Goal Setting: 9 Rules That'll Help You Get Sh*t Done

Do you have a goal? Is there something you want to accomplish within the next six months, year, two years, and so on and so forth?

Maybe you want to:

Lose 15lbs

Deadlift 500lbs

Gain 15lbs of muscle

Compete in a powerlifting competition

Get rid of your back pain

Find a new job

Well how are you going to do it? How are you going to get from where you are to where you want to be?

The bottom line is that we all have goals. All of us have something we want to do or accomplish, but verbalizing what those goals are and putting yourself in a position to be successful is the tricky part.

Believe me…I know…I sucked at setting goals.

I Sucked at Setting Goals

Yep, if we’re truly going to be honest with one another I have to admit that I traditionally sucked at setting goals.

That was something other people did who didn’t have their shit together.

I could easily have these vague notions, plans and ideas in my head and get by just fine. I didn’t need some goal setting system to keep me accountable. I was on top of everything and had it all under control.

Sort of like when you ask your dad if he read the directions on how to build (fill in object of choice), and he responds with:

“Don’t worry son, I’ve got it all in my head”

 photo credit: Tim the Toolman Taylor

photo credit: Tim the Toolman Taylor

Typically, those projects don’t turn out too well. You may finish them, but in the end you probably wasted a lot of time and effort along the way as opposed to simply laying out the instruction manual from the get go.

Welcome to my world of goal setting.

After graduating college and getting an inkling of real world experience, I quickly realized that I was the unprepared dad. I was the person bouncing from idea to idea without any real sense of direction, and as a result failed to do big things.

So…as most grown up teenagers who think their invincible typically find out: I was the person who didn’t have their shit together.

The Art of Goal Setting

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I was ending up in jail on the weekends or calling out handicap people with Kanye West (seriously though…he called out handicap people at his concert for not standing up). I just wasn’t accomplishing anything worthwhile.

Thus, a little over a year ago I set out to accomplish the following four goals:

Intern at Cressey Performance and Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training

Start a website and online coaching business to cover my freedom number (aka pay the bills).

Write for some of the big name fitness websites

Network and connect with some of the top coaches and trainers in the business

Side note: When I set goals 3 and 4 I actually put down specific names

Well a year later I’m happy to say I’ve achieved each of those to varying degrees, and have moved onto bigger and better things (including a brand new website so stay tuned for that).  My process of goal setting is by no means the only way to do things, but it has helped my clients and myself go from where we are to where we want to be, and hopefully it can do the same for you.

The 9 Rules of Goal Setting

  1.  Put Them Down in Writing

When an idea is in your head its fiction. It’s just some wish or dream that you hope to accomplish. To make a goal real, you have to write it down.

  1.  Be specific

Vagueness is not your friend. It’s just a copout. Spend the time whittling down your goal to its most specific core concept. For example, saying you want to gain weight isn’t a goal. Saying you want to gain 12lbs of muscle, however, is a goal.

  1.  Make it Measurable

This really goes hand in hand with “Be Specific.” Your goal has to be measurable so you know if you’re making progress or not. Think I want to deadlift more weight vs. I want to add 25lbs to my deadlift.

  1.  Have a Specific Timeline

Goals without a timeline are like a death wish. They just float around and eventually drift off into the twilight zone to be eaten by a Rancor (if you don’t know what that is, google it). For a goal to be real, it needs a timeline. So in addition to saying I want to add 25lbs to my deadlift, you’d want to say: “I want to add 25lbs to my deadlift in 16 weeks.”

  1.  Be Realistic

You can say you want to gain 15lbs of muscle in two weeks, but that’s just unrealistic. A goal needs to accurately reflect how long it will take to achieve said goal.

  1.  It Needs To Be Significant

Don’t waste your time setting a goal if its not very important to you. It has to be meaningful so you stay motivated throughout the entire process.

  1.  Don’t Set Too Many

More is not better. If a goal is truly worth achieving, it’ll take a lot of work and effort to make it happen. You only have so much effort to dole out on a day-to-day basis, so listen to Mel Gibson:

It’s hard to set a strict number on this, but I wouldn’t try and juggle more than 3 or 4 at a time.

  1.  Focus on Behavior Goals

In the beginning you’re going to set outcome goals—where you hope to be in x amount of time. Once that goal is set, you need to focus on behavior goals—the steps you must take achieve your outcome goal. In other words, behavior goals are what you do on a daily basis that add up to your outcome goal.

  1.  Only Tell Certain People

It’s unfortunate, but there are a lot of negative people out there. Thus, be very picky with who you tell about your goals. Make sure they are people you can trust, people who will support you, and people you can rely on for quality advice.

Bonus Goal

  1.  Find a Mentor

Having a mentor is a game changer.  It’s someone who’s been through what you’re about to go through, or has coached someone through what you’re about to go through, and can show you the ropes.  The mentor will fast track the process because he or she can help you avoid making mistakes they made in the past.

I’ve been fortunate to have several quality mentors to date, but one worth noting on the goal setting front is Jon Goodman of the Personal Trainer Development Center.  He’s had several conversations with me on this topic, and has had a big influence on my ability to get my mind to focus on a few big ticket items.

And That Should Just About Do It

Goals can be great things that keep us moving forward, or they can be like scary refrigerator monsters:

Don’t let your goals be like scary refrigerator monsters.  Stick to the outline above and go do big things.

about the author


James Cerbie is just a life long athlete and meathead coming to terms with the fact that he’s also an enormous nerd.  Be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram for the latest happenings.