An overlooked component of goal setting

In a recent discussion with a friend, I was asked about how I measure success with my clients – seen as it is well known that most individuals do not attain their desired results with personal trainers. Well the good news is, I can honestly say that I have had 95+% success with clients. Does that mean that all my clients have successfully lost weight? No. It means that I set my clients up for success. There is no room for failure.

How do I set my clients up for success? By giving them the tools that they need. By listening to their pains, needs, and desires. By asking questions – what has or has not worked in the past, what are the challenges and obstacles, what is the easiest, what is the scariest, etc.?

And among other strategies – success can be molded with appropriate goal setting.

Goal setting, plus photo (19)

I know, I know. You have heard it before – you must set goals. We are bombarded with the advice to set goals, but are we shown HOW to set goals? I often see one common flaw in most goal setting advice – negative terminology. I suspect that most of us do not give it a second thought. Most individuals do not even see the negative.

For example, I will not let a client set the goal, “I will lose __ pounds.”

Do you know what is wrong with this goal? You may immediately suspect that I do not want my client setting weight goals (which is true). However, I do not allow the use of negative terminology. This means, no goals with the words lose, less, not, don’t, won’t, decrease, etc.

Instead, we use the words more, improve, increase, will, etc.

Language and perspective can be incredibly influential. True, it is semantics. But our brain processes “I will wear a size 8” far differently than it processes “I will lose 2 dress sizes.” Successful goal setting is associated with acceptance of where we begin and building a map to where we will go. You want to improve? Talk with positivity. You want to fail? Use negative terminology. In the schools of psychology and philosophy this is called the Law of Attraction –¬†that “like attracts like” and that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring about positive or negative results


The bottomline

“Like attracts like.” You have to believe. You have to be optimistic. You must focus on the improvements and the behaviors you want to increase, rather than the negativities (e.g., telling yourself that you cannot eat something you actually want to eat). Below I have included the foundational steps of goal setting. Let’s set goals!


You must be honest and realistic with a self-evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses so that you can set appropriate and challenging goals. Also, you must be honest with your process as you move towards a goal. If the goal is too hard or too easy, you can adjust it. If it is easily accomplished, reset for a higher standard. It is okay to adjust the goal based on your feedback and learning. By having a deadline or timeline for your goal, you are able to examine your progress and re-visit the feasibility of the goal.

1. Commit your goals to paper

2. Review your goals on a regular basis. Make your list of goals accessible, so that you can review it on a regular basis. Frequent reminders will help keep you on track.

3. Be specific. Set the goal to exactly what you want to achieve.

4. Be realistic. Begin by setting small, attainable goals in order that they will propel you into future success. For example, set a simple goal that you will avoid excess food at a party this weekend. Set another goal as simple as having a great workout tomorrow.

5. Focus on the short-term goals, as short-term changes in behavior will help you reach long-term goals. Set small goals to get the ball rolling, and success will breed success.

6. As you achieve your goals, return to your list and update the entire set of goals.