Use Your Inner Coach to Set SMART Goals

You have a dream, now how do you make it happen? Wake up your “inner coach” to create a training plan and have you ready for “game day” by following the SMART method of goal setting.

In a previous article I talked about setting big, scary, unreasonable goals. Using your creative, daring side of your brain to paint a picture of your dreams.

Great. So now you’ve got a list of goals for the New Year and you have no idea how you are going to accomplish these unreasonable things. You’re like a potential all-star athlete, but with no coach to tell you what to do or point you in the right direction.

This is where the analytical part of your brain comes in. Let’s channel our inner coach.

One method of goal setting that is tried-and-true is using the SMART guidelines. You may have heard of them before, but let’s work it through using an athletic goal as an example.

First, what does SMART stand for?


It’s hard to achieve something vague, like “get better at running” or “don’t eat junk food.” It’s much easier to visualize and attain something like, “Run a 5k in 28 minutes.” Tell your inner coach EXACTLY what you want to accomplish, even if (especially if) it makes you a little nervous to declare it.


Being able to measure where you are at the beginning and end of your adventure and track your progress in between is essential to achieving your goal. If you have a 35 minute 5k today and a 30 minute 5k next month, you know you made progress. If you didn’t make progress you know that, too, and can makes changes to your training. Your inner coach might suggest you keep a journal to track your progress.


This one has a fine line. As you saw in my last goals article, I’m not a big proponent of setting what feel like totally attainable goals. I think your goals should make you want to pee your pants a little bit. But, they should be within the realm of physics and plausibility. For instance, despite my goal of running faster and challenging myself, setting a goal of winning a gold medal at the Olympics would not be attainable. A good coach pushes his athlete a little further than THEY think they can accomplish, but never pushes them to a place where they can’t succeed.

setting new years resolutions, setting fitness goals, SMART goal setting


That sounds a lot like attainable, but it’s not. Realistic just means you can put this goal into reality – i.e. make a “to do” list actually fit it into your life. I can make a list that says: Take a Pose running clinic, join a running group, run 30 minutes five times per week. Those are all realistic. If I had kids and a full-time job and I wrote down I was going to get up at 6am in the cold Portland winter and run 7 days a week? Not so realistic. Pick the things you can DO to make your goal happen. Things you WILL do (even on days you don’t WANT to). Use your inner coach to set a realistic gameplan.

Time Based

When is your goal due? Set a due date for yourself. Having a due date keeps you on track and keeps you from saying “tomorrow” or “next week.” For instance when I first planned to move to Portland from Los Angeles, my timeline was set by apartment lease – I had 18 months. I ended up moving sooner, but it gave me an immediate structure within to plan my “to do” list. You could do this for yourself by signing up for a marathon, scheduling a portrait session in six months, or even betting a friend if you both don’t reach your goals by a certain date you have to publicly proclaim yourself the loser on Facebook. Being time based helps you prioritize and put some skin in the game. Tell your inner coach when “game day” is and then hold yourself accountable to that date.

Lastly, I would add one more thing to a successful goal:

Enroll Everyone You Know

Tell everyone you know about your goal. Tell them how excited you are and how it’s going to improve your life. Tell them what it truly means to you to achieve this goal – be it running a marathon, quitting smoking, or fitting into your skinny jeans.

Because achieving your goal doesn’t just mean accomplishing those acts – it means feeling like a superhero, spending more years with your loving family, or feeling confident in your own skin.

Share what it MEANS to you to accomplish your goal, tell your friends what you intend to do about it, and ask them to hold you accountable.

If you know what your goals are for the new year, please share them in the comments – walk us through your SMART goals.

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