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Setting Goals to Be More, Not Less

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Goal-setting can be murky business if it’s done with the intention to minimize. This year, live your biggest life by setting and achieving goals that actually feel good.

The new year signals a fresh start. It’s a time to re-evaluate your routine and goals, and set your sights on shaping the next 365 days. But for many people, the act of goal setting—and the methods in which they approach reaching those goals—can be fraught with peril. Oftentimes, fitness goals can leave people feeling inferior if they’re centered around factors such as achieving unrealistic body types, promoting a minimizing mindset, or adopting an all-or-nothing approach that can set them up for failure.

So, this year, rather than setting goals that inherently urge you to “be less,” try flipping the script to find ways to be more. From determining realistic timelines that allow you to be human and make mistakes, building in small wins along the way, and giving yourself permission to change your goals when needed, here are some ways to approach goal setting this year that’ll make you feel like more—not less. Plus, keep reading to get inspired to create fitness goals that have absolutely nothing to do with weight loss.

The “Be More” Goal-Setting Approach

Set One Goal

For high-achievers, this tip can be a tough pill to swallow. But focusing your energy and attention on just one goal will help you go all-in on achieving it. This doesn’t mean that you should only set one goal per year; instead, set a goal, find the path to conquer it, then move onto setting another one. Not only does this make your goal more manageable while keeping you focused, it also prevents you from spiraling into the perpetual-personal-development trap where you feel like you need to constantly overhaul infinite aspects of your life.

Celebrate Small Wins

The excitement of goal setting can wear off fast. Let’s say you’ve set a goal to run a 5K (how exciting!), but then you find you’ll actually have to get out of bed early before work and drag yourself to the gym to train when it’s freezing outside—even when you have other responsibilities, when you had a poor sleep the night before, or when you’re simply not feeling up for a run. Instead of viewing those factors as potential pitfalls, try seeing them as opportunities to “win.” For each time you completed your training even when the world was working against you, reward yourself with a pat on the back and verbal confirmation that you accomplished it. It’ll help your self-confidence soar while propelling forward momentum.

Be Flexible

Kim Cattrall was often quoted this year saying, “I don’t want to be in a situation for even an hour where I’m not enjoying myself,” and let’s just say, we’re very into that energy. While the path to reaching your goals might not always be fun (see: aforementioned early-morning runs), there should always be a spark of joy in there somewhere. Whether it’s feeling accomplished, seeing progress, or getting an overall sense of increased well-being, your goals are there to serve you—not the other way around. So, if you’re getting an inkling that the goals you set just aren’t working for you anymore, or your chosen method of getting there is leaving you exhausted, unhappy, and stressed, these are signs it’s time to take a good hard look at your goals. Maybe the timeline of your training plan needs to be extended, or you need to hire outside help, or maybe you just simply aren’t interested in that goal anymore like you were at the start of the year. These reasons are all valid and stopping or rejigging the plan doesn’t make you a failure. Sticking with goals that make you unhappy simply because your pride is getting in the way just isn’t worth it.

Give Yourself Time and Space

Most of us aren’t great at patience—we want what we want, and we want it now. And while deadlines can be helpful in goal setting, most of the time, we need to give ourselves more time than we think in order to achieve our goals—because we’re human, and mistakes happen. Not only does padding our timeline allow for setbacks, sick days, and other general life happenings, it also urges us to forgive ourselves when these factors do arise. So, if you’re looking to increase your lower-body strength over the next six months, but you got hit with a relentless cold that kept you out of the gym for weeks, it’s no big deal. You’ve got plenty of time to get back on track.

Really Know Your “Why”

This tactic comes up a lot in the world of health and fitness—and for good reason. Determining your motivation for a goal is the thing that’ll remind you why you started in the first place, and encourage you to keep going even if self-doubt creeps in. But truly determining your why is a deeper process than you may think. For example, maybe your goal this year is to build strength in the gym. Why? Perhaps you’d like to be able to carry your groceries from the car without straining yourself. But here’s where things get fun, because simply wanting to carry your groceries probably isn’t motivating you to leave the warmth of your couch and the soft glow of Netflix when you’re exhausted. So, dig deeper. Managing your groceries may signal a desire for independence or injury prevention as you continue to age. Now those are some better reasons to get off the couch and get lifting.

Get Inspired to Live Your Biggest Life

Feeling empowered doesn’t come from being less, so why should our goals focus on minimizing ourselves? This year, get inspired to live your biggest life with these fitness goals that have nothing to do with being less.

Try one new workout a month. Put your pride aside and sign up for a new fitness class, research how to maneuver the machine in the weightroom that’s been intimidating you for years, or join a friend and their go-to sport or activity. Not only will you get out of your comfort zone, but you may find a new hobby or community that brings you joy.

Do a push-up, pull-up, or Tree pose. Performance goals such as these can make you feel like a kid again. They inspire excitement, novelty, and a bit of fear—in a good way. Working towards these feats will help you focus on the strength you’ll need to support and accomplish them, while inspiring a new way to track progress (how long you can hold Tree pose versus reaching a number on a scale). Plus, they make great party tricks!

Get active outside once a week. Whether it’s with family, friends, or solo, there’s an endless number of activities you could try outside—and an added bonus for Canadians is the variety of outdoor activities that change with the seasons. Indulge in hikes and paddleboarding in the summer, and get in touch with your inner child with ice skating or cross-country skiing in the winter. Switching up your activities guarantees you’ll use muscles that no gym equipment could ever touch.

Takeaway

In the new year, many people face challenges with traditional goal setting for fitness, which may perpetuate unrealistic ideals or an all-or-nothing mindset. Instead, shift your focus to embrace more positive approaches to achieve success, such as setting one goal at a time to avoid overwhelm, celebrating small wins to boost confidence, being flexible in adapting goals for joy and well-being, giving yourself ample time, and understanding the deeper motivation behind each goal.

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