Do any of these sound familiar?
(Or maybe you’re a coach or trainer, and you’re seeing this time and time again in the women who come to you for help.)
If one of these (or all of them!) rings true, let me start by saying this: It’s not laziness, or a lack of drive, or a sign you or your clients just need to “buckle down and do the thing.”
Rather, there’s one fundamental thing probably missing — and that’s value alignment (more on this in a moment).
Luckily, we’ve got a solution for you. It’s called values-based goal setting.
In this article, you’ll learn how to identify your values and apply them to your health and fitness endeavors so you get the results you want, no burning out or unsustainable plans required.
Keep reading to find out:
Ready? Let’s get to it.
Let’s start by getting clear on what values are, and how they differ from goals.
Your values are the principles you live by.
They represent who you want to be, what you stand for, and how you want to show up in your life. Think of your values as your North Star, guiding you along your journey and helping you make decisions based on what’s most important to you. Your values may include things like courage, independence, flexibility, or growth.
Goals are the destination or the end result.
Goals are something you can achieve or cross off your list, such as learning to do a pull-up, running a marathon, or losing a certain percentage of body fat.
One of the most common reasons folks struggle to get results is a disconnect between their values and their goals. They know the outcome they want to achieve but don’t consider their values in the execution.
If your goals and actions don’t align with your values, that’s what we call a values discrepancy.
Why is this important?
Well, a values discrepancy can lead to three major problems:
But when your goals align with your values, the work you put into achieving them feels purposeful and gratifying. In other words, the day-to-day efforts — whether that’s getting more exercise, improving your sleep habits, or eating more vegetables — are actually enjoyable. And when the effort is enjoyable, you’re more likely to continue doing it.
Here’s an example: Suppose your goal is to lose 40 pounds and one of your values is freedom. If you sign up for a strict diet program that requires you to eat every three hours or doesn’t leave room for a slice of birthday cake, you’re going to struggle to stick to that program. Why? Because it doesn’t reflect what’s really important to you: freedom.
However, imagine that instead of forcing yourself to follow a restrictive diet, you focus on a few healthful nutrition skills that fit your lifestyle. Maybe it’s eating some kind of protein at every meal or veggies with any two meals a day. Boom! Now you’re eating in a way that’s both healthful and in line with what’s intrinsically meaningful to you — and that’s the key to staying motivated.
Now we’ve covered the importance of values in goal setting, let’s jump into how to set values-based goals so you can start getting the results you’re after.
At GGS, we’ve worked with hundreds of thousands of women to help them achieve their health and fitness goals through our articles, certifications, free courses, and GGS Coaching program. As such, we’ve developed a reliable five-step method that ensures you:
We’ve also created a useful worksheet so you can work through this process on your own once you’re done reading!
Click here to download the worksheet that will guide you through the steps outlined in this article.
(Are you a coach or trainer? This worksheet is a great exercise to do with your clients.)
You can’t set values-based goals if you don’t know what your values are!
Your values can (and should!) be established in a few different areas of your life:
For the purposes of this article, we’ll be focusing on your values as they relate to your body, health, and fitness.
To determine your values, try the following exercise.
First, take some time to create a list of your top 10 health and fitness values. You’ll find a list of values to choose from (though of course, you can add your own!) and some space to work through this in your downloadable worksheet. Keep the following prompt in mind while you make your selections:
Next, narrow that list down to only your top five values. Then, narrow those five down to your top three (in order of importance).
Now that you’re equipped with your top three values, you can get to work setting those goals!
If your values are your North Star, think of your outcome-based goal as your destination on a map; it’s where you ultimately want to end up.
These goals are often numbers-focused, like losing a certain number of pounds or doing 20 push-ups.
Chances are, you already know your outcome-based goal, or perhaps a few come to mind as you read this article. Either way, before you determine exactly what you want to work toward, there are three guidelines to follow:
Now you’ve determined your ultimate goal and made sure it aligns with your values, you can move to the next step: setting behavior-based goals.
While it’s great to have a destination, you’re going to have trouble getting there without directions. That’s where behavior-based goals come in.
Behavior-based goals are the specific action steps you (or your clients) are ready, willing, and able to take each day (or a few times a week) to move toward your ultimate goal. They allow you to consistently rack up small wins and gain a sense of ongoing achievement.
Establish one or two behavior-based goals to get you started. That may not sound like a lot, but trust me, anything more can be overwhelming and, therefore, tough to stick with. Behavior change is hard work!
It’s important to set behavior-based goals you’re confident you can consistently achieve over and over again. If you look at your behavior goals and think they sound too easy — perfect! (You’ll be increasing the number of behavior-based goals later on.)
If you need help determining your behavior-based goals, try this exercise:
Consider that the big dial-movers for most health and fitness goals fall into one or more of the following five categories:
Now, write down a bunch of behaviors for each category that would help you move toward your outcome-based goal. Then, choose the one or two behaviors on that list that stand out as the most realistic and achievable for you to work on right now.
For example, let’s say your outcome-based goal is to lose 40 pounds. Obviously, we don’t recommend losing 40 pounds in only 12 weeks! But losing 10–15 pounds may be totally doable. So for your first 12-week phase, let’s imagine your first goal is to lose 15 pounds.
Your behavior-based goals might then be:
Next, check-in to make sure these behaviors align with your values. To use the above example, if your top three values are strength, freedom, and autonomy, then resistance training aligns with the value of strength, and choosing which veggies to eat and when aligns with the values of autonomy and freedom. Check, check, and check!
The action steps you take to achieve your behavior-based goals are what we call Implementation Intentions.
Clear and specific Implementation Intentions provide you with the exact steps to move toward your goal; there’s no guesswork. After all, a goal of working out three times a week is great, but without a detailed plan for making that happen, there’s a lot of room for error.
To determine your action steps, think about exactly what you need to complete your behavior-based goals. This is the “what, where, when, and how” portion of your plan.
So if your behavior-based goals are:
Then your Implementation Intentions might be:
Need help determining your action steps? Or simply aren’t sure where to start? Get the one-on-one support you need in our GGS Coaching program.
Obstacles are the potential barriers that prevent you (or the women who come to you for help) from achieving behavior-based goals.
Take a moment now to envision the goal you’ll be working toward for the next 12 weeks. What obstacles might pop up and prevent you from achieving your behavior-based goals? Maybe it's working long hours, family obligations, or an old injury flaring up. Make a list of the five most likely possibilities, and create a backup plan for navigating each one. (There’s a space for you to do this in your downloadable worksheet.)
A handy way to do this is to use “if, then” language:
Congratulations, you’ve completed the five steps! This can be challenging work, so high fives for that!
Now you’re ready to put the plan into action and start working toward your goal. Next, I’ll teach you what that looks like in practice.
Hey, life happens. And that means even when your goals align with your values, it’s still possible to feel a dip in your motivation now and then. I’ve got you covered with these three tips for navigating the bumps in the road and staying the course:
Hopefully by now, you see the power of values alignment in goal setting. Maybe you’ve even had an “aha!” moment, or something “clicked”. If so, you’re probably itching to close this article and get to work.
Before you do, let’s recap how to use values-based goal setting to get results:
There’s no question that adopting new behaviors to achieve your goals is hard work, but it doesn’t have to feel forced, stressful, or impossible.
When you set goals that are in alignment with your values, not only do you set yourself up on the path to success, but you also find purpose and enjoyment in the process. It’s a win win!
With Girls Gone Strong Coaching, you’ll get the support, accountability, and expert coaching to eat and exercise in a sustainable way — without restrictive diets or spending your life in the gym.
Whether your health and fitness goals are to…
... or anything else, we’ll help you achieve them. You can experience life-changing results while eating and exercising in a way that actually fits into your life — instead of controlling it.
Throughout our 12-month program, you’ll get a simple, step-by-step plan for developing nutrition, fitness, and mindset habits that will lead the way in reaching your goal.
Your coach is available 5 days a week to answer questions and help you navigate situations — like eating while you’re on vacation, exercise substitutions so you don’t aggravate your knee pain, or planning a workout with limited equipment options — so you always have support when you need it. And together, you'll find the best path toward long-term results in a way that works for you.
You’ll learn how to:
And you’ll become the happiest, fittest, strongest version of yourself, one step at a time.
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