Why two exercise goals are surprisingly better than one

Setting a goal is awesome. It’s almost always the first step toward progress. If you have it written down, even better.

Yet, we often think it’s best to stop at just one. If you set too many goals at once, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. If you set too many priorities, nothing gets prioritized.  

But when it comes to goal setting, there may be good reason why two goals really are better than one.

Why two?

When it comes to goals, setting two related ones at once can be helpful for a few different reasons.

One is that starting small, by setting an achievable goal, is a good idea, but some people feel uncomfortable setting goals they think are too easy to reach. Some people need something bigger and more challenging to really get motivated and to feel like they’re working toward a significant achievement. Some people want their goals to be hard, challenging, and worth it. 

A second reason is that two goals can give us the flexibility necessary to balance the short and long term. They allow us to get specific about next week, while also keeping next month and neat year in mind.

One small. One stretch.

Both goals should be SMART – that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.

The first should be a small goal – one that you can take immediate action toward and that will get you headed in the right direction. The second should be something called astretch goal – a bigger, loftier goal that will take time, hard work, and consistency to reach.

Take running, for example. Your stretch goal might be to ultimately run a 10k, half or full marathon. To make this even more specific and timely, look up potential races and sign up well in advance. 

But running a race may seem daunting at first, so you can also set a small goal, like to jog for 10 minutes three times a week. To get even SMARTer, make it Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 7 AM (or 8 PM if you prefer exercising in the evening) and set a timer, or use an activity tracker, for each run.

Or if you’re more interested in trying yoga, your stretch goal (are all yoga goals stretch goals?) might be to have the power, balance and flexibility to do a handstand in a year. Your smaller, more manageable goal might be to start taking a class twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays after work at the studio down the street.  

Think big.

Setting goals is essential to progress. If you want to start being more active, think about why. What experiences do you want to have? What would you like to able to do that you currently can’t?

Brainstorm ideas on a sheet of paper right now. Make a list and identify the stretch goal that really gets you excited. Then challenge yourself to figure out exactly what you would need to do to get there.

Plan for next year, then start today. Think big, then start small. Set two goals, then make it happen.