5 common mistakes with goal setting that force failure

Goal setting is a relatively simple concept to understand but can be applied very poorly.  It’s important  to get right because if you get it wrong, your client will probably feel disappointed and take their money elsewhere.  This post aims to help you avoid the common mistakes that trainers make.

Mistake 1: Too Much Too Soon

Trainers that set or allow their clients to set goals that are too ambitious and optimistic are just setting themselves up for failure.  To be clear – trainers that set goals too high are not doing their clients a service. Clients that do not achieve their goals regularly stop caring about those types of goals after a while.  Your client judges your ability as a trainer against the goals you set – so get a “win” and gradually increase the challenge.

Mistake 2: Too Vague and Boring

Forget about setting a goal if it sounds like, “To lose weight” or “To feel fit”.  It’s a nothing statement.  It’s hard to take specific actions when the goal is so damn vague. Is your client wanting to lose 1kg or 10kgs? It makes a difference to both of you.  You must be able to measure the goal and track progress.

Mistake 3: Too Far in the Future

While big long-term goals are fine if they’re realistic but the further out it is, the less we’re compelled by it.  You must also be able to track progress because otherwise we tend to believe that we can some how cram progress in the last few weeks. We need urgency to act.

So if your client wants to run a marathon in 12 months – that’s fine.  Just set a number of milestone goals in between: 5km in a month, 10km in 3 months, 20 km in 6 months, 30km in 8 months, 42km in 12 months.   This is a good strategy if you’ve got clients that refuse to listen to your advice and are determined to set unrealistic goals.  If your client wants to lose 20kg in 3 months then outline what that would mean for them – 3kg in a week, 8kg in a month, 15kg in 2 months and 20kg by 3 months.  After the first week they’ll be ready to listen to you again.

Mistake 4: Too Complex or Too Many

Clients will quickly feel overwhelmed quickly if you don’t keep that laser focus.  With goals – it’s all about “quality” not quantity” Try to keep a goal distinct, clear and free of any add-ons.

For example a client could write: “To lose 5kg and run 10km and be able to swim 1km”.  In my view, goals should be like a switch – either on or off – achieved or not.  When you let yourself use “and”, “or”, “plus” or whatever other combiner you’ve got up your sleeve you’re cluttering the goal and the focus.  That’s why Top Trainer only allows a client to focus on one goal at a time.

My coach had a great way of illustrating how important this was. He got a hand-full of lollies and threw them to me, one after the other.  It wasn’t hard to catch them all because I could focus on one at a time.  Then he took the lollies back and said “Now I’m going to throw all of them to you at once – so make sure you catch some”.  I didn’t catch one because I didn’t know which one to go for.  Similarly, we only have a fixed amount of time, energy and attention that we can spread across our lives.  Don’t spread your client’s too thin if you want to achieve the specific result.  Focus people.

Mistake 5: Too freakin LAZY

This is the one mistake that most of us are guilty of.  We don’t keep our finger on the pulse and make sure our client is making progress often enough.  Many of us use these 4 – 6 week period as excuses to measure progress.  It’s too late by then.  That’s when they’re either going to stay or leave you.  You want to be making sure that your client is hitting every milestone goal in between, celebrating them and make damn sure that your client’s going to succeed. This is especially important for us personal trainers.  It’s hard for a client to catch up if they fall behind – for weight-loos clients they can only eat/drink less or exercise more.  Typically they won’t pay for more exercise so if you’re not influential when you’re not together – you’ll never catch up.  Keep measuring, keep encouraging, keep re-prioritising, keep motivating.

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