DSC_0024This is the time of year we do a lot reevaluating: what’s working? what isn’t? Where are we, where are we going, and how will we get there?

A while ago I went on vacation and before I left, I gave my clients marching orders. I wanted them to come up with a goal they wanted to reach. It didn’t need to be a weight-loss goal. It could be anything really. The best goals are the ones that you hide somewhere inside yourself, that make you kinda nervous and think, “I could never do that. That kind of goal is for other people.”

(For the record, I am not the world’s biggest fan of weight-loss goals. I think it’s important, if you are overweight, to get into a healthy weight range. The problem with goals that involve the scale is that sometimes our bodies get wonky and decide to hang at a certain weight — or worse yet, temporarily bump up a half-pound — and if we don’t hit our target weekly goal every time we step on the scale, we get frustrated and can give up. That’s why I like performance-oriented goals. You have control over what you do.)

So they worked on coming up with goals, and I was pretty excited to see what they came up with. One of them wanted to feel comfortable taking ballroom dance classes, gliding across the floor in a beautiful dress. Another one cruised active.com looking for fun (for her, at least, haha) events to participate in, as she had already completed 3 sprint triathlons. Others focused on weight loss — and that’s great, but (sorry people!) I turned those into performance goals for them — as in, how many workouts were they going to complete over the course of a month? how many days did they log their food intake into a nutrition journal?

I find that I, personally, do best when I have a goal to apply my efforts toward. I enjoy exercise for its own sake, but I admit I put a little more intensity into things when I have a goal square in front me.

How do you come up with goals? By picking something that seems a little bit out of reach but also by being SMART about it.

S – Specific. State the goal as precisely as you can. (I will run a 5K on Thanksgiving morning)
M -Measurable. You can measure your results. (I ran 3.1 miles)
A – Attainable. Not all of us can pitch for the Red Sox. But maybe we can pitch for our softball league.
R – Realistic. Losing 20 pounds in a month happens on TV, not in real life, at least not healthfully. I worked in TV for a short while and I can tell you that TV shows are all about the “show.” Losing one pound means creating a 3,500 calorie deficit — that’s 500 calories a day. Imagine the deficit you need to create to lose 20 pounds. (For weight-loss people maybe the goal would be: I will lose 10 pounds in 6 weeks.)
T – Time sensitive. You need a deadline, and it shouldn’t be next year. If you have a huge goal that will, in fact, take you a year to achieve, then break it into smaller increments. (My personal end-game goal timeline at this point is 31 weeks away. But I’m working in 6-week increments.)

I’m also a big fan of rewards and (ahem!) consequences. The fun stuff is the reward. What are you going to treat yourself to when you meet your goal? A massage? A new workout gadget? An outfit?

But what if you don’t meet your goal? You need a consequence. I love watching my clients’ faces as they consider this possibility — a CONSEQUENCE? A PUNISHMENT?? ME? But I’m a grownup now! I don’t WANT TO!

But that’s just the point.

It’s a lot harder to come up with a good consequence for yourself than it is a reward, isn’t it? But really … think about it this way. If your child doesn’t follow through on something important, errs big-time, or fails to keep his/her word about something, does s/he have a consequence? Most likely yes. And if you’re childless, think back on your own upbringing. Chances are you had to pay the price if you fell short of minimum expectations.

For me, a consequence might be something like not being able to go to the movies for a month, or not watching my DVR’d guilty pleasure shows (Top Chef, the Housewives), or maybe even forcing myself to donate to a political cause I find distasteful (now that’s a motivator, right there!).

So, let’s think about goals. What are yours? I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment. Telling at least one other person helps solidify goals in your mind, which is the first step in achieving them.