Set Goals

I’m a major advocate for goal setting. Many of you may have heard about the Havard/Yale study on goal setting where 3% of the graduating class had written down their goals for the future and in a follow-up study done 10 years later, it showed that those 3% were making 10x more than the rest of the class who had no clear goals. This is often the story told when advocating for goal setting. It definitely made me a believer.

Turns out, there is no evidence this study ever actually happened. However, there was one conducted at Dominican Univerisity by Gail Matthews. This is what she found:

  1. The positive effect of accountability was supported: Those who sent weekly progress reports to their friend accomplished significantly more than those who had unwritten goals, wrote their goals, formulated action commitments or sent those action commitments to a friend.
  2. There was support for the role of public commitment: Those who sent their commitments to a friend accomplished significantly more than those who wrote action commitments or did not write their goals.
  3. The positive effect of written goals was supported: Those who wrote their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not write their goals

Now that we actually have a study that shows the benefits of writing down your goals and having someone hold you accountable to them, we need to decide what kind of goals to pursue.

Outcome goals focus on the result(s) that you’re hoping to achieve; they are the big picture goals and not always within your control. While having an idea about where you’re headed is great, the lack of control can frustrate you if you become too focused on one specific result.

For example, let’s say you want to lose 20lbs. As most of us know, your weight can fluctuate by 5lbs/day and that many factors are involved, such as hydration, last BM, etc. Now, let’s say you’ve lost 15lbs of fat and gained 5lbs of lean muscle. Your body composition has changed, your clothes fit better and you have more energy. At this point, if your focus is only on losing 20lbs, you’ve “failed.”

Process goals, on the other hand, are the steps one takes to pursue the outcome goal and these actions are completely within your control. Finding out the why behind the outcome goal can help create the process goals. This creates a little more flexibility in how to go about achieving it.

In this example, you’ve decided that you will work out 3 times per week for 60 mins. It’s doable, easily measurable and you’re more likely to be happy with the results of improved body composition, clothes that fit better and more energy. The fact that you only lost 10lbs isn’t as big a deal.

And of course, there is always SMART:  Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant/Realistic and Timely. It wouldn’t be a goal setting post without it but now SMARTER goals seem to be the new thing. The extra ER stands for Evaluate and Recognize/Reward or Re-adjust which I think is very necessary especially for longer-term goals. Evaluation can be to assess your progress but also to evaluate if it’s worth continuing to pursue. Things change and sometimes goals become irrelevant. There’s no point to keep trucking on a path that won’t lead to where you want to go, so we Re-adjust. And finally, Recognize and Reward yourself. Celebrate the progress you’ve made; you deserve it!

What goals are you currently working on?

Let me know in the comments!

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Headshot of Sami Grosse


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