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Traditional goal setting is is what works

It’s that time of year again and everywhere you turn you have another expert telling you how to set goals.

The problem - when is the last time those methods worked? 

The most well known method of goal setting is the SMART system:

- Specific
- Measurable
- Actionable
- Realistic
- Time-Dependent

This has some important qualities, but it puts too much emphasis on the GOAL. And the problem with goals, especially big goals, is they do not have a linear success path. 

Let’s pretend that we take this SMART approach to the most common goal of the new year: 


Here is a SMART version of this goal:

“I will lose 10 pounds in 90 days.”

Great! I have my goal, now how am I going to do this? Well, there are a lot of ways to approach it, but what this goal-setting technique fails to emphasize is that there is a RIGHT way and a WRONG way to reach goals. 

You can lose 10 pounds in THREE days if you just cut back on water. But is that what you really want? Is “weight” actually what matters?

If we agree that this is not in fact the right goal to have, then we can at least better define our goal:

“I will lose 10 pounds OF FAT in 90 days.”


Yes and no. 

If you lose 10 pounds of fat by starving yourself, then you will also lose a bunch of muscle. That in turn will lead to a yo-yo effect once your body (brain) makes you start eating again. 

So, yes, you did lose the fat, but it all came back AFTER the 90 days. Your goal setting just made you worse off. 

If, however, we take a different approach to this, then you can have your SMART goal and make it actually work for you. But it’s not the goal that’s the habits that you build.

And that is why timelines can actually be counterproductive. 

“What? Heresy! If you don’t have a deadline then you will never succeed!!!” - All “experts”

Well, there are plenty of people who set timelines that fail. Setting a timeline is only good when it gets you to think outside the box.

Peter Thiel talks about taking your 10 year goals and trying to see what you would have to do to accomplish them in 6 months. This is not because you will be able to do it, but it makes you think in a way that helps you see what is most critical for accomplishing those goals and getting that stuff done NOW. 

When you do that, you not only are more likely to reach your goals, but you probably WILL reach them a whole lot faster. 

So, timelines can be great as thought exercises, but let’s focus on what actually matters when you have a goal you want to accomplish:


And more specifically, action that you can take immediately and continue indefinitely. 

We’ll call these types of actions IIAs (immediate, indefinite actions).

Let’s look at our goal again:

“I will lose 10 pounds OF FAT in 90 days.”

We will keep the 90 days in there knowing that it really doesn’t matter when you lose the 10 pounds, it matters that it doesn’t come back. If you want, you could say 30 days just to put on your thinking cap...but it only matters if you come up with an IIA. 

So, what would an IIA look like? That is something only YOU can decide. 

You know your life, your history, and your values. You know your beliefs, your support system, and your likes and dislikes. 

What will qualify as an IIA for you will not for someone else. With that being said, here are some that have worked for others. (NOTE: Notice how NONE of these will get you to your goal in 90 days...but they WILL set you up for success long term).


Have a shake for breakfast
Drink one glass of water first thing in the morning
Stand up while on conference calls
Bring a snack from home (skip the coffee and muffin)
Switch out soda and drink water
Take 10 deep breaths before going to lunch

Again, none of these is going to dramatically impact your life...but the point is not transformation, not yet. The point is MOMENTUM. 

Personal Training Los Gatos Weight Loss Program

Do something, ANYTHING, that you can do starting today, and that you can do every day (or whatever consistency is required) for the rest of your life

Make that a habit (which can take a lot longer than 21 days...and that’s okay) and then add something else. 

People shoot themselves in the foot when they set goals that force them to take unsustainable actions. You are so much better off focusing on action and letting the goal come to you. 

I’ll leave you with one great example of how consistency vs. all out effort will reap huge rewards in the end. 

Stephen King is often cited as explaining how he became one of the most prolific writers of all time as following one simple rule: write 1,000 words a day. 

He did not get great material every day, but the point was not the end product. The point was to just keep writing. And it was something that he knew he could do. 

Over time, he started writing more words each day, and those words were better and better. But he didn’t just start out by writing The Shining. He wrote and he wrote and he wrote and eventually he mastered his craft. 

This is how you should think about all of your goals. Start with what you CAN do, and just keep doing it until you have mastered it. 

Need help knowing exactly where to start with you health and fitness goals? 

Come and try us out during our New Year's "Rejuvenation" Plan!

We know just how hard it can be to jump back into your routine (or start a routine for the first time), so we want to give you the support you need to do it right. 

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