[Aminee Alexander is a Masters Student at NCSU and an Athletic Development Intern at Athletic Lab]

set and reach goal conceptWe’re now beginning the second month of a New Year and I bet someone, somewhere, is working on their New Year’s resolution of losing weight. That’s a great resolution to make as it means that you’ve realized there is a problem and you’re willing to work to fix it. The problem with making resolutions is nine times out of ten no one actually sticks to them long term. Gym memberships skyrocket in January and by March or April no one is using them anymore. I can admit that I’ve never fully committed to my resolutions either. But maybe instead of making New Year’s resolutions, we need to be making New Year’s goals. What’s the difference between a resolution and a goal you may ask? A resolution is usually very general and half-hearted while a goal, on the other hand, is usually specific and thoughtfully planned out.

Tips for setting goals

  1. Be specific

One of the main problems with following through on goals is being too general. For example, your goal may be to run a half-marathon next year. While that’s a great goal, you should be more specific, add a time you want to complete the marathon in or choose which specific marathon you want to run. Studies show that specific goals are more effective than vague/general goals (Locke,1985).

  1. Use short-term goals to achieve long-term goals

Short term goals can be the building blocks for long term goals. If you start your journey to achieving your big goal by setting and accomplishing small goals, the journey won’t seem so overwhelming or impossible. Going back to the goal of a half-marathon, make a goal for every week of your training program. In doing so, you are able to see progress and small results toward your big goal giving you more motivation to reach that big goal.

  1. Make your goals challenging but realistic

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Don’t make the goals so they’re easier to achieve, make them so you have to work harder to achieve them. It has been shown that difficult goals produce better performance (Locke, 1985). You improve so much more by working harder than you do by completing a goal that doesn’t take you much effort. That doesn’t mean to set goals that are out of a feasible range for you. For instance, setting a goal to run a 5 minute mile when you’ve never run less than an 8 minute mile is probably not a good idea. It may take you longer to reach that challenging goal but it will definitely be more worth it in the end.

So if you’re planning to begin an exercise program or are in one now, set goals, watch your progress, and be patient. With your hard work, those results will come!


Locke, Edwin A., and Gary P. Latham. The application of goal setting to sports. Journal of Sport Psychology 7.3 (1985): 205-222