Research shows that goal-setting works. In a typical study, scientists might give one group a tangible goal: like to do 25 push ups, and then they will tell another group to “do your best”. The group with the specific goal has more success than the comparison group in most cases.
When setting goals it’s important to step back and look at the process as a journey. You should set long term goals, but also short term goals to act as stepping stones on your way there.
LONG TERM GOALS:
Make sure your long term goals are realistic. There is nothing more discouraging then to set a long term goal that may never happen. If you vow to make it back into the jeans you wore when you were in 5th grade, and you’ve had 3 children, I hate to disappoint you but it won’t happen. A better goal might be to get into the jeans from 3 years ago. Your goals don’t always have to come in the form of sizes or pounds. You should set yourself some fitness goals also, like to complete 20 push-ups, or jog for 20 minutes straight. Long term events are a wonderful way to set goals. If there is a 5K race in 9 months, that gives you plenty of time to get fit and train to cross the finish-line. As far as weight loss is concerned, you should set goals that are not only reasonable, but are more than reasonable. No matter how many months it takes to lose 30 pounds by multiplying 2 pounds per week by the number of weeks, you should always prepare for plateaus. It will probably take you twice as long as you thought it would. If you are aware of this in the beginning, it will be easier to handle when it happens, or doesn’t happen as quickly.
SHORT TERM GOALS:
Not only should you set short term goals for each week and month, but I believe you should set goals for each day as well. Short term goals allow you to revel in the light of success without waiting and risking burning out. Before you go to bed each night you should set your fitness and eating goals for tomorrow, even if that means that your goal is to take the day off. Weekly goals are great because many times you are rewarded with drop in your weight. I recommend rewarding yourself for achieving weekly goals with small things like 30 minutes alone to soak in the tub and read, or to listen to your favorite music. Monthly goals deserve special treats in my opinion. Treat yourself to a new CD, or a massage. You will find that with each small success comes a renewed commitment to your long term journey. The best part about short term goals, is that they add up quickly, and your long term goal doesn’t seem quite as daunting.