Goal setting, how to stay motivated in your diet and training

When it comes to starting your goal there’s never a right time. There’s never a time when it’s going to be ‘best’ to start your diet, get leaner, get in shape.

Let me tell you a secret of how successful people achieve their goals…

…they decide that the time is NOW.

Now, not tomorrow, not on Monday so you can start fresh, not next month when you are less busy. Sure, you can wait until an opportune time to ‘really make a go of it’, but if you start to buy better food now, start planning your eating now, or book that gym induction now – you’ve taken a huge step towards success. Procrastination can be due to many factors including the most common one which is a fear of failure.

Simply being aware of this is a big help. You need to know that the thing holding you back is in your head and nowhere else. You’re afraid of a hypothetical, something you don’t KNOW will happen, and the irony is that a fear of not being able to succeed can often be enough to prevent you from trying.

How many people do you know who succeed at something they never actually start doing? Exactly. By allowing a fear of failure to stop you trying, you fail by default – how is that any better?

Sometimes it comes down to uncertainty. Where do you start? How long will it take? What happens when you get halfway there and it starts getting really complicated?

It’s never too late in life to start something new or embark on a new goal whether that is in your career, relationships or health and fitness goals. Regardless of complications standing in your path, the main complication is in your own head. Clear away the obstacles and get some clarity.

Let’s make things a little easier…

We can break goal achieving into stages:

Stage 1: Where do I start?

By far the hardest part of any task is starting it.

You might be very clear as to what exactly it is you want, but if you are being held back because you have no clue what the first step is, my first suggestion would be to hire an expert.

This is most pertinent with fitness goals and getting in shape where a good coach is invaluable. The right coach will help you ascertain exactly what your goals are, help you with a timescale, plan according to your lifestyle, and help break down your overall goal into smaller achievable increments if the bigger picture seems overwhelming. The same goes for performance, body composition or nutrition and health goals. In my opinion even the most knowledgeable of folk can benefit from a decent coach to help them – there’s a reason that Usain Bolt has a sprint coach and the All-Blacks don’t just make it up on their own.

Stage 2: Record your plan of action

Once you have your goal in place alongside your timescale, make a simple weekly plan of action and record this in a database (diary, white board on the wall, smart phone calendar). Add reminders and alarms where necessary. This is breaking your overall goal down into weekly do-able tasks.

For training goals this could be as easy as planning a gym session for 45mins 4x per week, getting more activity into your daily life by hitting a target number of steps daily or even taking your kids swimming twice per week. Add it to your weekly calendar in a slot where you know it will fit into your timetable. If there is no foreseeable time – then re-plan to make one! If you think you might be flaky in sticking to this enrol a buddy to do it with you and then at least you can encourage one another along the way.

Nutrition goals might start off with prepping or planning out as much of your weekly food as you can/need on a Sunday evening or making sure you hit a daily protein goal by ensuring a portion of protein in every meal. For instance you want to add lean muscle mass and know your protein intake is low, then find out what it needs to be and plan it into your daily diet.

Remember that targets like this are quite often simply a case of making them a habit and repeating them on a regular basis will soon become natural behaviour. They are small steps which seem almost like the inconvenience isn’t outweighed by the benefits, but after you have built 5-6 good habits, you find yourself with a healthy lifestyle, and that’s what will take you places.

"Above all remember that the consistency is the key factor to achieving most goals".

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Stage 3: Get yourself motivated in your surroundings

In the gym this can be a simple as having a music playlist that really gets you going, training with a partner, or partaking in a class with a great instructor and buzzing atmosphere.

Having a set structure or workouts will help you to see weekly improvements.

Having foods you actually love to eat is an obvious one but not one that people give much thought to. Have them in the fridge, cupboards and as snacks in your bag as opposed to forcing yourself to eat foods that although you know are nutritionally beneficial but detest eating. There’s no point in eating something if you hate it. Perhaps you can’t eat cold broccoli out of tupperware but find that roasted peppers, salads or carrot crudités are manageable. Find new cafes and restaurants that have good food choices and suggesting trying those to friends for social occasions.

Make cakes/brownies/snacks that actually contain wholesome ingredients and having these in replacement of shop bought refined- sugar filled treats. Most importantly, stock your home well. It’s almost impossible to eat for a health, fitness or body composition goal if your fridge has nothing but beer, condiments and some pickles but the freezer has those ‘emergency pizzas’. Buy good food including a good amount of meat and freeze some of it, then consider reducing your stockpile of junk as much as you can.

Stage 4: How to keep yourself motivated when the going gets tough

Make yourself accountable to someone - whether that be your coach, family members or friends. Studies have shown that more people achieve their goals when they have told others and made their goals public (1).

Have a workout log book. If its weight training you are doing then a log book can be a great asset to help you go for that extra rep/ additional weight in your weekly session.

Doing exercise you actually like. Again this might seem obvious to some, but look in any commercial gym at all of the people slogging it out on the treadmill for a cardio session because someone told them this was the best way to lose fat, and notice that they are hating every second of it. Whatever your fitness goal is, make sure you are doing something you actually like doing.

Detest treadmill running? Run outdoors, try a watt bike, or some Tabata instead.

(This is one I personally discovered. I had no idea how much I was actually hating HIIT sprints on the treadmill until one day decided to get on the watt bike instead and rediscovered my love for being back in the saddle pumping away to my old spinning tracks).

Above all remember that the consistency is the key factor to achieving most goals. If you fall off the wagon, brush it aside and get back on- you’ll get there eventually and once you do you might just realise how enjoyable the process was.


  1. Hayes SC et al. ‘Self- reinforcement Effects: An artefact of social setting?’ J Appl Behav Anal. 1985 Fall; 18(3): 201–214. doi: 10.1901/jaba.1985.18-201