Your goal: A dream with a deadline

Day 3: Nutrition Course for Athletes

Writing a few sentences down can mean the difference between success and failure. Plenty of studies show that people who take even a few seconds to put their goals on paper are 5 to 10 times as likely to achieve them.

So today, make me one promise. Get out a pen and an 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper, and do what most people aren’t willing to do . . .

Write out your goals.

The art and science of goal setting

Goal setting is both an art and a science. Most people think that setting goals just means picking something you don’t have right now and going for it, but there’s more to it than that.

To unlock the power of goal setting, use the following tips:

Goals should be specific and measurable

A good goal can be measured accurately and is specific enough to direct your focus on the change that’s most needed or important to you.

I will look really good naked doesn’t really give you anything measurable or specific to work on.

However, I will lose 15 lbs of body fat does. It’s specific to one area of improvement (body fat) and it includes a measurable outcome (15 lbs).

Goals should be challenging but realistic

Goals must be big enough to inspire you to action, but not so big that you get frustrated with the impossibility of accomplishing them.

If you’re 80 pounds overweight, setting a goal of being on the cover of a fitness magazine in 6 months time isn’t realistic. But a goal of losing 10 pounds in the next year, while realistic, is too small to be inspiring.

For fat loss, a good rule of thumb is to expect 0.5 to 1 pound of fat loss per week.

If you don’t know whether your goal is realistic or not, consult an expert or ask around on the forums. At Precision Nutrition, we’ll help you figure it out.

Goals should have short-term and long-term components

When setting your goals, make sure you’ve got small goals that are applicable to today, bigger goals that are applicable to next week, bigger goals yet applicable to next month, and the biggest goals applicable to next year.

By setting aside little time points, you’ll have mile markers on the way to your success. It also helps you appreciate the fact that great long term progress feels like it’s happening pretty slowly.

Remember, if you want to drop from 160 at 25% to 130 at 12% in a year, that means you’ll have to drop about 25 lbs of body fat in 52 weeks. Over the course of 12 months, that’s about 2 lbs of fat a month. So be patient!

Frame your goals around behaviors, not just outcomes

Do you know the difference between a behavior and an outcome goal? Well, a behavior goal is based on something you can directly control and do yourself; an outcome goal is based on the end product of a series of behaviors.

Most people set only outcome goals, such as the following:

  • “I will lose ten pounds in ten weeks.”
  • “I will make $100,000 next year.”

While these goals are specific and measurable and may be challenging and attainable, one problem is this: they’re outcomes. And outcomes are often beyond your control.

After all, you can’t control your fat cells and their rate of fat metabolism by just hoping they’ll shrink. And you can’t force someone to pay you $100,000 per year. What you can control, however, are your behaviors.

So how can you pick better goals, goals based on behaviors? Try these on for size:

Want to lose ten pounds in ten weeks? Then start by understanding what behaviors you can adopt immediately that’ll lead to this result. Make these your goals. Here are a few examples:

  • I will exercise for at least five hours per week.
  • I will eat slowly and pay more attention to my intake.
  • I will eat vegetables with every meal.
  • I will avoid alcohol this week.

And how about the financial thing?

  • I will go back to school and get an advanced degree in my field.
  • I will spend most of my time on big, high return projects.
  • I will improve one aspect of my job performance each day.
  • I will duplicate the behaviors of others that are making the amount of money I want to make.

In the end, if you make goals out of behaviors, behaviors you can control, your outcome goals (things like your body composition, salary, etc.) will fall right in line without you having to worry about them.

And one final tip for goal setting is this:

Tell someone about it

Once you set specific goals that you’re committed to sticking to, tell someone about them right away and ask that person to hold you accountable.

If a goal is a secret, it’s easy to blow it off. If you’ve got someone holding you accountable to a higher standard, you’re more likely to get it done.


A few sentences put on paper can mean the difference between success and failure. So get your pen and pad, and write out a few goals right now.

Tomorrow’s lesson

How to self-monitor for success. See you then!

Extra reading

If you want to learn exactly how to set goals — and more importantly, exactly how to modify your diet to reach them faster than you thought possible — take a look at the Precision Nutrition System, which covers the method we use in great detail.

Click here for more about the Precision Nutrition System.