Goal Setting!



When did you last set a goal?… How did you go about it?… Did you consider anything other than you had a rough idea of what you wanted to achieve (weight loss, increased muscle, improved fitness etc)?


Goal setting isn’t a topic that gets people’s attention very much and is often skimmed over… You will easily find different methods for setting goals online but there appears to be a problem or a loophole that we may keep falling through when setting goals!…


Since goal setting theory was formalised in 1990 by Locke & Latham (1990) it has gained much attention by researchers and has ultimately evolved since… However, it seems something has been lost in theory to practice which is leading to poor adherence, failure, and even detrimental outcomes…. The dropout rates for fitness programs is cause for concern considering the outcome of intervention studies reporting 45% from starting (Marcus et al 2006), 47% by second month, 86% by 6 month and 96% by 12th month (Sperandei et al 2016)… Researchers believe our goal setting practice in the fitness industry is being misguided mostly because of the use of promotions to sell things like weight loss, body image change and fitness improvements etc...


I could just suggest a common practice for goal setting such as the SMART method but a better understanding of goal setting theory has led me to re-consider my approach… Researchers agree that the bulk of the current goal setting guidance in physical activity promotion is targeting the minority of individuals and is theoretically unsound (possibly detrimental) for larger majorities… It seems when adopting a goal setting theory approach it is essential to consider both performance and learning type goals along with moderating & mediating factors in each…


Many of us are inappropriately setting goals without meeting these moderating conditions which then leads to stress, pressure, threat appraisals, inhibition of learning, unethical behaviour & perceptions of failure (Latham & Locke 2006)… So what can we do then?…


Firstly and this is quite a vague description but we must understand what type of goal to set; either performance outcome based or learning and do your best type goals…Performance based goals will focus on the outcome like the amount of weight lost or targets set from a fitness program etc whereas learning goals focus on discovering strategies or processes involved... See the table below for examples…




We are likely setting performance goals most of the time which are generally used for those with more experience and skills involved thus can handle the cognitive demands better… Learning goals suits those new to a complex task and may lack the ability involved… I see many individuals who are trying to change their health and fitness using performance goals when in reality they’re lacking in various moderators… Looking at the examples in the table you may be surprised that a common 10000 steps per day goal is performance based and actually goes against goal setting theory if you’re not in alignment with the moderating factors… Researcher Latham (2016) states, “ignoring the moderators in goal setting theory is done at ones peril”… In other words, closely consider the following moderators before setting goals… ABILITY - They must have the ability both cognitively (knowledge of intensity levels or understanding pacing strategies etc) and Physically (having a level of fitness and strength for attaining a set goal and the skill required in all movements involved etc) COMMITMENT - Simply how committed the person is to achieving an outcome… This can be a problem for inactive or newbies or even Yo-Yo exercisers/dieters as the idea of setting a performance based goal like couch to 5k or lose 3 stone in a time frame can be de-motivating and end in failure often to repeat… FEEDBACK - Receiving feedback on their performance towards the goal is essential as this allows them to know what action they should take to change strategies if not working or understand where they’re going wrong or right better… SITUATIONAL RESOURCES - If they don’t have resources necessary then goals can’t be attained… For example, fitness equipment, facilities and even a welcoming community environment…Your unlikely to progress if you don’t like local gyms or have the home equipment or even someone to show you like a coach to name a few… So what about learning goal mediators then?… These goals are more about strategies for becoming active and adhering better to exercise, nutrition & lifestyle… For example, exploring and trying different fitness classes, environments, programs, walking/jogging routes and even nutrition programs etc including how these fit in with your lifestyle…. So rather than focusing on achievement of an outcome (10000 steps per day etc) learning goals focus more on searching, planning, monitoring, evaluating & generating ideas, or strategies… An example of a Learning goal approach for nutrition could be rather than setting daily calories, macros or dialling into a fixed meal plan etc, allow yourself to explore different options to see what can be more consistent and beneficial… From this foundation try exploring slightly more complex options but keep in mind it’s not a race to get to that stage at all!… This is almost a Do-Your-Best-Goal which is often overlooked and viewed inferior but can be a much better and smarter approach for the individual to succeed... Being more flexible and dynamic towards what type of goal to use in what particular area and situation of fitness is advantageous… A combination of performance and learning goals are often in use but the key thing is knowing what you’re setting yourself up for... Failure or success??.... Goal setting is like your map and so its worth checking that your compass is ok so you’re always heading in the planned direction!... Tune into the next blog post for a couple of ideas to help you set your goals! Hope this helps! Andy Armour Latham, G. P., Seijts, G., & Slocum, J. (2016). The goal setting and goal orientation labyrinth: Effective ways for increasing employee performance. Organizational Dynamics, 45, 271–277. Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (1990). A theory of goal setting & task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Marcus, B. H., Williams, D. M., Dubbert, P. M., Sallis, J. F., King, A. C., Yancey, A. K., … Claytor, R. P. (2006). Physical activity intervention studies: What we know and what we need to know: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism (Subcommittee on Physical Activity); Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young; and the Interdisciplinary Working Group on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research. Circulation, 114(24), 2739–2752. Sperandei, S., Vieira, M. C., & Reis, A. C. (2016). Adherence to physical activity in an unsupervised setting: Explanatory variables for high attrition rates among fitness centre members. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 19(11), 916–920.



9 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All