Could your goals be setting you up for failure?

I think it’s safe to say that most of us think we know all about goal setting. I mean, chances are, no matter where we are in life, we are all busy working towards various short- and long-term goals at the moment. Whether you’re planning for an exciting holiday, working towards getting a promotion, or saving for retirement your goals become an important map by which you live your life. If you are genuinely working towards achieving a goal it will influence your day to day decisions.

It is no different with your weight-loss goals. Interestingly I have noticed that many people are willing to identify a clear target weight and work towards that goal in the short-term while far fewer people take the long view on their weight-loss goals. But if you want to maintain a healthy weight throughout your lifetime it may be time that you rethink the way you set your goals, and how you define your successes.

Behavioural goals versus outcome-based goals

First let me explain the difference between these two ways of thinking.

An outcome-based goal means that you focus mainly on the final result.

The process of how you reach the goal is far less important. An example of an outcome-based goal is deciding to lose 5kgs for a friend’s upcoming wedding. If this is your goal it doesn’t matter how you reach it. You will have succeeded as long as you are 5kgs lighter on the day. In this view what happens before and after you reach your goal is less important than getting there. This means that if you have to enroll for an extreme diet challenge you willingly make the drastic changes required for the next few months. It also means that if you pick up all the weight again a few months later it doesn’t take away from the fact that you reached your goal.

A behavioural goal means that you focus on the behaviours you want to make an ongoing part of your life.

Behavioural goals are, not surprisingly, focussed on the behaviours that you have to make part of your life if you want to succeed. When you set your goals this way you set yourself up for success. These goals are more reachable and more focussed on the long-term plan. In the above example you wouldn’t use the 5kgs as a yardstick to measure your success or failure, but instead you would focus on the steps that will help you lose the weight and keep it off. Instead of being fixated on the numbers on the scale you would focus on making healthier choices and the numbers on the scale would go down as a by-product of that. A good example of a behavioural goal is increasing the amount of times you exercise a week from twice to four times. Eating 80% of your meals in a more mindful way that allows you to stop when you are full is another good example of a behavioural goal.

By achieving your behavioural goals you will notice yourself moving towards the outcome-based goal of losing 5kgs anyway. The difference is that you will be doing it in a sustainable way that allows you to celebrate your achievements every step of the way. Before you know it you will have taught yourself that you are strong enough to reach your goals, creating a solid foundation for future success.


So how do I identify my own personal behavioural goals?

Let’s say you do want to lose 5kgs… perhaps you could find a different way to look at this? Maybe your long-term goal should be more about achieving and maintaining a healthy body that will allow you to enjoy a full and active life from now on. Although this is a slightly different goal it makes provision for the rest of your life in a realistic way. Now let’s look at how you would practically achieve this.

Here are seven of my best tips to help you pursue your behavioural goals:


1. Set a realistic long-term goal

Don’t aim to lose 5kgs in 2 weeks, instead aim to achieve and maintain a healthy body fat percentage for your weight and age.


2. Break your long-term goal up into smaller achievable goals

For example decide to gradually increase the amount of exercise you are doing until you reach a level that challenges you, but that still feels good. Or start preparing some meals in advance to make sure you have a few nutritious choices easily available on busy days.


3. Be honest with yourself

Don’t tell yourself you can never eat pudding again if you have an insatiable sweet tooth! Instead focus on eating nutritious meals made from whole foods 80% of the time.


4. Update your goals

As you go through the process of achieving some goals you will grow in confidence and you could find that something that was previously quite daunting has become routine. Now it’s time to identify new challenges that will get you closer to your long-term goal.


5. Plan for success but be flexible

Although this might seem like a contradiction it isn’t. If you want to achieve something big you need to spend some time planning towards it. Plotting out your meal choices for the week ahead of time can be very helpful. But you have to be careful not to be thrown completely if something suddenly comes up. For example if your boss suddenly lets you know you have to attend a work dinner, it doesn’t mean you are doomed to eating unhealthy food. Take a few minutes to read the menu carefully and I’m sure you will find a good alternative to your planned meal.


6. Celebrate your wins

Don’t dwell on any slip-ups along the way. Choose instead to focus on every time you achieved one of your goals against the odds. Pat yourself on the back when you resist hitting the snooze button and leave the comfort of your bed to get out and do some exercise. You are amazing and you deserve to know it, so keep reminding yourself just how incredible you are. If you keep this up you will notice that making the healthier choice will start to come more naturally. It all starts with believing that you are capable of making that choice. Remember a good goal should be challenging, not virtually impossible.


7. Don’t go it alone

It can be hard consistently making good choices when no-one knows why you’re doing it, or even that you are in fact busy doing it! Once you share your goals with someone else you are much more likely to stick to them and make them a priority. The right person can help encourage you along the way and can help you find the strength within yourself that you didn’t know you had.

If you would like some help setting goals that are right for you or guidance as you go through the process of living out your goals, why don’t you get in touch? I would love to help you become your healthiest self!

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