Mar. 26. 2013
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped® and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Let’s talk goals.

It’s already Spring! I can’t believe how quickly March has come and almost gone, but I’m ready for this Spring sunshine. Speaking of Spring, so how’s that New Year’s resolution coming along? If you’re blushing, shying away, or even have your head down in disappointment because the answer is “not coming along” ,”eehh…”, “what New Year’s Resolution?”, or “that was only a 2 week gym pass right?”, etc., then lets have a little chat about it.

Goals are the foundation to make lifestyle changes, no.matter.what. Everyone has something he/she wishes to work towards in life, whether it’s completing a degree, finding a dream job, losing weight, improving health, being financially successful, quitting smoking, obtaining recognition for hard work, improving relationships, etc.

From the time I was in college, you could say I’ve been a “goal setter”. Whether it was getting an A on an exam, trying a new recipe, or even just making it to the gym. I believe constant and consistent goal setting in my life has provided me with the extra edge and platform to set myself up for success in achieving my personal and professional goals. Most people forget about this crucial step when taking on some new change in life. If you’ve ever found yourself challenged by achieving goals, it’s possible you’ve experienced (like myself, on many occasions) one or more of the reasons below.

Common reasons why goals fail: 

  • Unrealistic timeframe | ex. “I’m going to lose 100 lbs. in 1 month”
  • Unrealistic in general | see above example…
  • Lack of detail/vague | ex. “I want to lose weight”
  • Lack of a clear vision or plan
  • Lack of accountability and measuring outcomes
  • Lack of support

Attain goals, don’t just make them…

  • Identify your support systems
    • Have a conversation with your support system (friends, family, community, loved ones, co-workers) that you’re on a mission to make some lifestyle changes and ask them to keep you accountable. You may also inspire them to get on board with you!
  • Identify your motivation and intentions.
    • Make a vision board, have visuals all around you that put your goal in the forefront of your mind, set alarms with mantras written in them to keep you on track, etc.
    • Ask yourself “Why is this goal so important to me?” “What will I gain out of the achievement?”
  • Focus on daily acts versus the due date or deadline of the goal.
    • This will keep your mind on progress and not allow yourself to get “lost” in the far future.
    • Daily acts | ex. I will walk every evening after work before dinner to increase exercise.
    • Deadline of the goal | ex. lose 10lbs. by the start of summer, June.
  • Have friendly competition with a friend, family, co-workers, or with yourself (set challenges, etc.)
  • Measure outcomes: logs, journals, pictures, excel sheets, diary of emotions, etc.
  • Journal current habits at the start of your lifestyle changes to refer to when you’ve made changes.
    • This provides a nice “snapshot” to see how far you’ve come or where you need to re-focus.
  • Reach out to your support systems when you feel you’re “sliding” off track.
  • Focus on progress not perfection!

In my opinion, goals come in a couple shapes and sizes; what I call quantitative goals and qualitative goals. Quantitive Goals focus on the quantity or number-driven outcomes. For example: inches gained/lost, lean muscle mass gain/lost, fat mass gained/lost, time spent in the gym, lab values (cholesterol, blood sugar, etc.), etc. Qualitative Goals focus on the quality outcomes. For example, more intellectual, emotional, characteristic based outcomes such as how you feel, successes you’ve reached along the way, daily habits integrated into your lifestyle, behavioral changes, mental thought regarding your goals, social aspects, etc.

How to Set Goals Like a Pro

Step 1: See and feel your vision. Meditation always brings me to visions and goals I have for myself in the future, but simply sitting quietly and closing your eyes (if you’re a visual person) helps get in the moment of envisioning your future “vision” and feeling what it will be like in that moment.

  • It’s important to have a “vision” of yourself, i.e. how you want to look, feel, and really take yourself mentally through what that experience will be like. This helps solidify the picture which allows better direction for planning a path to get there! Try this exercise to help you develop this vision:
  1. Sit quietly or lay in shavasana (my favorite yoga pose).
  2. Deep breathe; in for 4 counts, out for 4 counts.
  3. Focus on the breath until your mind is relaxed and focused on breathing.
  4. Now, start asking yourself such questions: “In the future (whether a year or 5 years from now), how do I want to feel about myself? What will my daily life entail? What is my physical health like? How am I nourishing my body with foods? How am I nourishing my mind, body, and soul with activity? How will I be managing my stress? etc.

Step 2: Write, write, write (or draw, draw, draw). Pen and paper or a sketch book works perfectly, but if you like a more organized approach head over to Word or Excel. The point here is to capture the ideas, thoughts, and visions in your mind and put it out there for the world to see (or just yourself of course). This helps solidify your vision and starts the process of planning.

Step 3: Prioritize. If you have a goal or future vision that entails many changes, pick one that is most important at this time and work towards that; chances are the rest will fall into place (that’s the beauty of it).

Step 4: Planning: As stated above, it’s about focusing on the daily schedule and lifestyle choices which progress you into  becoming one step closer to that overall vision of yourself in the future. Start by planning out your day to day schedule, then week by week. This will make your plan tangible and give you a road map!

Step 5: JUMP IN! That’s right, just do what you planned to do and take action.

Step 6: Measure your outcomes (both qualitative and quantitative). Keep a food journal/online food diary, fitness calendar or journal, measurements taken before, during, and after, before/after photographs, etc. Record these “measurements” for a reference a way to keep accountable, not to mention notice if something is working and what’s not working for you!

Step 7: Tweak it out. Make small “tweaks” or necessary changes based on your findings in your measurements/outcomes after you’ve been making progress with your goals. How can you improve? What were your challenges or barriers with achieving your goal 100%? What does the next day, week, or even month look like? etc. 

Step 8: STAY POSITIVE. Don’t let the negativity or remarks of others about your new lifestyle changes/goals, get the best of you. Brush them off, get rid of those “energy vamps” and walk on my friend, just walk on. If anything, use the naysayers words as encouragement and motivation to show them you can and will succeed! View challenges along the way (because you’re bound to encounter at least one) as steps where you can re-group and grow from that experience.

What helps you set goals? How do you keep yourself accountable to the things you want to accomplish in life? I’d love to hear your comments below 🙂

With love and positivity,