Goal Setting: Can You Reach Too High?

February 25, 2013

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weight loss goals Goals. We all have them. Some are smaller, short-term goals, like finishing a project at work. Some are bigger, long-term goals, like losing weight.

Goals give us drive. They give us motivation. They keep us going. When we reach a goal, big or small, we feel a sense of accomplishment, like we tackled a beast. But can you set your goals too high?

Set realistic goals. You’ve probably heard this common belief before. If you set your weight loss goals too high, you will become discouraged, lose motivation, and give up on your weight loss plan completely. Not so fast. New research suggests setting high, ambitious goals result in better weight loss outcomes, and setting realistic goals do not improve weight loss outcomes.

The bottom line: Don’t hold back. No matter how far away you are from losing 20, 50, or even 100 pounds, don’t be afraid to reach for it, regardless of how unrealistic it seems. Losing weight is not easy, and sometimes you have to push the limits. It all starts with a piece of paper and a pen.

Identify what you want: Think about goals you’ve already achieved, like college graduation or landing a promotion. Each of these accomplishments started with an overall goal, then took smaller steps to reach it. So, start by writing down your overall weight loss goal. It may be a number, how you want to feel, or how you want your clothes to fit. Then, list smaller steps it takes to reach your overall goal. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming.

Remind yourself: Keep your goals in sight, literally. Put Post-It notes on your fridge, reminders in your phone, and notes on your work computer. Don’t just remind yourself with a number—the why is just as important. This way, out of sight, out of mind is not an option. You will be less likely to stray from your goals and stay motivated.

Don’t make excuses: “I don’t have time to exercise.” “I was in the middle of my favorite TV show, so I didn’t have time to pack a healthy lunch.” “I’m too tired.” We all slip up once and a while, it’s human nature. But one excuse leads to another, and suddenly you’re going down a slippery slope. If you plan ahead, you won’t have to make excuses. Pack a gym bag the night before, set your alarm five minutes earlier so you have time to brown bag a lunch, and make a conscious effort to get enough sleep, so you will have the energy to cook dinner or go to the gym after work. If you don’t make excuses, your goals will seem more attainable, and soon enough, living a healthy lifestyle will become habit.

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