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Some Thoughts about “Goal Setting” for 2021

March 9, 2021

From our Friends

At one of my last jobs, a common workplace saying was: “if you don’t plan, you plan to fail”.  I really didn’t like this statement at first – it mentions failure and kind of carries a negative / accusatory sentiment with it.  However, after some serious thought, I realized I didn’t like it because it was true.  Maybe it’s not the most eloquently made statement, but it expresses the reality that a lot of us face when making plans and not following through with them.  As 2020 draws to a close and the New Year is upon us, I really want you to accomplish your goals this year (goodness knows 2020 was kind of a ‘bust’ for many of us).  The key to goal setting however is a little bit trickier than one might expect (because it usually involves behaviour change); and following through on these goals – even more difficult!  That being said, here are my recommendations to make your 2021 New Year’s resolutions actually come true:

Realize What Stage You’re in¹

In the previous paragraph I mentioned behaviour change.  Well, this is kind of a complex statement which I will break down for you here.  In kinesiology, we talk a lot about people changing their behaviour and how likely they are to accomplish this change (this comes up a lot, specifically when talking about someone’s readiness to exercise). What you need to realize is where you fit into this model so that you can create the best strategies moving forward.

Precontemplation – people in this stage are not ready for change; they may not even want to change their behaviour or set new goals; they may also not realize they are in this stage.

Moving forward: be self-aware, seek support, and identify helpful resources.

Contemplation – this is the stage where an individual might know there’s a behaviour they need to work on, but they’re not ready to take action yet.

Moving forward: journal, identify your barriers to change, visualize the final results of your goal if you were to achieve it.

Preparation – people in this stage may already be making modifications to their behaviour, the changes just maybe aren’t consistent yet.

Moving forward: create a plan, take short steps (practice your behaviour a little bit everyday).

Action – in this stage, your behaviour is different and the people around you notice.  You make consistent change everyday, and you’re well on your way to accomplishing your goals.

Moving forward: monitor your progress, involve your friends, don’t get discouraged.

Maintenance – in this final stage, people have been consistently making behaviour change or participating in activities that will get them to their final goal for about 6 months.  They are well on their way to accomplishing whatever they set their mind to.

Moving forward: keep going, be prepared for relapse.

Make Realistic Goals

In kinesiology we talk a lot about creating SMART goals¹ (if you already know this acronym – that’s awesome!).  SMART stands for:

S – specific

M – measurable 

A – attainable

R – realistic

T – timely

Following this acronym is a guide to help you make SMART goals that you can actually achieve. For example, let’s say I want to lose weight (let’s say 10Ibs).  Great!  This is specific.  More specifically, how am I going to accomplish this?  By eating properly and going to the gym (getting more exercise).  How many times a week am I going to the gym and how committed am I to meal prepping?  Next, how am I going to measure my weight loss?  There are several ways including, real-time weight (measured via scale), inches off your bust / waist / hips, or you can simply use what I call, the jean method – if your jeans fit better, then you’ve probably lost weight.  Is this an attainable goal?  Can I do this?  It depends.  This is a question only you can answer.  Is this goal realistic for my lifestyle…with how busy I am at work etc.  Finally, is my timeline realistic?  Usually, losing a pound a week is considered “normal.” So, in 10 weeks, I should have lost the desired weight.  Is this enough time for me to accomplish this goal?³

Play the Long Game

Culture and technology have cultivated the idea that results are going to be instantaneous.  This is almost never the case in most real-life situations (except for Amazon Prime, that’s basically instantaneous).  The key is to focus on the progress, not perfection of whatever goal you’re trying to accomplish.  Keep track of your goals and your progress through them – because it’s far too easy to forget how far we’ve come (even in a short amount of time).  You have to learn to play the long game.  Turn away from cultural norms (of instant gratification) and learn to run the marathon, not the sprint.

Celebrate When Stuff Happens

I can’t stress this enough.  Sometimes I wish we would have parties more frequently to help celebrate the great successes we have (more than just birthdays and weddings).  But alas, life cannot be one big party.  But this doesn’t mean you can’t have mini celebrations.  Whatever this celebration might look like for you, treating yourself to a movie, a new outfit, or just your favourite desert, celebrate!  “Can I be honest, for just a minute, let down my guard and tell the people how I feel a second” (just for all you Hamilton fans out there) – I graduated in April this year from university.  Woohoo!  But I didn’t get a formal grad due to COVID restrictions.  Granted, there’s nothing I can do about that, but it absolutely sucks to have not celebrated this milestone event.  It felt like my four years of hard work meant nothing.  This is partially my fault – I didn’t think I needed to celebrate this accomplishment – I just carried on thinking it wasn’t important and gave in to the new reality COVID had created.  Now, I really wish I had celebrated it, even in a small way.  Celebrate people!  You won’t be sorry you did.

Get a Community

If you’ve been reading my blog lately, I’ve been talking a lot about how important community and friends are.  Friends are great, not only are they the family you choose, but they will keep you accountable in your goals.  It’s often very difficult to accomplish goals by ourselves, isolated from your ‘team’.  We generally need other people to help us along the way in reaching the finish line.  Choose people that will push you to accomplish those resolutions you made for 2021.  Your own “will power” is not enough to make things happen for the long-term.

Nobody’s Perfect

Dealing with relapse¹ is important and (I think) often a step that gets missed when talking about goals / goal-setting /goal accomplishment.  First of all, forgive yourself.  We are human and imperfect, mistakes will happen and what’s more important is how you continue forward, not the error you made.  Secondly, give yourself some credit.  If you’re at all like me you’re way too hard on yourself…this step is really hard for you.  Acknowledge that you do this – and tell yourself that what you’ve done thus far has been amazing.  Finally, keep going.  You can now learn from your mistake and keep pushing towards the goal.

Why is this Important?

New Year’s resolutions: these are some of the many things that people often find themselves setting as the new year approaches; and there’s nothing wrong with that.  But it’s hard on your self-esteem / confidence when you set a goal you think is attainable – and then you don’t attain it.  Try scaling back your goals – you’d be amazed how the little steps can add up and quickly boost your self-esteem.  Your mental health is highly important and setting appropriate goals can create strong feelings of self-efficacy and vice versa.²

Find the joy, be kind, and we’ll chat soon.



If you’ve got questions – E-mail me! 

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EsVedra Links:


  • Fahey, D. T., Insel, M. P., Roth, T. W., & Wong E. L,. (2016).  Fit & well: Core concepts and labs in physical fitness and wellness. Canada: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited
  • Locke, E. A. (2000).  Motivation by goal setting. Handbook of organizational behavior, 43-56.
  • Shirl J. Hoffman. (2013).  Introduction to kinesiology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics

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