goal setting

Be A Goal Digger: The Complete Guide to Goal Setting

I am geographically limited. I use my IPhone GPS everywhere I go, even when I may know where I am going. Part of it is because I have a terrible attention span; the other part is I lack the self-confidence in reaching my destination without getting lost. Since I am constantly on the road and I don’t particularly like traffic I like to listen to my radio as loud as can be, rock out and enjoy myself. I plug my phone into the Aux cord so I can hear the directions when I forget to look. Occasionally, I miss the exit. By occasionally I mean almost every time. Fortunately, I attempt to give myself extra time when arriving somewhere for that reason. I remember one specific time I was driving to NY from MA and I got so wrapped up in my thoughts I drove an entire 45 minutes past my exit almost into NJ. I was paying attention to the road, just not the specifics. My driving antics remind me of goal setting. Sometimes, we have no idea where we are headed. Other times, we have our ideas perfectly mapped out for us. Either way, you are going to get lost somehow. I am aware of this reoccurring situation, which is why I give myself some leeway and plan ahead for the obstacles I may face.  I constantly look at the map every few minutes to see where I am in relation to my destination. The main point is that I know how to get back on track regardless of the obstacles I may face, and I am willing to switch routes if need be.

  • - Goal setting is one of the most popular and effective performance-enhancement techniques. However, the technique behind the application is far more complicated than it appears.
  • - Using it wisely may be fostered into a positive performance-enhancing tool or conversely may lead to ambiguity and fear of failure.
  • - Motivation is the area coaches want to know the most about and is one of the top studied theories in sport psychology.
  • - Both concepts relate to one another on various levels but more importantly share a drawback: success is often seen as an end product. 

We live in a world where we are distracted by shiny images of perfection. We see pictures of Michael Jordan slam dunking, and showing off rings but don’t see the hours he spent away from family and friends on the court by himself. We don’t see a highlight of misses, just the ones he makes.

  • - When we focus on numbers or one particular event we seem to lose sight of the work it will take us to get there and become frustrated when we do not see accomplishments immediately.
  • - Becoming too caught up in the daydream of the outcome and far less concerned with our development as an athlete removes us from the path.
  • -Training is often boring and repetitive requiring a huge responsibility as well as self-control.
  • -Many of us like the idea of goal-setting on paper, but not so much the actions which must take place in order to achieve so-called goals.

The Hardest Mental Toughness Technique

The reason goal setting is such a hard technique to master is because It’s a highly flexible skill, meaning it has many paths to a good result.

  • - Nothing is set in stone, what may work for one person may hinder another. There is no exact template to follow.
  • - The reason goal setting becomes so individualized is due to the process we go through, which gives the goal meaning.
  • - Each of us will vary how we formulate ideas and cope with obstacles along the path to our destination.
  • - We learn to recognize patterns and spot hidden opportunity, limitations, as well as learning how to problem solve.

We have both rational and emotional sides to our personality, which may clash with one another. Our rational side has the ability to analyze and deliberate for the long term, while our emotional side evaluates situations in terms of pain and pleasure. As a realistic being, we understand our ambitions can be challenging to put into play, and our hunger for instant gratification provides for much more immediate incentive and feedback.

  • - The idiosyncratic relationship between our passion and effort derive from how our emotions evoke particular feelings, which lead to our actions.
  • -Emotions are spontaneous biological process, which are not in our full control.
  • - Our decision process is then based on feelings or how we consciously interpret our emotions.
  • - We have control over our feelings- or how we react to a situation (emotions).
  • - Allowing our emotions to control our goals is often a recipe for disaster.
  • - When we allow negative situations to effect us in terms of re-evaluating our goals or aim low, we are not fully committed to the work that  is required to become a great athlete true to our potential.
  • - We often remain in a past state of sentiment towards our goals and guide our next move based on a false evaluation of the situation.

Commandments of Goal Setting


We can map out a detailed list of steps, but learning how to be flexible and drop our egos is going to be the most eye opening realization of the entire method.


When you hit an obstacle, you tend to switch focus and harp on your long-term goal imagining how long it’s going to take to get there. This usually results in cutting corners and moving around from interest to interest in order to redeem some form of instant gratification. It is natural because we want to be happy. However, you have to keep pushing the boulder up the hill.


What we will always have control over is our perception and attitude. You have to maintain control and structure in order to keep your logic and emotions happy.


Winning is not a good goal to have. You cannot control who wins and who loses.

  • - Often we seem to talk to ourselves in a negative connotation. The way you word something is extremely important and has an impact on how we react to the situation. Set positive goals by focusing on behaviors that should be present rather than those that should be absent. This can help athletes focus on success rather than failure.


Aim for the middle of the spectrum. Be realistic, but don’t be easy on yourself or sell yourself short. Using moderately difficult goals will still push you to work hard, but in a more realistic sense. They are also more satisfying when attained.

  • - Ego oriented athletes also have a tendency to set unrealistically high or low goals so they can have an excuse if their goals are not attained. Task oriented athletes, on the other hand, set goals about doing their best and making incremental improvement.  These athletes experience success more frequently, persist at tasks longer and are more confident.

4.  Use Short Range Goals


Small goals along the way yield major results

  • - We need to develop goals that create a higher standard for being satisfied with our performance in correct form and technique vs. a poorly executed personal record lift.
  • - In order to put up the big numbers on the platform, we need to focus on developing small accomplishments and being satisfied without receiving instant gratification.

We can become easily derailed by minor setbacks, so reassurance is key when it comes to staying the course. This is the main idea behind short-term goals

  • - We need to make an effort in reminding ourselves what’s already been conquered. When we receive no immediate pay off, it can become frustrating.
  • - Set practice as well as competition goals – Practice goals should match competition performance goals as often as possible. Goals related to work ethic and attitude during practice are essential.

5.  Keep Your Big Goals a Secret


You can announce progress, but your “dream goal” should be personal. It’s easy and natural to want to share everything, especially now since everything can be shared with the clock of a button. However, I say keep your big goals away from those you are close to as well. Often people may discourage you, some directly and some indirectly. Seeking support is natural but finding an environment that actually facilitates your goals is incredibly difficult, so be weary of where and with whom you are sharing your ideas and time with.

5.  Write Them Down, Post Them Up


Regularly monitor progress, goals are ineffective if forgotten.   Write them in your training logs (DO YOU HAVE A TRAINING LOG? how else will you measure your progress). Put a note in your weightlifting shoe for the next day with something to focus on for that session. Face it every day, read it and ask yourself what you are going to do to attain


It is important as a coach to make sure goals are internalized and the athlete to feel in control of their goals. Whether or not a player is ego oriented (compares their performance to that of others) or task oriented (compares her performance to herself) could determine the extent to which they will be able to internalize goals.

We have difficulty looking at ourselves from an outside-unbiased perspective. The best lifters have coaches because they cannot see their mistakes themselves even if they video a set. The same goes for goal setting. Find a coach who believes in your capability and then some.

Closing Thoughts

Spending your time in the weight room without setting goals is like shooting at a target without aiming. You are probably enjoying yourself here and there while perceiving small strides, but there’s going to come a point where blasting that gun and wasting ammo gets expensive and aggravating and you eventually wind up injured, bored, or quitting. Without goalswe would remain forever stationary, incapable of moving forward.

Evaluate your current plan, Ask yourself:

What have you done to get better today? Seriously think of every single move you made in the last 24 hours. Was everything geared towards your goal? Do you even know what your goal really is? We need an honest evaluation of where we are right now. Then we can focus on shaping the path.

Assessing your goals will take time, so sit down and pay attention on these next few questions:

  • - Am I focusing on myself, or comparing my goals to others success?
  • - Is my goal measurable? And repeatable?
  • - Am I tracking my progress?
  • - Am I being realistic and fair to myself?

about the author


Dani Tocci is an eccentric individual whose primary goal is to cultivate a positive growth mindset with everyone she works with on both a sport consulting level and with training. Having a not so typical background with degrees in art and philosophy gives her an edge on her thought process. Dani is a competitive olympic weightlifter and has had the pleasure of working with national level athletes.  Follow her on Instagram (@d_tocc) for all the happenings.

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.