Goal setting is absolutely crucial to progress, doesn't matter whether we are talking in the realm of strength and conditioning or fiance and economics. Goals define everything! They determine the rhyme and reason for every action you take. For example if you have a financial goal to say one hundred dollars a month for twelve months this goal would decide every purchase you made for the next twelve months. But so often I find no one has goals and if they do they are general, vague, and non-measurable. This is absolutely catastrophic because if one has NO GOALS then one has NO PLAN because simple logic tells us the plan is suited toward the goal. Even when I meet someone that does state their goals it is to vague and general usually along the lines of "get more fit" or "be stronger". While I think its great that at least these individuals are considering and contemplating their goals these such examples give no direction or guidance. Perhaps Lewis Carroll put it in a more eloquent way:
Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? The Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to Alice: I don't much care where. The Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go. To solve this issue I see plaguing the average fitness enthusiast I want to provide you with the definition of a good goal as well as the process in which one can move through to develop excellent goals.
1. A Goal should be specific. A properly stated goal should be specific to the event, body part, exerces, etc. that one wishes to improve upon. The stated goal should both identify what is to be changed or obtained and the specific change one is making to the what.
2. A Goal should be realistic and attainable. Now I know what your all thinking "I can do anything I set my mind to!". While I love the attitude I believe it is an asset to be realistic and practical. I mean if you have four kids, work forty hours a week, and maintain a household chances are spending two hours at the gym, while a respectable goal, is not the most realistic or attainable goal. But perhaps for someone with such a lifestyle a more realistic goal would be getting to the gym five days a week. You see for goals to be beneficial you must accomplish them and to be able to accomplish them its important you take into consideration all competing demands in your world.
3. A Goal should be measurable. This one goes hand in hand with number one. The specific goal allows for measurement, for tracking. If you cannot measure your progress towards a goal then you can not determine if what you are doing is furthering your quest for the goal or if you need to make an adjustment. For example I here a common goal among most of my clients that is something along the lines of "wanting to be fitter." While this sounds like a great goal its actually really shitty for two reasons. Number one being its too vague, which we talked about earlier. Number two its not measurable. I mean what does it mean to be fitter, how do you define "fitter". For some it might be body-fat percentage. For others it may be a pound to pound ratio on the deadlift or improvement in one's VO2 max. You see for the goal to be measurable it has to be clear cut and defined with some kind of empirical quality attached that can be tracked and measured, allowing for progress reports and feedback as to how you are moving along without such a definition one is hopelessly pursuing a endless task.
Next time you begin to brainstorm new goals whether it be in the world of health and fitness or not try to ask yourself is the goal specific, realistic, attainable, and measurable. If you define your goals using these four qualities it will allow you to devise a much more prudent, practical, and purposeful plan.