21 ways to make a good goal even better

If you’ve set a goal, you’re already ahead of the game. But there are many ways to take it to the next level. Whether you’re trying to stick to a new workout routine, training for a race, or just want to move more than you currently do, these tips can help.

Of course, not everything on this list will apply to your goal specifically or to who you are individually. A big part of goal setting is making it work for you. Your goal should be tailored to you.

Not all tips work for all people. We have different personalities, motivations, and ambitions. So, pick and choose. Try things and see what happens.

21 goal-setting tips for success

1. Say, “I will.” Start your goals with powerful declarations, not weak wishes.

2. Write it down. People who write down their goals regularly are 42% more likely to meet them.

3. Set a deadline. Ideally, aim for something less than three months away. If your goal is really big and far off, be sure to set shorter deadlines to work toward in the meantime. Either way, don’t let tomorrow become never. 

4. Rein in your expectations. Lots of people fail to stick to their goals because they’re too lofty. Don’t expect too much, too fast. It takes your mind and body time to adapt to new habits. Slow and steady.

5. Focus on fun. Don’t do something because you think you have to or have been told you should. Those types of goals never last. Instead, make your goals enjoyable. We consistently do what we enjoy, so find any way possible to make your goal more fun. Run with a friend. Listen to music or your favourite podcast. Play your favourite childhood sport.

6. Measure your progress. People who monitor progress are much more likely to achieve their goal than those who don’t. Whether it’s steps taken, yoga classes attended, or weight lifted, determine a metric and track your progress.

7. Share your goals. With friends, with family, with us by tagging @ParticipACTION on Twitter or Instagram. Make your goals known and you’ll be more likely to get support along the way.

8. Put your goals where you can see them. Stick them on your fridge, or by your bed, or somewhere on your desk at work. Seeing your goals more often keeps them top-of-mind.

9. Be realistic. When starting out it’s easy to get excited and fall victim to false hope syndrome. Don’t set goals you hope to achieve. Set goals you will achieve.

10. Find your why. Having a clear reason is the secret to lasting motivation. Why are you doing what you’re doing? To have more energy? To feel more confident? For your family? For fun? Determine the deeper reason and then use it to push yourself forward when times get tough.

11. Create a schedule. Each week, you look at your calendar to tell you what you have to accomplish, what deadlines to hit and what meetings to attend, and then you make it happen. Make your physical activity goal one of those things. Create a schedule, put it in your calendar, set a few deadlines, and then keep them.

12. Start with the smallest possible thing. “Start small” is good advice, but it’s easy to ignore. So, get even more specific. Don’t just make it small, make it tiny. Make it something you couldn’t possibly NOT do. One push-up. One step outside. Get out your yoga mat and do one pose. Just show up to the gym. Make it laughably small, focus on consistency, and then go from there.

13. Transform your identity. The stories we repeat in our heads often hold us back. We tell ourselves we’re too lazy. We’re not strong enough. We lack willpower and self-discipline. NO YOU DON’T! These stories are just stories. You can tell different ones. You can grow and adapt and develop. You can become the you you’ve always wanted to be. So, make that part of your goal. Don’t just aim to exercise each week, aim to become someone who exercises each week. Transform your identity, not just your habits.

14. Focus on what you can control. There’s a lot in life we can’t control. But if you focus too much on those things, you end up feeling helpless. Shifting your focus to only what’s under your control changes the conversation. It becomes about what you can do, not what you can’t.

15. Prepare for setbacks. When we set goals with rose-tinted glasses, we fail to prepare for bumps in the road. Bumps will happen. Your progress won’t be linear, but that’s okay. Figure out how you’re going to get back on track. Get prepared to overcome the inevitable obstacles that will come your way. Get ready to reach your goals not just in theory, but in real life.

16. Don’t take an all-or-nothing approach. Too often we make our goals black or white. We made it, or we didn’t—but that’s not the point of goals! The point is to work toward them. Goals are about improvement. Remember that when evaluating yourself. Maybe you didn’t do every workout, but did you get stronger? Maybe you didn’t reach 10,000 steps a day, but did you take more today than yesterday? Aim for progress, not perfection.

17. Align your goals with a greater purpose. What do you want to accomplish in life and how will being more active help you get there? Answer these questions and then use the answers to push yourself forward.

18. Get specific about everything. When it comes to goals, the specifics matter.One study found that students who set specific goals and identified specific strategies for success saw an increase success rate of 30%.

19. Find an accountability partner. Tell a friend, a family member, or a co-worker about your goal. Ideally someone who cares and will hold you accountable.

20. Set a positive goal. Focus on what you will do, not what you won’t. People who set positive goals are more likely to keep them.

21. Enjoy the journey. If you don’t enjoy working toward your goals, why set them in the first place?

Do the worksheet!

[related]

To help you put these tips into action, we’ve created a worksheet. So, go grab a pen and paper, work through the process, and make your good goal even better!