see also : A.I.M.

Defining your goals in more detail

A good model to use for developing and assessing your goals is SMART

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timescale appropriate

For example :

Specific : Clearly define your goal e.g. to run a set distance in a given time (e.g. 10km in 1hr), or to lift a given weight for a set number of repetitions (e.g. 100kg x 3) – NOT “to run faster” or “to get stronger”.

Measurable : Speed is measurable. Weight is measurable. Distance is measurable. Time is measurable – and so on. “Getting fitter” or “Looking good” or “Running fast” are not measurable, they are subjective judgements, not concrete definitions of success.

Achievable : Running a marathon with no specific time limit is achievable for most people. Running a marathon in under one hour is probably impossible for any human being, ever, under any circumstances. Deadlifting 150% bodyweight is achievable for most people if they are prepared to train hard enough. Biceps curling 150% bodyweight is almost certainly impossible (even if somehow you were actually strong enough you would fall over trying to do it!). Becoming a ballet dancer is achievable if you are young enough, have the right physical attributes, access to tuition – etc. If you have never danced before, are 60 years old, are 6’4” tall, weigh 120kg and live in the Arctic circle, becoming a ballet dancer is effectively un-achievable. In almost all cases it would be a waste of your time striving for an unachievable goal and far better to choose a demanding goal that is actually achievable.

Realistic :  Having decided on a goal that is actually achievable, one should then ensure that the goal is realistic. Achieving a marathon time of 4.5hrs might be realistic for one person (say if their current marathon time is 5hrs) but (at least currently) unrealistic for another person (it may be too hard at this point if for example you had never run more than 5 miles before, or it might be too easy if for example you had a current half-marathon time of 1.5hrs).  Lifting a given weight may be achievable, but it may or may not be currently realistic depending upon your current strength, training time, whether you are doing other types of exercise – and so on. A realistic goal is one that will push you and require you to develop beyond your current level but without demanding that you are virtually superhuman.

Timescale appropriate :  Most “normal” or “average” people (i.e. without health problems, injuries or some other notable limiting factor) could probably (for example) train and successfully complete a marathon or squat +100% of their own bodyweight – and so on. Taking 5 years to get to the point where you could run a marathon or squat your own bodyweight would be fairly ridiculous under normal circumstances – you should be able to achieve a great deal more than this after five years of training! (If not, something is wrong somewhere…). On the other hand, if you have never run before, attempting to run a marathon after a month of training (or if you have never used weights before, attempting to squat your own bodyweight after a few weeks in the gym) may at best be unwise and might easily lead to either failure or actual injury. An effective goal should be accompanied by a realistic timescale that will keep you focused on your training, allow you to gradually improve and develop but which should be achievable within a realistic amount of time.

It is important to realise that just about all of the above factors are dependant upon the individual in question. No two people are exactly alike, and so goals have to be based upon an individual’s attributes not just wide ranging generalisations.

So applying SMART, a person might (purely hypothetically) decide that – for them – achieving a marathon time of 4 hrs 15 mins in a race to take place in 9 months time is a SMART Goal (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timescale appropriate).

Consider your goals in relation to the above advice. Treat defining a goal as though you were creating a sculpture. Start with a basic idea, get an overall shape for your goal, then knock off the rough edges, defining and redefining until your goal is clear and easy to perceive.

The clearer your goal, the easier it will become to achieve.

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