man thinking

Stop Setting Goals

man thinking

Do you make goal setting miserable?

Last New Year’s Eve I was sitting around a backyard fireplace at with friends. The ladies were discussing their New Year’s Resolution with about as much fervor as a sloth discussing getting out of the tree. “Eh. I want to lose weight this year,” one friend muttered. “Yeah, me too. I might join a Zumba class or something,” said the other friend.

They both turned to me and said, “How about you?”

“Me? Oh, no. I don’t have a resolution.” That was true. I never have a resolution. Resolutions are forced words that we think we have to say in order to leap into the New Year. Like a secret code or password. Resolutions are the Santa Claus for adults. We know they are fictitious, yet we believe in these goals for a good week or two after the first day of January comes and goes.

Neither of my friends did anything they discussed. They didn’t even step foot in a fitness class. Coincidently, I did everything I said I would do—and actually accomplished many things I didn’t mention that night. In fact, I think 2012 was my best and most accomplished year yet.

I finished a 600 page manuscript. I set a new hip thrust record of 365 pounds for a perfect rep. My glute bridge is nearing 400 pounds. I made more money. I started online training that is still going strong. The list goes on an on. But I didn’t set any of these goals. I eased into the accomplishments over time by building up them through a series of successes.


How many of us had these conversations:

“I’m going to finally lose that lingering 30 pounds.”

“This year I will take up running. My goal is to run 3 miles a day.”

“I’m going to stop swearing unless it’s damn necessary.”

“My low carb diet begins tomorrow. Well, after I get all of the cookies out of the house.”

Sound somewhat familiar? How do you feel when you blurt out things like this? A little gut wrenching, isn’t it?

I know. I used to do the same thing. Every year. Several times per year.

The problem with these goals is they are negative and kind of painful to think about. The purpose of a goal is to improve your life in a positive way—make it more enjoyable.

When you set goals that you don’t really want to do or that aren’t fun, you quit pretty soon. If you’re not a runner, on day 3 of running you feel achy and miserable. Three miles is a long way. Heck, running up the street is a long way for a sedentary adult.

Anything that has to do with stopping, losing, dieting, quitting, giving up—well, that will make you miserable. Humans seek instant gratification. We want to see results yesterday. Big goals hurt our egos because they take a long time to reach.

So rather than setting big, lofty goals that could take months or even years to achieve, keep it simple. Make it enjoyable and painless.

Rather than “running three miles a day,” try “improving your heart health.” Go for a 10-minute walk at first. Then build up speed and distance over time. Once you feel good walking, add in short stints of jogging with your walk.

These incremental, minimal changes keep things positive. They are bite-sized doable actions that don’t take a ton of thought or planning. Habits form through layers. Start small, get used to that change, and build upon it over time with more challenging changes.

Along with instant gratification desires, humans also have a habit of only see what hasn’t been done. Now is a good time to start altering this mindset. Rather than only seeing how far you have to go, always take the time to look at how far you’ve come.

Tracking these changes and accomplishments in a journal is a good way to do this. That way you can see that even though you have yet to run 3 miles at once you covered 40 miles of walking in the last month.  That’s 40 miles more than you walked the previous month.

Tracking your progress encourages you to keep going. Celebrating your progress keeps things in perspective because you realize, “Hey, I am doing great things for myself.”

This year as the clock strikes midnight on the last day, don’t make a resolution. Wake up the next day and do one small thing. That will lead to something bigger the next day. Then just keep on going.






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  • Maureen! So happy to have you around. Things have been a bit crazy here with the new site and preparing to move again. I am so glad to have you and will certainly continue to post more and more for wonderful readers like you!

  • I am fairly new to your blog maybe six months. I had a few minutes to spare and was going through old entries. I loved the one 5/18/2011 Applications of Knowledge + Persistence = Success. Great post I will look forward to some extra time to go through your archives. You are a very good blogger a lot of the exercise related blogs can be confusing and boring. Yours is very enjoyable and relatable. Hope 2013 is a great year for you and your family. With the book being available in April
    and the new Glute site it sure is off to a great start.

  • Maureen, I am so sorry to read about your dad. He is in my thoughts. I love that you surpassed your goals and are looking ahead at bigger and brighter things this year. Happy New Year!

  • I have had a rough December with my dad in the hospital…thank goodness for November otherwise I would have been in rough shape(mentally). Made(surpassed)my goals for the year they were done a month early. I also did glute raises or hip thrusts everyday in November so I was pleased..Hope everyone has a great 2013 and kick some serious booty…Thanks for doing what you do so well keeping us on track and informed.. Between you and Bret I am covered.

  • This is beautiful! I am so proud of how far you’ve come since I’ve known you. I see only incredible things in store for you!

  • I’ve never really done the resolutions thing – maybe when I was younger because I felt like I was supposed to – but I don’t do that “supposed to” thing anymore. I do periodically through the year set goals or things I want to improve and work on. Last year on Dec 23 I made a goal of no fast food for 40 days – I knew I needed a plan and that seemed like a good plan – after 40 days I didn’t want fast food at all – I had a feeling that would be the outcome – this one little plan / goal changed my entire year, my entire life. It put me on the road to health and fitness I had been trying to get on for 16 years. It snowballed into so much more than I could have ever dreamed up with a list of resolutions. So this year I have a few goals, by the middle of the year I may have more and by the end of the year a few more to add on, but that’s just life. It’s an every day thing – not a once a year thing.

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