The importance of goal-setting is engrained into us from the start. Why is it so important though? Goal setting is important because goals give you something concrete to work toward, and keep you motivated and on track. If you don't have goals, your workouts will have less of a purpose. You won't be as inclined to do your workouts, let alone do them with intensity.
Goals can be anything, as long as they are meaningful to you. Maybe you want to improve your 5K time. Perhaps you want to have more confidence. Some people want to keep themselves healthy so that they can enjoy their life. Others want to lose weight. Maybe you want to be so ripped that you have to go through doorways sideways....
The next step is to sit down and write down your goals. You may want to brainstorm about what is important to you, want you want to accomplish, and what things make you happy. Writing goals down makes them real. If it helps you with accountability, you can even share your goals with people you care about. You have probably heard this before...goals should be S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). Using the S.M.A.R.T acronym is one method of ensuring you have solid goals.
Specific goals ensure goals are not too general, and answer which, who, what, when, where, and most importantly, why. This is where you decide what you want to accomplish, who is involved, where you will work on your goal, which requirements there are, and why the goal is important to you and the purpose it has. For example, saying "I want workout more" is too general, whereas "I want to commit to working out at least 3x a week for the next 3 months" is much more specific.
Measurable goals ensure that you can measure your progress. They give you something concrete so you know when you have reached your goal. For goals to be measurable, they need to answer the questions "how much?" or "how many?" so that you can track them. For example, only saying "I want to be more toned" gives no way to measure progress. Instead, a more measurable goal would be "I want to increase my muscle mass by 3 percent."
Attainable goals are goals which are realistic. They are reasonable, and make sense for you and your life; they are not too extreme, and you have a way to accomplish them. For example, the goal "I want to lose 50 lbs in a month" is obviously not healthy and far too extreme. A better goal would be "I want to lose 50 lbs over the next year."
Relevant goals are worthwhile to you and make a positive difference in your life when accomplished. They support your other goals and are important to you. For example, the goal "I want to run because my sister thinks I should" is not a very worthwhile goal for someone who hates running, but enjoys biking for cardio. Perhaps a better goal would be "I want to get on my bike 3x a week."
Time-bound goals give a target date so that you can commit to achieving them by a certain time and not allow them to be forgotten about or pushed back. They allow you to have better focus and keep yourself accountable. Smaller, short-term goals are helpful here as steps to achieving the final result. An example of a goal without a target date would be "I want to run a 5K race." A goal with an end date would be "I want to run a 5K race before this August."
Once you set your goals, make sure you have a way of tracking your progress with them. For example, if you want to workout at least 3x a week, make sure you have a calendar where you can check off the days you workout. If you want to eat 8 servings of vegetables and fruits a day, keep a tally on your phone each day so you know where you are at. If you want to lose 5 lbs in a month, ensure you have days marked down to do check-ins through the month. Keep yourself accountable in one way or another. That being said, it's important that you focus on the behavioral aspects of your goals, rather than the outcomes. This means working on the things you can control directly, such as getting to the gym 3x a week, rather on things you cannot have direct control over, such as losing 10 lbs.