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Can you remember a time when your weight loss efforts ended in frustration – where you felt disappointed and probably beat yourself up because you didn’t hit your target?

Frustration (or disappointment) is a sure sign of having had expectations – a weight loss goal is one thing; an expectation is something entirely different. That’s why it’s important to understand why goals are not the same as expectations.

Goals Vs. Expectations

“Goals provide focus. With no guiding vision or plan, people tend to drift. Goals provide a measuring stick for progress. Goals enhance productivity. They bolster self-esteem. And most of all, goals increase commitment, so you’re more likely to achieve whatever you set out to conquer.”

-Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today

Simply put, Merriam-Webster defines a goal as something that you are trying to do or to achieve. An expectation, in contrast, is a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen; a feeling or belief about how successful, good, etc., someone or something will be.

It’s not difficult to see how setting unrealistic expectations can foil anyone’s goals. Think about those home exercise videos that claim you can “lose up to 10 pounds each week” or “effortlessly slim inches off your waist”. When you don’t get the results you expect, it’s easy to throw in the towel and forget about the goal you set altogether.

5 Tips to Set Realistic Goals

Here are five simple strategies to help you set realistic goals:

  1. Get clear on what you want to achieve. One of the surest ways to fail is to have vague goals. It’s important to be very specific about the goals you’re setting. Have fun with this – write down your goals and use action words to make the experience more empowering.
  2. Outline the value your goal has for you. It’s frequently said that change can be near impossible to achieve if the person doesn’t see a perceived value in it. Ask yourself honestly, “Why is this goal important to me?” What would change if you achieved this goal? What would be different, better, or improved? Seeing the value in your goal can be a powerful motivator.
  3. Understand your obstacles. Everyone faces obstacles. The important part is to plan ahead so you know how you’ll face whatever obstacle that comes your way. Think about other obstacles you’ve faced in the past – how did you overcome them? Use your past achievements to inspire you as you move forward.
  4. Get support. It’s hard to go it alone, and you don’t have to! There’s no shame in asking for help; in fact, it’s vitally important to do so. Even a friend, co-worker, or spouse can help you stay committed and accountable. Also, consider finding a role model – someone who has already achieved similar goals.
  5. Keep it real! This is where setting expectations come in. Instead of setting yourself up for disappointment by making unreachable expectations, set yourself up for success by breaking your main goal down into measurable sections with milestones so you can track your progress.

Whether your goal is about weight loss or something else, keep “expectations” out of the mix and stick to the actual goal instead. If you falter, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed or you have to abandon your goal. Follow the strategies above to ensure you stay on track – and on target for success!

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