top of page

Speech of the week: Appropriate Goals (Pt3)

Welcome back!

In parts 1 and 2 we lined out what makes an achievement goal and what happens when we don’t “set ourselves up for success” by inappropriately selecting an achievement goal (it’s not pretty). 

Remember, it’s not that the process of achieving or the desire to improve is inherently broken.  Most of the time, we are selecting goals that are too far outside of our actual capacity to sustain efforts towards.


Enter the behavioral goal. 

You could also call this a habit goal. 

Much of what I do as a trainer/nutrition/life coach revolves around habit-based coaching.  These will help you get where you want to go, especially if your challenge is complex or difficult.  But instead of hanging you out to dry when you can’t measure up to your ideals, a behavioral goal starts from a completely different premise. 

This is where we find the ability to break-free from the Motivation-Guilt cycle. 


Let’s briefly go over the characteristics of a behavioral goal: 

  • Develop a skill

  • Tend to be gradual

  • Re-write your internal programming so that actions become automatic.  

  • Build capacity to do and recover, to start and stop. 

  • Develop a sense of improvement: don’t require “perfection”

  • Allow for multiple mistakes because it’s not based on rigid “rules”

  • Promote a growth mindset

Examples of behavioral goals include:

  • Making time for a workout 4-5 times a week

  • Eating till just satisfied instead of stuffing yourself

  • Confining screen time to certain hours

  • Practicing active listening when talking to your significant other 

The premise of a behavioral goal is that it promotes a “growth mindset”. 

This is in stark contrast to achievement goals that promote a “fixed mindset”. 

If you’re approaching a problem with a fixed mindset, if you break a rule or miss a deadline then it’s all over and you’re a failure.  If you approach a problem with a growth mindset, then the process of developing skill and practicing in itself becomes rewarding. 

Nothing is broken, everything is learning and growing.  This leads to much better self-acceptance, less guilt, and better long-term outcomes.  

A best practice when picking a habit to work on is to aim for the smallest change that will have the greatest impact.  Your new goal is then to practice this small change for at least 30 days until it becomes natural.  (Some life-coaching experts, such as Craig Groeschel, even recommend picking 1 single impactful habit per year to work on).  

Downsides to setting a behavioral goal, however, include a lack of urgency, making the goal to broad, and not adequately applying yourself. 

You’ll still need to be out of your comfort zone!   

To avoid making this article just a container for platitudes, I’m going to make a bold recommendation. 

I think that most reasonably functioning people will benefit from a 1:3 ratio of achievement to behavioral goals, spread out on a quarterly basis for total of about 4 achievement goals per year and 12 habit goals per year. 

The BIG difference in this style from others is that most of those habit goals are broken down really small and all are mutually supporting, sometimes just shades or logical extensions of the same thing. 

For example,

Month 1 make time for stretching 10 minutes a day. 

Month 2, add 5 minutes of reading to the end of your stretching. 

Month 3, add 5 minutes of deep breathing to the end of your stretching and reading.  BOOM, all of a sudden you have a powerful way to start your day OR break free from the end of a stressful day.  This new habit will directly support your ability to think more creatively, stay healthier, get fitter, and lose fat.  

Goal setting and achieving is a whole Art unto itself that has many additional facets such as tying together the long-term and short-term (Strategic, Operational, Tactical), how many to engage at a time or in a given year, timing, framing, alignment and congruence. 

There’s plenty more to discuss.  The nice thing about applying this into your fitness and exercise is that it will pay dividends into the rest of your life.  

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page