How to achieve a personal fitness or development goal

1.   Set a goal

I would say that the first step towards achieving a personal fitness or development goal is to set an actual, specific goal. If you want to hit a target you should decide exactly what that target is and then aim for it. Setting a specific goal gives you something to focus your efforts on and to measure your progress by. I would recommend setting an aspirational goal for an outcome you want to achieve (rather than a process or action that you will take – that’s what your plan is for) and this will help to keep you motivated and focused on the outcome you want to happen.


2.   Create a plan; decide where to focus your efforts

Having set a goal, the next step is to create a plan to make it happen. It has been said that a goal without a plan is merely a wish. I think that is not always true and, in some cases, you might be able to simply set a goal and work towards it without any planning and ultimately achieve it. However, I do think that for best results, it will probably be helpful to at least work out what the key areas you should focus your efforts on are. You can then focus your efforts on these areas and, if necessary, build a plan that takes these key areas into consideration.

What these key areas are will depend on your particular goal. For example, if your goal involves getting stronger, they will be your workouts and your recovery, as well as things like visualisation. These areas can then be broken down further into their respective components. For example, the workouts could be broken down into exercise selection, training frequency, volume and intensity (the four basic building blocks of strength training), and periodization (how all of these are structured into a programme that moves you towards your desired result).

On the other hand, if your goal involves learning a new language or starting your own business, the key areas you should focus on to make this happen will of course be completely different. If you are unsure about what these things are, and we usually are when we are new to something, then researching the subject and/or reaching out to people who are knowledgeable about or even experts in the particular area can be a good idea. Getting a mentor or coach could also be something to think about.

One other thing to consider in the planning stages is how your goal and the things you will be doing will fit into the rest of your life and what any conflicts might be and plan for them. Be honest with yourself about what priority achieving this goal is to you in your life. There are no right or wrong answers to this but you can only reasonably expect to achieve results that are in proportion to the priority that your goal commands in your life. If, for example, you want to win an Olympic medal, it is unlikely that this will happen without this goal being the number one priority in your life and the thing that everything else in your life revolves around. On the other hand, if your goal involves losing some weight or learning a new language or something like this, then you absolutely will most likely be able to achieve this even if you have, for example, three other things in your life that are higher priorities to you. It can just be useful to be clear with yourself about how important your goal is to you, in relation to the other things in your life, and how you will manage and find balance with any possible conflicts.


3.   Get started and build momentum

Take it one small but significant step at a time when you are working towards your goal and expand your comfort zone a little bit at a time as well. In the book, Notes from a Friend, Tony Robbins likens the process of someone working towards a goal that takes their life in a different direction to a captain steering a ship at sea, where initially, the ship will still seem to be in the same place it was before they steered towards a new destination, but after a short time, the ship will be in a completely different place than it was before. In my experience, achieving personal goals is like that too.

Also understand that there will be hard times when you will doubt yourself, the progress that you have made, and your ability to achieve your goal. Focus on yourself and on your own goals and what you need to do today to make them happen. If you do what you need to do each day or week to take you towards your goal, then you are making progress. Focus on that.


4.   Learn and adapt as you go

Also note that all of this should be a holistic process where you get started, and you learn and adapt as you go.  You don’t just create a plan, however good a plan it may be, and then that’s you got your plan. There is a theory of adult learning called Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle. The cycle involves the following steps:

Experience – Reflection – Conceptualisation – Experimentation

What it means is that you should try something (experience), reflect on your results (reflection), think about what went well and what didn’t etc and think about any improvements you could make (conceptualisation), and then try it out (experimentation) – you then continue the cycle again and again, learning and adapting all the time as you go. This is a great way to approach achieving personal goals.


5.   Celebrate your progress

Finally, as you put the work in over time, take some time to look back at the progress you’ve made and how far you have come. This will help to build your confidence and the knowledge that you can set meaningful personal goals to take your life in the direction that you want to go, and then make it happen.