’s because the average joe starting with a diet only has a diffuse goal on his mind. Only if you spend more time thinking about what you want to achieve you get to a measurable goal and you finally start to think about how you will track your progress.

    For me I it’s spreadsheets. I create spreadsheets for everything. My current workout plan is made for 12 weeks in advance and I create graphs and diagrams about my current progress, the end result, the progress on every exercise…

    So even if the answers sound a little vague, the interesting parts come from the freestyle answers. Unfortunatly there was not much feedback on the poll, but I will start some more soon. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Carsten, I hope you weren’t offended by my post. I certainly didn’t want to call you out for vague answers, it just got me thinking. ๐Ÿ™‚ But you’re absolutely right about people only having these kinds of goals in mind when starting out. I think that’s what revelation people have during their “moment” when they realize the need a change. It’s part of the process, I think, to start with the vague goal. My problem was always that’s where I stopped. This time I know I’ll succeed because I have very specific goals that I’m tracking. I want to encourage others to do the same.


      • @jason: Of course not! I’m not easily offended and you have to put more effort into it to make me angry. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        I feel the same about the motivation of starters, they have only an idea about what they want to achieve. Best example for this is “I want to loose weight” – I’m always tempted to reply “don’t eat”. It’s not clear if they want to loose fat, if they want to change their body composition or if they want to get a six pack like the guy/girl from the ads.

        OTOH I gave up writing TODO lists and detailed deadlines for the “not near future” at work, and I start to feel the same about my workouts and overall fitness goals. I don’t want to get a six pack ab anymore, I don’t want to lift X kg – what I really want is to avoid injuries and work-related problems of an office job and extend my time of life with high mobility. That’s not a very measurable goal, at least not at my age… but maybe this change of goal setting behavior is again a result of my interest in the topic and all the thoughts and learning I put into it.

        • @Carsten: See, I think that’s where we all should be heading. For those of us, like me, who have a way to go to even remotely be healthy, the concrete goals are very necessary for me to get in the area of being healthy. Once I get to 200, for example, I will decide whether I want to lose more or not. I don’t care about having a six pack, I just want to have normal blood pressure and cholesterol, and I want my body’s age to match my years.

          For me, the specificity will point me in the right direction and will keep me down the road. Once I get there, it will be a part of my life. Healthy eating and exercise will be a part of me, and that is what will help with avoiding injuries and things like that. So that when you and I are 60 we’re not hoping we will be moving when we’re 80!


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