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Setting and Hitting Goals Part 4 - Achievable & Action-Oriented

Exercise Class Achieving Goals

By David Drinks

We are in part 4 of our series, kicking off 2024 on Setting and Hitting Goals!

If you missed the first half of this series, you can catch up by following the links below:

Here is the short synopsis of what we have covered so far:

  • If things are not exactly how you want them to be in every category of your life, you have a goal - whether you have said it out loud yet or not.

  • The first step to setting and hitting goals is to raise them to conscious awareness by determining what you want to be different than it is now, why it matters to you, and what you will do about it.

  • Your goals need to be YOUR goals. Dig deep into what you want to change or improve this year - not what others say your goals should be.

  • Take time up front to make your goals Specific. Get detailed on the why, what, and how of your goal. The more specific you can get about your goal, why it matters, and how you will achieve it, the better.

  • "What gets measured gets improved." - Peter Drucker. Set targets and actionable numbers for your goals that provide objective feedback and motivation.

By this point, you should have a good idea of your goal(s) for this year. Your goal should be identified, specific, and measurable.

Today, let's take the next step in the process of SMART goal-setting by doing two things that start with A - make your goals Achievable and Action-oriented.


Let's start with what I do not like about the "Achievable" part of the SMART goal-setting framework (part of the reason I have added "Action-Oriented" to the A in SMART goals as well).

The idea of goals being "Achievable" is to not set yourself up for failure. If you set unrealistic goals, you may not meet them and will be discouraged.

For the most part, this is true. We do not want to set goals so far out of the realm of possibility that we have no hope of achieving them. 

For example, your goal should not be to lose 60 lbs. in 6 weeks. That is entirely unrealistic (at least in a healthy way)!

But here's the thing. Focusing solely on making your goals achievable can lead to setting the bar too low. You only set easy goals that require minimal extra effort and do not achieve any real change.

Real change - real transformation - only occurs when you push yourself out of your comfort zone.

How do you push yourself outside your comfort zone? You set a goal that seems just out of your reach. Yes, it is achievable. But it is only achievable when you take extreme action.

In other words, you set a stretch goal

A stretch goal will stretch you past your limits and take you outside your comfort zone. There is untapped potential in all of us. Setting a target that is only achievable when you take levels of action you have not taken before can be a powerful experience.

So, yes. Make your goals achievable. But ONLY achievable by taking extreme action that will push you outside of your comfort zone.


And this is where we come to action-oriented goals.

The level of action associated with your goal will determine your progress.

After all, you cannot do a goal - you can only do actions that lead you to completing a goal.

As I mentioned, setting a goal that stretches you by forcing you to take more extreme action than usual is often the best goal - one that leads to real change.

Let's use the weight loss example here for easy math. Say your goal is to lose 30lbs. To achieve healthy, sustainable weight loss, you should seek to lose an average of 0.5-2lbs per week.

Therefore, to lose 30 lbs., you could do it in 60 weeks (0.5 lbs. per week), 15 weeks (2 lbs. per week), or anywhere between. How long it takes you depends on how extreme you want your actions to be.

Physiologically, it requires a caloric deficit (more energy expended than consumed) of 3,500 calories to burn one pound of body fat. If you want to lose one pound per week, you must average a caloric deficit of 500 calories daily.

You must increase your activity level over the week and decrease caloric intake to meet that number. If you combine increased expenditure and reduced intake, you will see the best results without making extreme changes in either the expenditure or intake side of the equation.

Changing your intake and output of energy during the week requires some action. But you must double that caloric deficit if you want to lose that weight in 15 weeks instead of 30. That means extreme action.

When you lay out your goals, understanding what is achievable is critical. However, achievable is relative to how much action you are willing to take. 

That is why Action-Oriented goals - goals that cause you to think about your actions to achieve them - are best.

So, when you set your goals, break them down into a few specific actions you can take. This step helps you focus on the process required to achieve your goals and will motivate you to get started.

The more detailed you are on the actions you will take, the better. In the example of the weight loss goal, avoid saying, "I will exercise more and eat less." 

Instead, define how much you will exercise and how much you will modify your eating behavior. There is a wide range of what is "achievable," depending on how much action you are willing to take. Defining what that looks like for your situation can be motivating to get on the path right away.

The A in SMART goals is the next step in achieving your goals. But you should focus on more than just what is achievable. Adding action steps to your plan will help you get on the path to accomplishing the goal.

After you get Specific on your goal and determine how you will Measure progress and success, you must identify what is Achievable and what level of Action it will take to achieve it in the timeframe within which you want to accomplish your goal.

Then, writing out a few key drivers or specific actions you will take to get started on your goal will get you on the right track.

Once these first three steps are down, you only have two more to set a goal you will likely accomplish this year.

I'll be back next week with Part 5 to help you take the next step!


P.S. If you identify a health and fitness goal as one of your top priorities this year, we want to help! 

One of our expert fitness coaches will sit down with you to walk you through our SMART goal-setting system, help you identify the path to success, and design your ideal exercise and nutrition plan.

Contact us here to schedule a free consultation!

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