Research shows that having goals gives you direction, satisfaction, focus and determination.
Leading sports psychologist and author of Mind Gym Gary Mack said, “[Goals] clarify expectations and help increase self-confidence... goals also increase the motivation to succeed.”
The Biggest Loser Club dietitian Dr Clare Collins agreed, saying “Goal setting shows a real commitment to achieving your outcomes and that you will stick with it, no matter what.”
There are two main types of goals; a long-term goal, which is your final healthy weight and mini goals, which are small daily or weekly aims, such as doing an extra 10 minutes at the gym.
Your long-term goal can sometimes seem very far away and almost impossible, so mini goals help bring it into the present and help you focus on the process of reaching that goal by making you act here and now. In the words of Lao Tzu, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
Despite the benefits of working with goals, many of us who want to lose weight are reluctant to set ourselves targets. But is this down to a lack of personal competitiveness or is it more a fear of not succeeding?
Fear of failure
Many people are afraid to give their weight loss a competitive tinge for fear of failure. It is true that setting a goal and not achieving it can be quite deflating, but it often occurs when you’re trying to be too competitive with your weight loss. Dr Collins said, “Extreme goals are not realistic or achievable and therefore set you up for failure.”
That’s why it’s so important to set SMART goals. According to Collins, “SMART goals are a predictive of success”.
SMART goals are:
Specific: Go into detail about your goal. Have a precise weight and exact date for your long-term aim. Make your mini goals specific, such as an extra four lengths in the pool or just one biscuit instead of two.
your weigh-ins and measurements will help you monitor if you’ve achieved or are close to achieving your goal. Being able to clearly see your progress will spur you on.
Adjustable: You need to be flexible with your goals. Once set, they’re not set in stone. If you’re struggling to achieve what you aimed for, reassess your desired weight loss or allow yourself more time to get there.
Realistic: Goals should be challenging, but realistic. Don’t set your aims too high, but likewise don’t be afraid to set a target that requires hard work and dedication.
Time-based: All your goals need to be achieved within a fixed period of time or by a certain date. For example, you might want to reach your dream weight by your next birthday, which might give you eight months to achieve your goal.
Therefore, if you fail to reach a goal there’s no reason to feel de-motivated or quit at the first hurdle – it obviously wasn’t such a SMART goal after all.
Dr Collins advised, “If you regularly revise your goals it will also help you identify what derailed you, so the revised goal will be an even SMARTer one.”
“Rather than being black and white, you need to be able to deal with the grey and re-start after encountering any hiccups,” she said.
Lack of competitiveness
Some people don’t set goals because they’re not naturally competitive, against others nor themselves.
If you shy away from a challenge it’s time you found and harnessed your self-competitive side. Dr Collins advised, “Try setting up a group of work colleagues or friends all aiming to lose weight. Working on weight loss goals together can provide that extra incentive.”
Nutritionist Trent Watson recommended to publicly declare your goals. “If we tell others that we’re going to do something, we endeavour to do it to save face, which is very motivating and provides a great personal challenge.”
Similarly you can also write down your goals. This acts as a contract between yourself and makes you feel committed to your personal promise, whether it’s an ideal weight, gym regime or healthy menu plan.