Slow and Steady: How To Set Achievable Goals

The following is adapted from The Self Help Book by Jared Graybeal.

Have you ever set a goal, only soon after to realize that you’ve set your sights a little too high? It’s not a great feeling. We’re taught to constantly be raising the bar for ourselves, not lowering our standards to more realistic heights. 

However, creating unattainable goals is the number one way to ensure you’ll give up on them. After all, why would your brain encourage you to try and achieve something it deems impossible? After a few days or weeks or months, you’re likely to leave these goals in the dust, which will make it more difficult for you to achieve your goals in the future. 

On the other hand, consistently accomplishing achievable goals, no matter the size, will inevitably increase your confidence in yourself. 

To find this goal-setting sweet spot, I recommend using a particular formula: SMART goals. This set of guidelines can help you create goals that resonate with your actual lifestyle and capacity. 

Keep your goals SMART. 

So what are SMART goals? Let’s take a look… 

  • Specific: Your goal is direct, detailed, and meaningful. Not vague and irrelevant. 
  • Measurable: Your goal is quantifiable to track progress along the way or success. 
  • Attainable: Your goal is realistic, and you have the tools or the resources in order to accomplish it. 
  • Relevant: Your goal aligns with your vision of your future for your life and your personal values.
  • Time-based: Your goal has a deadline. It can’t just happen whenever. 

Why the SMART formula? I believe you have to name something in order to make it come true. This method forces you to take a good, hard look at the details so that you can actually start to make concrete steps to achieving your goals. 

The good news? The SMART formula can be applied across the spectrum, from weight loss to dating. 

Losing Weight The SMART Way

Want to get in shape and lose twenty pounds? Start by losing one pound.

One pound is 3,500 calories. So to lose one pound of fat, you need to either burn 3,500 calories, eat 3,500 fewer calories, or find a happy medium—depending on your lifestyle and what got you “overweight” in the first place. 

This is just a general example, so don’t necessarily take this as a prescription for yourself. But to lose one pound in one week, you need a 3,500-calorie deficit. 

3,500/7 = 500 calories per day. You could exercise to burn three hundred more calories a day, and eat two hundred calories less per day, and reach that goal. 

Dating The SMART Way

Want to start dating, but you’re uncomfortable with asking people out in fear of failure? Start by meeting one person.

This simply comes down to the “Law of Large Numbers.” The more people you meet, the more likely you’ll meet someone whom you are interested in and who is equally interested in you. 

You just have to stop psyching yourself out by thinking too much into it. Stop thinking about asking someone out, and just set a goal to meet them. You can’t fail at meeting someone. 

Most people are awake about seventeen hours per day, and in public half that time. That’s eight and a half hours every day that you have a chance to meet someone new. 

Whether it’s at work, in the gym, at the grocery store, or at the dog park, start with a handshake, ask for a name, give them yours, and ask a genuine question. It’s that simple. 

Reading The SMART Way

Want to start reading books but never considered yourself a “reader?” Find a book you KNOW you will like (read reviews), and commit to reading five pages a day.

This doesn’t even have to be a self-help book, a finance book, or a business book. It could be Harry Potter. Just find a book that you know you’ll like, and by reading a few pages of that each day, you will build a habit of reading every day.

That habit will eventually translate into a discipline that you can carry over to those more “productive” books that will make you better at your work or craft.

Being Productive The SMART Way

Want to be more productive throughout the day but have a hard time joining the five o’clock or six o’clock in the morning club? Start by waking up fifteen minutes earlier for a few weeks.

Week 1: If you normally get up at 8:30 a.m., start this week off by getting up at 8:15 a.m. Do that every day this week, at least for the weekdays.

Week 2: Now get up at 8 a.m. in the morning every day. 

Week 3: Now wake up at 7:45 a.m.

You get the drift…

Keep in mind, waking up at 5 a.m. only makes sense if that’s what you need to do to accomplish your goals. It has to be relevant. You can’t do it just because some people you follow on Instagram do. I have a friend that is up at four o’clock in the morning every day, and it works perfectly for him. I recently saw that Mark Wahlberg apparently gets up at 2:45 a.m. every day.

Personally, I’m out of bed by 6:30 a.m. every day, and that’s what works for me. Find your time, and inch your way each week with those fifteen-minute intervals until you get there.

Stop dreaming and start doing. 

Chances are, you set seemingly unattainable goals for good reason—you believe in yourself. That part doesn’t have to change. However, adjusting the scope and subject of your goals can help you move forward to accomplish them. 

Whether you’re trying to get the girl (or guy), land a new job, or sign up for a half marathon, take a deep breath, put pen to paper, and honestly assess how specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely your goals are. If they seem off in any category, adjust them to fall within these boundaries, and get to work. I think you’ll be surprised by what you can accomplish! 

For more advice on meeting your goals, you can find The Self Help Book on Amazon.

My mission is to encourage, educate, and empower others to live happier, healthier lives. I am a NASM-certified personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, behavioral change specialist, CrossFit Level 2 trainer, and corrective exercise specialist with an education in marketing and psychology from the University of North Florida. I own and operate two companies. One is Superfit Foods, a healthy, subscription-based, fully customizable meal prep company. The other is E3, a business consulting and marketing agency. I’ve done a few cool things, like exhibiting Superfit Foods at Forbes Under 30 and giving a TEDx Talk on nutrition and mental health, and every day I get to work hard at doing what I love.

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