New year, new you: the importance of setting goals

2017 is going to be the single best year ever. This time around, you will get those dreaded 6-pack abs, study for straight A’s in school, be a better lover, friend, family member, write that book you always said you would, learn how to fly a helicopter, marry a hot celebrity and much, much more. And you started off January 1st, but are starting to feel the burn already.

Before you dive into that, maybe check out this post to see if your goals are any good.

Now I love setting goals. It drives people to become better persons and brings out passions and deep desires. It makes the world a more interesting place. We all strive for something better than our current state, whether that be getting a better job or catching new Pokémon’s.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor my goal meme

Types of goals

But what is a goal? Generally speaking, there are 2 types of goals: effort-based goals and outcome-based goals.

An effort-based one is a goal which is based on… you guessed it: effort. You set yourself up on a mission to put time into something, regardless of the outcome. This is the soft, tender version of a goal, coated in love and understanding. An example could be going to the gym 3 times a week. It doesn’t matter if you lose weight or not, gain or lose muscle or hang at the smoothie bar all evening: you went to the gym 3 times a week. The Olympic spirit is a good way to think of this: participation if more important than winning. You parents are proud of you no matter what.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are outcome-based goals. These are the tough, dark type of goals. You either succeed or you fail and get pushed of the cliff by your fellow Spartan villagers. There is no middle ground. Examples would be dunking a basketball, deadlifting 100 kg, running a marathon, … Your efforts don’t matter, all that counts if the outcome.

Now, there are pro’s and con’s to both of these extremes, but in my opinion none of the two is superior to the other.

Effort-based goals have the advantage that they are generally easier to follow, often because they are… well… easier in general. There is no testing moment, and they are often set quite safely so you can be sure you will attain them. The obvious downside to that is that it might not actually get you any results if used inappropriately. Going to the gym 3 times a week is fine, but if you have no program or a real objective goal, you are pretty much sailing in a huge ocean without any sense of direction: sure, you are on the water, but God knows where you will end up.

Outcome-based goals on the other hand tend to be very harsh and can sometimes be demotivating when the distance between your current status and your goal gets too overwhelming. Even if you push through all year, your efforts might seem unsuccessful when you’ve trained hard all year to get from running 5 km to 30 km but it still cuts you short off your goal of finishing that marathon.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor goals

Last year, I set up around 30 goals for 2016, some of which were successful and some of which were not. This year, I stuck by only 2: reading on sports/exercise/nutrition every single day, even if only a few pages, and qualifying for the Belgian championships of weightlifting. That’s one of each type of goal.

So what should I do?

I’m glad you asked.

Setting a good goal is setting a SMART goal: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.


Afbeeldingsresultaat voor smart goals

  • Specific: your goal needs to be very clear. What do I want to reach? How will I attack this? Where? Set out the details!
  • Measurable: if you can’t objectively measure it, it doesn’t count. “Feeling better” doesn’t count. “Being a better father” doesn’t either. But having a lower blood pressure and spending time with the kids 3 times a week do count.
  • Attainable: how possible is this goal of yours? Sure, you could wish to bench press 100 kg more by the end of the year, but without some use of certain vitamins it probably won’t happen. There is nothing wrong with aiming high, but be realistic when you set out your goals: can I really put in the effort to do this? Do I have the environment I need to support this?
  • Relevant: why do you want this? Why is it important to you? Why will it be beneficial?
  • Timely: you’ll need to have a plan of action for a lot of your goals. You can’t just expect to bench press 100 kg’s more on December 31 if you’ve been on the couch all year. You’ll need a plan and deadlines to reach certain mini-goals. If you want to lose 10 kg in 2017, start off by aiming for 1 kg for the first three months.

So there you have it: a full backpack of tips and tricks to make your goal for 2017 work. Now go kick some ass. Best wishes for 2017!