Goal setting- but not as you know it!

In the fitness industry, everybody talks about goal setting and most people talk about the importance of SMART goals, as if all you need to do is set a SMART goal and everything will be fine. In this blog, we will talk to you about Goal Setting Theory and what it actually says. We will focus on the 4 factors that affect your ability to achieve goals and we will help you to set a goal that you will achieve this year.

Goal Setting Theory (GST), was proposed by Locke and Latham, 1984 and proposes that by setting specific challenging goals performance improves. (Locke and Latham, 2019). This sounds very simple and is probably where SMART targets were derived from but SMART targets miss one of the most valuable points of the original theory and that is that the goal has to be challenging, not too easy and not too hard but hard enough that you have to make a commitment to the goal. Not only do SMART targets miss the point about challenging but they also fail to address the factors that affect achieving goals that Lock and Latham have identified:

Feedback, commitment, ability and the situation.


Feedback allows individuals to assess progress and to adjust behaviours to maximise results.

Although feedback is often associated with improvements in performance it is not the feedback itself that is responsible. It is the setting of goals to improve, based on the feedback on previous performance that is responsible for the improved performance. Locke and Latham, 1990) However, as individuals receive constant feedback it only becomes motivational when they use it to set new goals to improve. (Locke and Latham, 1991). This highlights the importance of both outcome and behavioural goals. Outcome goals are goals that have an end result in mind for example lost 1 stone in weight by the 1st of March, fit into your favourite dress by your birthday or be able to run nonstop for 30 minutes. Behavioural goals are goals that focus on your behaviour and are the goals that you set in order to achieve your outcome goals. For example, eat at least 1 piece of fruit and veg at every meal or to not sabotage your health and fitness by going on food binges. Self-monitoring of both outcome and behavioural goals can be a good method of achieving your goals but if you struggle to keep yourself accountable you may want to consider working with a coach or personal trainer who can help you.


This is the most commonly missed part of goal setting when using SMART targets and is why we think the most important part of goal setting is focusing on the reason why you are setting a goal in the first place. If you are not committed to a goal or it is not important you then you are less likely to take action to achieve it. people who set goals, focus most of their attention on achieving these goals.

Write down the reason why you are setting the goal and don’t just settle for the usual “I want to feel/look better”, dig deeper. Why do you really want to feel or look better? Often people struggle with this part of goal setting and it might take you a little time to dig deeper to get to a real reason that you are actually going to commit to.

Ability/ knowledge

Past performance can affect goal setting, when people have performed well they are more likely to set higher goals and achieve them. In the fitness industry, we are often faced with members that have achieved their goals in the past only to returned to their previous results a few months later. You may have tried to achieve results in the past only to fail in the long term. To get long term results you need to be equipped with the best knowledge in both exercise and nutrition. If you want to check out some of our blogs on exercise and nutrition, then check out other blogs on our website or download our e-books.


People may feel they have the ability/ knowledge but do not see the goal as important or lack the time and support to take action towards a goal. (Locke and Latham,2019).

If the goal is not important and you are not willing to commit to it then there is no point in setting a goal and trying to achieve it as if you fail this could have a negative impact on future goals.

If you feel you lack the time to achieve your goals then try to create a “rock dairy”, we explain this in further detail in our blog but a quick way is just to schedule the time you need to exercise and eat. Make them a priority, again if the goal is important and you have a real reason for doing it then you will find the time.

Support, if you feel you don’t have any support to achieve your goals then surround yourself with people that also want to achieve similar goals. Being part of a positive environment with like-minded people will help you to achieve your goals.

At The Fitness Collective, we help you to set both outcome and behavioural goals, we make sure that you are committed to your goals and work with you to plan a training plan that works for you. We provide you with all the nutritional support you need and have regular 1-1 sessions to provide you with feedback and help you achieve results you never thought possible.

Get in touch to see how you can get started.

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