10 tips for Goal setting with Clients
1. Set SMART goals
It’s been said before, but it’s worth remembering! When setting goals with your clients follow the SMART criteria. By writing goals that are: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely, you are ensuring the goals are clearly outlined and attainable.
2. Focus on the process NOT the outcome
When setting goals with clients, you should focus on the process not the outcome. The process is what you do, day to day, to be successful. Ultimately the ‘outcomes’ are out of our control. No one can guarantee a client loses 2lb a week, but if they focus on eating well, counting their calories and working out they can get a good way there. More still, their sense of achievement and worth will then rely on more then whether on not they achieved that desired outcome.
3. Think why
Ask why. Why do you want to achieve this goal? Why is this important to you? What will happen if you fail? Really visualise what failure looks like. Are you actually doing it for you/ for the right reasons? These questions are hard BUT if your client can’t justify their goals and why they want them, they probably don’t really want them and won’t put the work in to achieving them.
4. Consider how you’re going to maintain adherence
Goals are easy to set and hard to stick to! It’s time to talk adherence with your clients. What will make this process hard to stick to? What changes can we make to make it easier? There are lots of factors outside the obvious that can effect a person’s long term commitment to their goals, whether that’s their support network, environment, habits or feelings of accountability. Could they change their environment to improve their adherence (no chocolate in the house because it’s my gateway food, etc!), use a Facebook group or have an honest conversation with their support network or improve feelings of accountability, or perhaps you need to take a closer look at your habits.
5. Plan for failure
It’s inevitable. The route to success is messy and full of pitfalls. Get it out there when you’re goal setting with your clients. “Ok, there are going to be times where it’s going to be harder to get to the gym, you’re going to feel tired and you’re going to snuggle up with a takeaway. It happens, you’re only human! Let’s talk about how we’re going to make sure that happens rarely and you get back on track.” Doing this is ultimately going to help your client’s long term success and psychological wellbeing! There is nothing helpful about the ‘all or nothing’ thought pattern and realistically, it could lead to damaging health practises: “I had a takeaway last night so I’m going to skip breakfast and lunch today and go to the gym to do cardio for 3hours...”.
6. Short, medium and long term
Start by having a conversation about the overarching aim the client is trying to achieve, for example, “I want to lose 3 stone and be healthier.” It’s not a goal but from this we can decide the steps we need to take to get there. Moving in an interlinking fashion from short, to medium to long term, we can increase the difficulty and size of the goals:
Short term: For the next 2 weeks, I will eat 5 portions of fruit/veg a day
Medium term: For the next 2 months, I will write shopping lists & prep meals
Long term: For the next 4 months, I will log my calories and work to a deficit
7. Celebrate the small stuff
Smashed a new PB (personal best) today? Have a week with no takeaways? Go out for a walk during lunch? Have a terrible day at work but found the strength to not dive into the chocolate cupboard and eat yourself into a gluttonous coma? Give yourself a pat on the back! Make sure your client is sharing these moments with you, with a supportive community or just taking note themselves. These little wins are the bread and butter of success. They’ll be what keeps your client consistent and persistent AND they mark small changes in habits that add up to big changes!
Ok, please don’t actually stretch your clients like Mr Fantastic. BUT do make sure they are setting stretching goals. It’s far to easy when using the SMART criteria to set overtly conservative goals. A client’s understanding of what is “achievable” for them is going to be limited by what they have achieved so far in life and if they’re seeing you, they probably need a hand with this! Goals should feel partially achievable and partially aspirational. You’re there for the aspiration.
9. Assess progress regularly
Not only does this help you ensure your programming is relevant and challenging but it’s a great way to keep your client motivated. Make sure you use a range of tools to measure progress, not just the scales. Consider how your clients measurements, body fat %, progress pictures, fitness tests, cardiovascular/ respiratory health, PBs and outlook have improved too.
10. Remember who’s responsible
At the end of the day, your clients goals are YOUR CLIENT’S goals. It’s your job to keep them accountable, provide motivation, give them the strategies, tools and experiences to reach them but they must do the work. Foster a healthy relationship that encourages honest and reflective conversations about what is going right/wrong on their journey but understand that you can lead the horse to the water but...