John Coumbe-Lilley


August 21, 2020

Goal setting that works

You might have heard about goal setting.  If you have, that’s great, if you have not about it and why it is essential, here’s a mini introduction to goals, what they are, why they are crucial, and what you can do with them.

Humans are goal-directed; we strive and grow based on what we need and what we want. We set an aim, and we go after it.  Goals direct our energy, intensity, focus, and behavior.  Having goals in front of you is essential for progress, and by striving for a purpose, you can measure the change and improvement in your performance simultaneously.

Selecting the right goals for yourself is a skill. Lots of people choose the wrong goals and often become unhappy because what they thought they wanted to achieve is not what they find out they needed.  Choosing goals, you can commit to making is something not everyone thinks about before they set off on their journey. There’s no point aiming at a target that is not important and valuable to you because you will probably reduce your commitment over time because you say to yourself, ‘what’s the point?’ Avoid asking yourself this question by pausing and checking the goal you’re going for is important enough to you that not striving for it might make you unsatisfied and feeling like you missed out on becoming more of yourself and living your potential.

You also want to make sure you are ready, willing, and able to get after your goal. Readiness means you have the mental energy and belief to start making progress.  Your willingness to give effort, focus, and emotional strength come from your internal desire, your decision, and commitment to go for the goal you set yourself.  And your ability means you have the knowledge, skills, capability, and resources to get started on your quest.  You have done what you needed to do to take the first step on your goal quest.

When these things are in place, you can set your aim and determine the goals for yourself. Sometimes you can decide this alone, or you can invite others to join you and help you define your goals; in the end, you decide your goal. When you set your goals, make sure some of these characteristics can be found in your goal.

The characteristics of goals are:

Observe – You can set an aim, pause and see how far you got

Adjust – You can adjust your goal based on how far you got, or how much effort it took to get you to where you are now.

Challenge – You can set easy, moderate, or difficult goals. Remember, the harder the goal, the more resources, effort, time, resources, and skill you might need to achieve.

Proximity - Short, medium or long term goals are dependent on your priorities and the time available to achieve them

Specific – Set a specific goal to concentrate your effort and direct your energy, but be careful not to be too rigid. Particular objectives include some things and exclude others, so observe your progress and adjust accordingly.

Realistic – You decide what is a realistic goal for yourself.  Be mindful not to set limits that cap your growth.  Think of great performers. How far would they have got by being sensible?

Measure – Evaluate what you are doing.  Compare your results as you need to but avoid being a ‘measuring monster.’ Not everything you do might have a measure attached to it, especially your mood, because it can change so quickly.  Measure what you value and keep things simple.

Goals give you direction; measures are your dashboard, and activities are your fuel to achieving the quality experiences you want and the performance of your desire.

Here’s is an example of a strong goal statement for strength training.

“Increase my back squat from 200lbs to 250lbs in 90-days so that I will be stronger and ready for preseason rugby training when I face rigorous preparation before my first match.”

Here’s an example of a weak goal statement

“Increase my back squat to be stronger for the first match of the season.”

Do you notice some differences?  Statement one has a specific behavior (back squat), a volume (objective measure), time frame (duration), purpose (stronger), and preseason preparation for competition (aim).

Have a go at writing your goal statements and if you want to run them by me, contact me at the Athlete Collective

Dr. John Coumbe-Lilley is a clinical intern at The Juniper Center

About The Juniper Center

The Juniper Center provides expert, individualized care by 36 clinicians in five Chicagoland locations and throughout the state of Illinois via teletherapy. The Juniper Center specializes in trauma recovery, depression and anxiety, diverse sexuality and gender identities, addiction treatment, and relationship and family therapy. Founded by Dr. Margo Jacquot in 1996, The Juniper Center provides counseling and psychotherapy, psychiatry and medication management, therapeutic yoga and movement therapy, and psychological testing services for all ages. Contact us to learn more at 847-759-9110 x1 or

John Coumbe-Lilley

Selecting the right goals for yourself is a skill. Lots of people choose the wrong goals and often become unhappy because what they thought they wanted