Effective Goal Setting

Redefine your expectations

Probably the most important aspect of goal setting is defining exactly what you want to achieve and what you believe to be possible. Many of us become too complacent and satisfied with where we are and cease striving for constant and continual improvement. This is especially common if you are already the biggest and strongest guy in your gym or in your circle of friends. It has been said that the biggest tragedy in life is not setting your goals too high and never reaching them but rather setting them too low and achieving them. While this may seem counter intuitive to some we must remember that goals in general are a journey and never a destination. Goals are the stepping stones of progression while satisfaction and complacency are the killers of dreams. If we find ourselves completely satisfied when we achieve a specific goal we cease to desire more and thus cease to progress and grow. There is always more regardless of the arena and it is the process of growing and continually progressing that truly satisfies not the end result as so many would have you believe.

So if you suffer from the big fish in the small pond scenario, how do effectively break out of it? You must redefine your expectations, both of what is possible and what you view yourself to be capable of. You accomplish this by immersing yourself in a world that exceeds your current abilities and expectations. If you’re a strength athlete, join a gym or find training partners that are stronger than you are, preferably a lot stronger than you are. Not only will you progress simply from witnessing bigger weights being moved in front of you on a daily basis but you will also benefit from their greater knowledge and experience. Attend national and world championship meets. If you are currently capable of a 600 or 700 pound squat you may very well be the strongest lifter at a local meet but if you attend a world class meet where many of the lifters are opening with over 1000 pound squats suddenly your 700 doesn’t seem so impressive any longer. You begin to see that so much more is possible and you start to redefine for yourself both what you feel is possible and what your expectations are.

Goals should be specific and objective

When setting goals it is imperative that they be specific and as definable as possible. Vague goals lead to obscure results. Avoid setting goals that are subjective where results can be altered independent of your own progress. For example many athletes that compete set goals based upon the result of their next competition. At first glance most people will assume this is a great way to set goals but if we look at it in greater depth we will quickly see where the flaws lie with this type of thinking. Let’s say your goal is to win a local bodybuilding show. The show comes and you come in slightly smaller and softer than your previous competition but you still win as the show turns out to be less competitive than usual. You have now accomplished your goal by winning the show but what have you really achieved? You actually regressed but still succeeded in reaching your goal. Of course the opposite can be true as well. You come in bigger and harder than ever making significant progress but another competitor shows up from out of nowhere and blows everyone else off the stage with a national caliber physique. In this scenario I think it becomes immediately apparent that failing to achieve your goal wasn’t really a failure.

More effective goal setting for a strength athlete would consist of a goal that requires adding a certain number of pounds to your lifts or may even include improvements in technique. For a bodybuilder it would be more conducive to gauge progress in terms of measurements, bodyweight and body fat percentage. Of course these are but a few of the ways we can define our goals but the important point to take away from this is that no matter what your goals may be make them definable and measurable to allow yourself to accurately gauge your true progress.

Time frames for goal setting

There should be short, medium and long term goals and it is vital that the short term goals act as stepping stones in the achievement of both the medium and eventually the long term goals. That may appear to be obvious but many people fail to do this all the time. Of course there isn’t anything written in stone in regard to what comprises a short, medium or even long term goal. However, for athletics I find it to typically be effective to define something as a short term goal if it can be accomplished over a period of weeks or months. Medium term goals would be something that would be set for a period of one or two years and long terms goals would be something that will take 5-10 years or possibly more to accomplish. Of course these time frames will vary greatly depending on exactly what your goal may be. If we were talking about financial security and retirement and you happen to be a younger person short term goals are now in years and long term goals will be defined by decades.

Inverse method of goal setting

To effectively ensure your short, medium and long term goals all work well together is often best to start with your long term goals and work backwards. This will also usually bring issues to light if you’re not being realistic in your expectations. Often people tend to set overly ambitious long term goals without having the short term and medium term goals in place to effectively get them to their long term goals. By starting with the long term goals and working backwards it will be easier to evaluate whether or not your entire goal setting process is conducive to getting you to where you want to be.

Goals should be lofty but realistic

Your goals should be set to extract the absolute maximum from your potential. Don’t be afraid to reach too far and come up short. That fear has kept many a great person from ever achieving all that they were capable of. Remember there is no reward without risk and often the greater the risk the greater the reward. Too many people get comfortable setting goals that they know they can easily reach and then pat themselves on the back for accomplishing yet another of their goals. The reality of this is that they are limiting themselves greatly and will only achieve a fraction of what they are truly capable of. I am a firm believer in competing at the highest level you are ready for. If you’re an athlete and qualify for a national level competition, enter and compete there. Be realistic in your expectation of the results but most importantly learn from the experience and apply that knowledge to your future aspirations. Setting goals that are easily achievable proves nothing accomplishes nothing and most importantly fails to lead to progression and this is ultimately what we should all be striving toward.

While some people tend to sell themselves short when it comes to the expectations of their success just as many people suffer from being unrealistic in regard to what they can accomplish in a specific time frame. Goals should push you to your limits but if you find yourself repeatedly falling short of your goals and often by a wide margin a reality check may be in order. To correct this flaw discuss your specific goals with people that you respect, are very knowledgeable about what you’re trying to achieve and most importantly will be 100% honest with you no matter how bad it may hurt your ego. Ask them for their honest opinion and tell them not to sugar coat it. Make it clear that you want an honest critique and not a pat on the back. Tell them that you want to hear exactly what would they would say to someone else if discussing the same topic without your presence, and most importantly mean it when you say this. You must have thick skin and be able to accept constructive criticism if you wish to grow and progress in life. However, also keep in mind that their opinion is just that, their opinion and it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is 100% accurate and that you should base everything you do and strive for based on their evaluation. Accept it as a qualified opinion and combine it with everything else that you already know and believe. Still, if everyone you ask gives very similar critiques then it is highly probable that there is a great deal of validity in their appraisals.


Redefine your expectations by surrounding yourself with others that are where you desire to be. Ensure your goals are specific and objective. Base your goals around criteria that are definable and measurable. Set short, medium and long term goals and remember that it is vital that the short term goals act as stepping stones in the achievement of both the medium and long term goals. Use an inverse method of goal setting by setting your long term goals first and then work backward through your medium and short term goals. Your goals should be lofty and set to extract the absolute maximum from your potential but be careful not to be unrealistic in your expectations. Look for constructive criticism from knowledgeable and honest sources if you find yourself frequently falling short of your goals or easily accomplishing them. Most importantly remember that ultimately goal setting is all about the process of continual progression and personal growth and this is truly where we find the meaning in our aspirations.

4 Responses to “Effective Goal Setting”

  1. Jaybles March 11, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    Really good article, Matt. I like the part about reverse engineering for short term goals. I will use that this year. The site looks great. Take care.

  2. mattkroc April 10, 2012 at 9:36 am #


    Thank you and I’m happy that you found the article to be of benefit to you. Take care and thanks for the comment.


  3. steve September 2, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    Awesome article Matt! When is you new DVD going to be ready for sale?

  4. Jared November 27, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    Kroc, you ever going to put out an e-book? Everything you write is gold, and I’d love to have something you’ve written to be able to read on long trips. Anything from basic programming to powerlifting to diet to goal setting to just your life story would be a great read.

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