Better Goal Setting: Are your goals setting you up to fail?

Habits & Sustainability

Posted on January 26, 2022
Posted on January 26, 2022

So, the clock hits midnight, it’s a new year, we’re excited about all the new opportunities and we’ve done our goal setting. Great! …Unless, of course, the goals we’ve set have already set us up to fail. One month in, it might be worth a quick check-in. How are those goals actually going?

You see, when we set our aims for the year, we’re rarely prompted to consider how much control we actually have over the specific outcome we’ve set as our target, whether the tradeoffs we’d need to follow through with are actually worth the outcome to us, and whether our expectations fall in line, too. And all of those things matter when it comes to ACTUALLY seeing success.


Our first order of business? Assessing what KIND of goals we’ve set. You may have heard of outcome and process goals before, but their importance can’t be overstated when it comes to nutrition. 

Outcome goals are based on the outcome you are aiming for. For example, “ I want to lose 5 kg.” Process goals are, you guessed it, based on the process you need to get there. For example, “I’ll prioritize two different coloured pieces of produce on my plate for every meal.” When we look at the process, consistency in the types of actionable steps it takes to lose 5kg – those are THE goal.

Since we don’t have total control over our biology and environment, setting up a strict goal (exactly 5kgs before June 1) can set us up for a whole lot of failure, eeeeven when we are making big progress towards it. And there is little that makes us feel more defeated than doing the right thing and still missing the target. 


The good news is that we usually have way more influence over our commitment to the process, and we can know, deep down that we are taking steps towards what we want. And bonus: it creates a ton of self-efficacy and self-trust when we commit and follow through on the goals (here: processes) we’ve set for ourselves, and that puts us in a better place to take on bigger goals down the line. 

So as you are thinking about defining your goals: what is the outcome? And what are the potential process goals that fall within it? In practice, this can look like reverse-engineering the process: What do you need to do in 3 years to get that goal? 1 year? What needs to be done in the next 6 Months? 1 Month? What are the daily actions? List them, prioritize them, and we’re ready to go. 


When we set goals, we’re rarely prompted to consider the tradeoffs necessary to reach them, or how to align our expectations with what we are READY, WILLING & ABLE to do. And by not doing so, again, we set ourselves up for disappointment. 

Tradeoffs are an important part of the puzzle: All goals come at the expense of other goals and priorities in our lives, and depending on what we are willing to do/not do for them, our expectations need to fall in line to see success. For example, the tradeoffs necessary in your life to lose 5kg before March 1st are much different than what could be necessary if you make that end-goal August 1st. 

In the first instance, your protocols need to be pretty tight; it might look like strictly tracking your intake and saying no to some social fun to prioritize more movement, better sleep and sufficient recovery to keep you healthy in the process. 

With a more flexible or extended end date, we’re able to let life ebb and flow in the process, allowing for a little less movement and perhaps a lifestyle that is more aligned with other things we value – like dinners out with friends – as we progress. 

What is important to notice is that the accuracy, consistency and level of effort is different between scenarios. Neither is a right or wrong approach so long as we are clear and honest with ourselves about what is truly required of us in the goal we’re setting. 


We talked earlier about not having full control of our biology (our bodies are weird and wonderful complex little things) and our environment, and so we should also get honest with ourselves: “progress” is almost NEVER linear. Life throws us curveballs and our bodies react and react again to changes we’re making. And when we brace for the falls and go forward with the knowledge that ups and downs are a normal part of the process, we’re less likely to throw in the towel (and thereby staying CONSISTENT – the be-all and end-all, honestly) when it happens. 

It’s probably also important to add that we shouldn’t expect that this stuff is ALWAYS fun and easy. Yes, we spend a lot of time building systems that ease the resistance we feel, making the day-to-day easier, and better, finding systems that feel as joyful as possible, but the truth is that sometimes it’s just not. And that’s okay. 

Sometimes the work, the habits we need to implement are boring or mundane or really do feel like work. And if we’ve done the work to figure out WHY our goal is so important to us, how, despite being a little mundane, the systems flow within our lives, and commit to counting our process wins day-to-day, this probably won’t buck us off the path, either.


Setting better goals is a matter of really considering these things, and more. And this is where a coach can really come in clutch.

Investing time and energy into making sure our goals and the systems we put in place to get there are really the right ones for us make sure that, first and foremost, our ladder is up against the right wall. Because look, there is nothing worse than climbing and climbing and climbing that ladder to realize 1) it doesn’t quite reach or 2) where we ended up wasn’t where we wanted to be, anyway.

And with custom-designed systems to get us there, ones that really fit our lives – *not the other way around*, we can save some energy, save the grind, save the disappointment that usually leads us astray, AND feel really proud of the processes we’ve committed to and the wins along the way. Win, win, win, winnn.

Go get those goals, friends.

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