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Ciaran Ruddock May 17, 2020 12:00:00 PM 13 min read

How To Set Effective Goals

How To Set Effective Goals


In this blog I am going to share with you, my experiences with goal setting; what has worked and what has not worked as well. I am going to share with you, the approach that I take to set effective goals, both personally and with the people whom I coach.


Goals are defined as the objective of a person’s ambition or effort, or an aim or desired outcome. The last part of that sentence summaries how I used to view goals. For most of my life, I used to set goals and was very focused on the desired outcome. This worked well for me because I enjoy working towards something and anyone who knows me well would tell you that I tend to get pretty obsessed with what I am working towards.


Whether it was for achieving a single figure handicap as a golfer in my early teens, becoming a professional rugby player in my later teens and early twenties, and then opening the gym and coaching people to be the strongest versions of themselves, I set myself goals. The goals that I set for ach of these endeavors motivated me to do the hard work required to achieve them. That is the positive power of goals - they give you direction, focus, and motivation.





However, by setting goals that were in the distant future, I could not fully control the outcome and I ran into two problems:


1. I used to stress and worry a lot about things that I could not control.

2. I used to always sell myself short with my goals; it would be so far away and I would underestimate how much progress I could make. I would play it safe and set goals that would require a lot of work to achieve, but deep down I was confident I could achieve.


One of the best examples of this in action was as a rugby player; I was a late developer so when I was sixteen I set myself the goal that if I could play one game of professional rugby that would have been a big achievement and I would be a “success”.



Ciaran Rugby FFS Gyms Goal Setting



Fast forward six years, I had played three games of professional rugby and was training and playing with Irish internationals that I used to watch on tv. You would think that I would have been loving it and feeling super “successful”.


It was the opposite, I didn’t feel like a “success” and I know I didn’t make the most of the opportunity I had. I was so focused on being picked in teams and contracts (outcomes) that I didn’t enjoy the process as much as I should have. Also, I know if I knew what I know now about goal setting, I would have played more than three professional games.


What I know now


Goals are really important as they provide motivation and allow you to direct your time, energy, and focus towards the things that are important to you. Goals should be specific, measurable, and meaningful to you. They should be things that you really want to do, and you should have a clear understanding of why that is important to you.


Once you have that then you are ready to set some effective goals. I use the following two types of goals to help me set goals myself and with my online nutrition coaching clients:


1. Outcome goals

2. Process goals


To help you understand what the difference is between these two types of goals, I have created this table:




Outcome goal Process goal

· Big exciting goal

· Longer term goal that will take a lot of time and work to achieve

· Often you cannot fully control the outcome

· The daily, weekly and monthly goals that will lead to your outcome goal

· Very specific and task orientated

· You can fully control the outcome for these goals



Outcome goals are fantastic for giving us a clear direction, like having an end destination when you are setting off on a journey. They also are excellent motivators, as they get us excited about achieving them.


Process goals are the steps to achieving your outcome goals. They allow you to break down your big exciting goal, which will take a long time to achieve, into smaller goals. They allow you to break a goal that you cannot fully control into daily, weekly, and monthly actions that you can fully control. This helps you to focus on the process and reduces anxiety about things that you cannot control.


Setting effective goals in practice


Here is an example of effective goal setting:

Outcome goal Increase my Clean and Jerk from 100kg to 120kg in 6 months.
Monthly process goals

· Retest my clean and jerk every other month, to assess progress

· Make forty-five minutes to sit down and read my training plan from my coach. Take notes and ask questions about anything I do not understand

Weekly process goals · Do two clean and jerk weightlifting sessions per week as prescribed by my coach
· Do two strength and assistance work sessions per week as prescribed by my coach
· Do two movement and mobility sessions per week to improve my functional movement
Daily process goals

· Be in bed eight and a half hours before planned wake up time

· Eat four balanced meals per day of mostly unprocessed foods

· Do fifteen minutes per day of my specific rehab exercises for my back


Hopefully, this demonstrates how you can break down a big exciting goal into daily, weekly, and monthly actions that you can control. This allows you to focus on the process and hold yourself accountable to your big goals.




PN Goal Habits Infographic 



Also, this method of goal setting allows you to celebrate “small wins” on the path to achieving your big goals. I believe this is really important because everyone is motivated when they set goals, that is the power of an outcome goal. The only problem is, that we all lose motivation along the way, that is only natural, especially when your goal is going to take a long time and a lot of effort to achieve. If you can have clear daily, weekly, and monthly goals that allow you to recognise and celebrate small wins, then that is going to help you sustain your motivation for the long term.


To wrap up


I hope that you found this blog useful. If you did, then why not make thirty minutes today, to break down your outcomes goals into process goals.



Find Out More

If you are interested in working with Ciaran to learn more about effective goal setting, behavioural change, and nutrition coaching check out FFS Gym's online nutrition coaching programme.

'Become the strongest version of yourself and learn enjoyable and sustainable nutrition habits.'


Ciaran Ruddock

Ciaran is the Co-Founder and Director of Performance at FFS.  "I am on a mission to help myself and others become the strongest versions of themselves. To do this I want to help people eat, move, think and recover better." - Ciaran Email Ciaran at ciaran@ffs.ie