Setting Fitness Goals

Now that we are armed with the KILTED! Principles it is time to start implementing them. But how will you know if you are being successful? When I first decided I needed to lose weight several years ago, I wasn’t successful, and continued to gain weight.

Why wasn’t I successful? I had decided that I wanted, even needed, to lose weight. I had defined my desired outcome: losing weight and specifically enough weight to fit into my original kilt again. I had a target to shoot for. But I hadn’t defined any goals. A target without a plan is undefined and is therefore only a hope or a wish.


Why Are Goals Important?

Aiming for a target is relatively simple: get healthier; eat better. Getting healthier and eating better are noble targets, but they are also subjective and poorly defined. You can choose to work to improve, and you can measure your weekly improvement by tracking your progress, but you will never achieve success until you define success.

Goals are more elaborate, requiring planning and definition: Implement a seven-step process (like KILTED!) to accomplish X, Y, and Z by the end of the year; Increase my cardio to five days a week for 60 minutes a day to boost my weight loss; Implement weekly meal planning and replace all daily snacks with fruit or vegetables. Even though these are basic goals, we still have a plan that defines what we hope to achieve.


Questions for Goal Setting and Execution

Knowing that you need to set goals is the first step and selecting your target is the second. Next you need to ask yourself a series of questions. Your answers will help you define your process and lead to the measurements you will use to define success.

Target – What are you going to shoot for? Define your intention or your mission.

Process – How will you go about hitting your target? Determine what items will you need, whose help you must enlist, and what activities you will carry out to reach your target.

Progress – How will you measure your progress? Consider milestones that will help lead you to a successful completion (completing a 10K, then a half marathon before attempting a marathon).

Motivation – Why are you doing this? Be able to explain why this is a target you want to hit. When the going gets tough, revisiting your motivation may be just what you need to spur yourself forward.

Results – What are the anticipated outcomes you expect to achieve? Define the accomplishment or achievements that will mean you have succeeded.


It’s Not Just the Process

Looking at the questions above, it may be easy to assume that the most important step is to define the process. But each question is vital to the others. And although the process is important, it is not the end all and be all of goal setting. Measuring the process without measuring the results won’t necessarily lead to success.

When I was in a COO position at a non-profit, I worked for a CEO who was convinced that we had a perfect process in place (it was successful in other franchises). Some of my employees were not following the process because they had shortcuts and workarounds that could produce results which were good enough. But he wanted better results and was convinced that if our team followed the process to the letter, they would achieve amazing results.

One year, the CEO wrote a full set of process goals for me. Every goal was measured on how closely I followed the process with no measurement of the results. At his request, I worked with the team to form their goals in a manner that measured following the process without measuring results. As I usually did, their goals were set up such that if they all achieved their goals, I would achieve mine.

As the year progressed, the team started to prove that it is possible to follow the process exactly, but not produce the anticipated results by raising less money (a lot less money) than the year before. Is it a success if you meet with more community leaders that ever before, but don’t convert them into donors? If you hold all the required trainings on time with enough people present, is it a success if they are not the right people for the jobs? How do you hold employees accountable for not raising the money required to meet their budget when they did not have a monetary goal?

So, what happens when the results aren’t there? As a good manager, you bite the bullet when the annual review comes around, and you rate their employees according to the goals as they were written (as the CEO guided me). After all, they had followed the process as written, even if they had failed to produce the results. The fault was in the goal, not the employee, right? Each of the employees received a far exceeds or significantly exceeds rating (let’s call those an A or B) with a written remark that they understood and agreed that they had not achieved the results expected of them. In other words, they got good reviews for the year simply by going through the motions. The next year, with results-oriented goals, I had to terminate two of them for the same level of performance as they had been rewarded for the previous year.

Here’s the real pisser. I had killed my process goals that year (as they were written). I followed the process to the letter and had earned a far exceeds (an A) for my efforts. Not comfortable with “just doing what I needed to,” I had worked at and led the efforts to clear up our team’s deficits, understanding that the results were more important than “just achieving my goals.” But the board was not happy with the results and told the CEO to give me a Needs Improvement for my review, equivalent to a D on the grading scale. As far as I can tell, the board probably blamed me for the idea of the process goals (I was the only employee who had come in from another franchise where we had used the “perfect system” successfully) and this made several board members overly critical of me.

A SMART Look at Goals

When we decide to set goals we usually begin with a target which is vague, like “Complete X project” or “Improve my computer skills.” If this is all you use as your goal, they aren’t particularly attainable because they lack specifics, motivation, and timelines. What steps do you need to take to ensure that your goals are achievable? Make them SMART.

Through my business background, I was introduced to the concept of SMART Goals. Originally conceived and used by an employee at Washington Water Power Company in 1981, SMART Goals allow employers and employees to set goals which are well-defined, provide guidance throughout the process, and which clearly identify the end-result.

Although I prefer to avoid rigid or over complicatedsystems, the SMART Goal is one that you can easily track and can easily evaluate whether you have achieved your goal. If you’re not already familiar with the concept, you may wonder, what makes a goal SMART? SMART Goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Based.

SPECIFIC – Be specific about what you want to accomplish. Get detailed about what you want to accomplish, who needs to be involved, and why this is an important task. Consider this the mission statement for your goal.

MEASURABLE – Define the metrics you will use to track progress towards the goal, milestones along the way, and of course the anticipated result. Only by defining these specifics will you be able to measure whether you are on track to complete the goal or even if you have completed the goal.

ACHIEVABLE – Ensure that the goal is achievable with the skills and resources you will have available or define what steps will be necessary to learn or assemble the tools necessary to complete the specific task.

RELEVANT – Focus on a goal or goals that makes sense in the broader objectives of the business or company – or in our case, the broader sense of your health and fitness. Will the goal assist with health, or lead you to the next level? Or is it simply irrelevant.

TIME-BASED – A goal without a defined timeframe is more like a hope or a wish. Goals should have a defined deadline or target date for completion, or milestone dates by which to track their progress.

Need an example of a SMART Goal? I’ll give it a shot here. Today I decided that on my trip to Scotland this Fall (starting 6 months from this Friday), that I need to cycle around the Trotternish Peninsula on the Isle of Skye. How should make sure this statement is a Smart Goal?


Initial Goal: Cycle around Skye’s Trotternish Peninsula.

Making it Specific: My mission is to increase my cycling ability so that I can complete a cycling trek around the loop of the Trotternish Peninsula from Portree via Duntulm during my trip to Scotland in October, 2018.

Making it Measurable: By October of 2018 I should be able to complete a single-day, 50-mile cycling trek. The actual distance I wish to attempt is 48.5 miles with up to 600 feet of elevation change

Making it Achievable: Today, this is not an achievable goal for me as I currently ride 7-8 miles for 30 minutes with a negligible change in elevation. I will need to increase my cycling ability and duration over the next 6 months, gradually increasing my distance.

Making it Relevant: Since cycling is my preferred method of cardio, becoming a better cyclist is important to my ultimate health goals.

Making it Time Based: I suggest the need to reach the milestones of 10 miles by April 1, 20 miles by May 1, 30 miles by June 1, 40 miles by July 1, 45 miles by August 1, 50 miles by September 1 to maintain realistic progress.

SMART Goal Summary: In order to cycle around the Trotternish Peninsula in October, I will need to increase my cycling ability incrementally over the coming 6 months so that I am able to complete a 50-mile cycling trek by the time of my trip.

And there you have it, a SMART Goal. As of this morning, I have already begun increasing the distance of my morning bike rides. I’ll keep tracking my progress during monthly “Fit First” posts.


Working Your Goals

Once you have a goal, you need to make it work and doing so becomes much easier with accountability and buy in. Your motivation may wane over time, so it is helpful to have at least one mechanism in place to help hold yourself accountable to your goals. Writing a goal down (electronically or on paper) will hold you accountable to the original intent or motivation, especially on longer-term goals. Written goals are ones which we could (and should) refer to frequently. For work, I always keep a printed copy of my goals in my planner. This allows me to weekly and monthly refer to them and track my progress.

Sharing a goal will help others keep you accountable and allow them to help motivate you to success. Even if not constant or frequent, a friend who knows about a goal you have will likely ask you at least occasionally, “How’s the weight loss going?” As a manager, I had both a spreadsheet and a white board in my team’s meeting room which tracked the progress towards each member’s main goals and our team goals (my performance goals). This was updated daily and was a constant reminder of where we stood individually and as a team. It also allowed me to know who was lagging and where I needed to focus my efforts. In our best years, the top achievers even jumped in and helped those who were struggling to reach their goals.

Buy-in is another important aspect of goals. We are naturally more reluctant achievers with the goals we are not bought in to. This is probably more of an issue with professional goals than personal goals, but that is not always the case. Maybe your doctor has told you that you need to lose weight or reduce your sodium intake. If it is not something you want to do, you’re obviously less likely to want to do it. But when you can make the goal and custom-tailor it to you wants, needs and internal motivations, you should be entirely bought in to the process and to achieving the goal.


Ready, Set, Goal!

In the various jobs I have held, I have had positions with no performance goals, goals that were given to me, and goals I developed myself.

In the two positions where I had no written goals, achievement was elusive. There was never an opportunity for success, and not necessarily any reason to succeed because neither position would ever offer the opportunity for advancement. This resulted in lower motivation and lackadaisical performance.

When my goals were written by my manager and presented to me without input, I had targets and knew what I would be held accountable for, but I didn’t always agree with those goals. They were often “cookie-cutter” goals, identical to those of my teammates without regard to the differences in our sales territory. At times, some of these goals seemed impossible. One fundraising goal was based on criteria that had not been measured before, and none of us completed it. But to my manager’s credit, I was at least given a good review on it because I came within 90% of the goal while others didn’t reach 50%.

The best goals are of course those where you have complete control, like your personal goals, or at least have input. When you are the one who is motivated, define the target yourself, and determine all the measurable criteria, you should have complete buy-in. Furthermore, you will have complete ownership of your success when you complete the goal.

Set your goals, work your goals, and you will succeed!