6 Tips for Effective Goal Setting (Find out what works and what doesn't!)

6 Tips for Effective Goal Setting (Find out what works and what doesn't!)

Happy new year!  With a new year comes a new start, new goals, and new intentions.  We are taking this opportunity to explore effective ways to set goals, not just for new years, but for year-round.

Experiencing the new year's rush inside the gym each year for the last 10 years or so, we’ve seen what works to keep people to see their goals through.  It’s no surprise to observe a big drop off of gym go-ers after mid-February rolls in.  They were relentless in the pursuit of their goals at the beginning of the year.  What could have gone wrong in those six weeks or so to change their behaviours dramatically that they aren’t seen again until next January?

Let’s dive in!

Why do Goal Setting

Before we get into the how, let’s chat about why do goal setting in the first place.  Goal setting helps us to:

  • Have purpose (a reason to get out of bed in the morning)
  • Identify what is important and why it is important
  • Organize resources (time and energy) and prioritize important tasks to move in the right direction
  • Build new habits and behaviours
  • Have personal accountability
  • Measure progress and evaluate performance
  • Continue and contribute more effort when we don’t feel like it (expand our comfort zone)
  • Get what we want for our lives (ownership, empowerment, personal satisfaction)
  • Improve the belief in our own skills and abilities (self-efficacy) which leads to believing goals are more achievable

With these life-changing reasons to set goals, why wouldn’t you?

6 Tips for Effective Goal Setting

1. Understand why your goals are important

Your “why” is ultimately the engine that drives your behaviour.  This is your reason for getting out of bed in the morning, your reason for getting your workouts in regularly, your reason for why you do life’s hard stuff.  Understand what it is that is personally rewarding to you and make it clear and visible.  

Internal motivation comes from internal rewards: purpose, growth/curiosity, self-expression, and enjoyment  

This study showed that intrinsic motivation has three times more impact on levels of employee engagement compared to external motivations.

External motivation comes from gaining a reward (money, praise, status ) or avoiding a punishment. While external motivation is helpful in some situations, it may lead to burn out and loss of effectiveness over time.  


My goals are important because I want to learn how to change my body and take ownership of my health - internal motivation. 

My goals are important because I want to get Instagram likes and followers - external motivation

2. Set goals that are habits based not outcome based

Goals that are habits and process based focus on the small consistent actions you can take that ultimately lead you to a greater goal.  This focus allows you to make continuous and steady improvements through digestible actions.  The benefits of each individual action may be so small, even unnoticeable, but the accumulation of these benefits add up to big changes. By focusing on the process, keep your actions consistent and manageable.  This will help you avoid burning out, falling off, and becoming disengaged with your goals as such can be the case with outcome based goals.


I will walk for 30 minutes everyday for the next 6 months vs I will lose 25 pounds in 6 months. 

3. Use numbers and timelines in your habits-based goals

Let’s keep actions specific, shall we?  Numbers help us gauge our performance and progress toward the goal.  Knowing exactly where you are helps you prioritize what specific action needs to be done.  Your timeline tells you when you need to do it, providing you with time-related accountability.

"A goal without a timeline is just a dream." - Robert Herjavec 


My goal is to eat nutrient-dense meals vs My goal is to eat 4 nutrient-dense meals every day for the next 30 days

4. Write your goals down and visit them frequently + tell someone about your goals

Writing them down makes it real.  Now, this action is more effective when you see your goals regularly and visit them periodically to see how you are doing with the numbers and timelines piece.  You would hate for a lot of time to go by to realize you are not where you want to be!  Posting your goals on your refrigerator, desk or in your agenda and sitting down to look at your progress helps to keep this in clear vision.  

Accountability is a big reason why we tell someone our goals. Because you said it outloud to someone, you’re already more likely to do it with social influence.  Telling someone about your goals also has other benefits, such as: improving your relationship and inspiring the other person to set their own goals.

In this conversation where you share your goals you could include:

  • What level of accountability would be helpful to you and ask if they could do this for you.  For example, you would like that person to check in once at the beginning of the month through a coffee date.
  • What you or this friend could do if you are not on track.  For example, if you are skipping workouts, you could do a workout together.  That way, this person is helping you get back on track

5. Set goals as though you are going to achieve them

Don’t let the fear of failure prevent you from setting goals.  The habits-based approach makes goal setting feel like the goals are more achievable.  

If you set outlandish goals, there are three probable outcomes:

  1. You may not fully achieve this goal, BUT you may achieve a high percentage of your goal and it’s still much further than if you didn’t set this goal
  2. You don’t achieve the goal.  Instead, you end up burning out and feeling disenchanted by yourself, the process, and the goal.
  3. You achieve the goal!

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.” - Les Brown.

Everyone is different.  We suggest you look at your previously set goals and evaluate how they went and what a better process is for you.

6. Have a range of goals, not just fitness

Fitness is a great catalyst in improving your life.  Improving your fitness teaches you the value of commitment, consistency, and putting one foot in front of the other.  These are many lessons which you can apply to your finances, your relationships, and your career!  Have you ever noticed that when one area of your life is improving, the other areas of your life start to level-up, too? 

 Improving your fitness means you:

  • Are organized and more efficient with your time (more free time)
  • Take care of your nutrition, likely cooking at home instead of eating out (saving money)
  • Walk instead of taking an Uber (saving money)
  • Have a great relationship with yourself and others (improved personal life)
  • Have more energy, a focused mind, and better stress tolerance (improved mental health and career)  

With all of these improvements outside of fitness, why not set goals in these areas of your life?  They are already improving with fitness.  Additionally, keeping on track with these areas will contribute back into your fitness goals.  For example, setting a financial goal impacts your spending behaviours.  By sticking within your budget for eating out, your fitness benefits too.  See, win-win!

Seeing success in one area will spark desire to be successful in others!

There you have it, our 6 tips for effective goal setting.  Again, everyone is different in what they need for an effective goal setting approach.  These are our suggestions based on observations over the years with clients and in consultations.  The better method is the one that works for you. 

If you would like a personal goal setting session, book your free assessment here!

What is one tip you can apply to your current goals?  Leave us a comment below and share this with a friend who you know needs some advice on goal setting.

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