90 Fitness Answers 08 – “How Do I Set and Achieve My Fitness Goals?”

If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up someplace else
-Yogi Berra

Now, Yogi is famous for his quotes, which are often quirky, but there’s a lot of wisdom there, too.

One of the most important things in this whole fitness journey is to set a goal that you’re shooting for. If you don’t, then chances are it won’t be long before you wane from the path. New habits are hard. Adults don’t tend to create them easily and if it’s something that’s going to be a departure from your current life, as adopting a healthier, more fit lifestyle probably is, then it’s not always going to be easy.

So, the first thing we’d want to accomplish is figuring out basically where you want to go and WHY you want to do it. That why is up to you, of course, but if you don’t have a clear sense of that then it is going to be hard to be consistent once the new excitement wears off.

Step 1: Figure out a sense of where you want to go and really zero in on the WHY.

Now, once you’ve got those two basic points down, I like to firm up goals with clients with something called “backwards chaining”, which is a fancy way to say we start at the end and work our way back.

Let’s look at three goals, or goal ranges.

First of all, let’s try to get an end goal. This could be a number on the scale, it could be a way you feel, it could be standing on a championship platform, it could be any number of things. For this goal, it’s ok to be a little unclear on what that all means, if necessary (more clarity is always better, of course). Probably this goal will be a ways away, and you might not even know yet when that end point will be. It’s the BIG GOAL.

The next goal should be a bit more concrete. This is your Intermediate Goal. It’s still a big goal, but it’s more clear and it’s something that you can track and will also put you towards your big goal.

Let’s say we have two people. One’s Big Goal is to lose 100 lbs, while the other’s is win a Olympic Medal in Wrestling.

To lose 100 lbs is going to take a long time, and there’s a strong possibility that person doesn’t actually know what they look like or what their life will be like when they make that change.

It’s the same thing to win a gold medal. If you’re still in high school, you really probably don’t know what level of competition you’re going to face or what the training is truly going to look like.

The Intermediate Goal, though, should be much closer.

For our impending 100-lb weight loss person, they might pick 20-30 lbs as their target loss. They probably have a much more clear understanding of what that looks like and what it’s going to take.

For our future Olympian, they are going to probably need to win a state championship first, in order to have the chance to move up the ranks. Well, a state championship is much more clear and they probably know some guys who’ve done it. They can see what it takes.

Ok, and now we have our Near Goal. This one should be VERY focused and you should know (or be finding out) exactly how to get there and about how long it will take to do it. This will lead towards the Intermediate Goal, which in turn will lead to the Big Goal.

Our weight loss individual might target a two-pound weight loss this coming week. They know from past experience that this is possible and it puts them on track.

Our wrestler might know that they’re facing three ranked opponents this week, and if they beat all three they will qualify for the state tournament.

Step 2: Establish a Big Goal, Intermediate Goal, and Near Goal.

So we have some pretty good targets and they all sound great. There’s a piece missing, though.

Often, if you just focus on Outcome Goals (the results) it’s hard to keep focused and you are setting yourself up for disappointment. We have a hard time, as humans, conceptualizing our lives as very different than they are now. As such, it’s hard to get attached to a vision that doesn’t exist yet, and you also might get that vision wrong! You might find that when you hit your big goal, it wasn’t what you actually wanted. Also, Outcome Goals are often not totally in our control.

So I teach my clients to focus on Process Goals to fuel their Near, Intermediate, and Big Goals.

A Process Goal is focused on doing something that’s actually going to move you in the right direction, but its success is not the same as the outcome. The Process Goals are less “goals” as they are frequent check-ins or habits that lead TO goal achievement.

For example, our weight loss person might know from past experience that if they go from nightly dessert to 1-2 times per week, drink two bottles of water per day, and swap out their pasta at night for veggies, they’ll drop body fat. They can do all of these things, a little bit every day, and it’ll put them in the direction of their Goals. These process goals will add up to success.

Our wrestler can’t truly control if they’re picked for the Olympic Team, and they can’t truly control if they’re the best in the world on that day. What they CAN control, though, is showing up to practice every day, working hard, always seeking opportunities to practice with better opponents, maintaining their rest and nutrition at high levels, and so on. Those are Process Goals and they can be checked off the list.

Step 3: Set up your Process Goals to feed your Near Goals.

Putting these three steps in place will help you not only gain clarity on your goals, but also it’ll help you clarify the process you need in order to achieve them.

Looking for more help on developing a daily practice of achievement? Check out the free Relentless Strength 4-Elemental-S’s program here!


Did you miss a day of Fitness Answers?  No worries! Here’s the last seven days:

Day 01 – How much protein should I eat?
Day 02 – How do I eat more protein?
Day 03 – Should I do cardio before or after strength training?
Day 04 – How do I increase my metabolism?
Day 05 – What is “being fit”?
Day 06 – Is fat bad?
Day 07 – What’s a “trans fat”?

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