Do You Really Need a Goal?

Paging through magazines at the hairdressers, I came across a statement by Ina Garten, best-selling author and the host of Barefoot Contessa, attributing her success to not setting specific goals. In a world driven by data and metrics, this was a little unsettling! After all, you don´t start a road trip without a map and a destination! As Thomas Carlyle claims, “ a man without a goal is like a ship with no rudder.”

A half dozen magazines later, I found an article that set the statement in perspective. This time, the recommendation was to put your beauty habits upside down – conditioner before shampoo; sunscreen before moisturizer! As you see, Ina’s approach is not to go through life without ever setting a goal. You often need goals to direct your energy towards priorities. As the beauty suggestions imply, sometimes changing your approach leads to amazing results.

Here are some points about looking at your roadmap from a different angle.

Watch your blindspot! Sometimes being too focused on a goal causes you to lose track of risks you are taking. What are you sacrificing to reach that specific target? After months of planning to climb Mont Blanc, the highest peak of the Alps at 4,810m above sea level, solo in a single day and starting in the valley, Marcel Hoeche, a German running champion, thought he had the perfect day. He set out at 3 a.m. and shortly after sunrise, was caught in heavy snow -at 2,000m, hip high. Losing the planned track cost him too much time that he couldn’t make up later in the ascent. So he decided to head for the refuge that was the start of many mountaineers’ climbs on their second or even third day. His decision to return protected him from an unfortunate outcome.

Seek all the opportunities that come your way; you never know what they lead you to! In my Yoga practice, I decided to focus on my arm balances, mainly handstands. I consciously ruled out work on a headstand, first because balancing on my head was too uncomfortable; and second, I felt I had to prioritize. Then in a class with a guru, I just gave it a shot. I was surprised that I was able to do a modified version. It gave me new confidence in my ability and actually led to improvements of my other arm balances. Seeking opportunities that are not necessarily “right” or “perfect” for your long-term goals may help gain something now that will be useful later.

Don’t let goals disappoint you. A few years ago, a teen soccer player I knew suffered a knee injury and couldn’t continue on his path to a professional career. He decided to take up golf and not surprisingly became very good at it. He made the school’s team for the season.

Two years ago, I set an ambitious running goal for myself and was training for a spring half marathon. A few weeks into the year, some foot issues made me stay away from impact exercises to avoid further injury. My focus shifted to strength and recovery work. I was able to get back to training last year to complete a half-marathon with ease.

Certainly goal setting helps you keep your focus sharp and priorities straight. Yet, your goals are only elements of a bigger picture. Adjusting plans to focus on big objectives rather than the bumps in the road are sometimes necessary. Your achievements don´t always reflect a prescribed road map. The journey sometimes takes you on detours that reveal new wisdom. Keep an open mind and embrace new opportunities. Remember it’s a journey!

Do you need help with your fitness goals? Contact me for guidance on your fitness journey:

Time to Work on Year-End Resolution(s)

reloading2017Many of us begin every new year with resolutions – a list of goals to kick off the year with hope and inspiration. Some of the goals are just too lofty to achieve; others are part of a wishlist that remains the same year after year. How many of us close each year with resolutions? I’m talking about what we want to accomplish before January 1!

End of year resolutions can be more achievable than New Year’s ones. First, you have a shorter timeframe to accomplish them, so you can’t delay them for too long. Second, most New Year’s resolutions are drastic lifestyle changes which often require intermediate action steps, easily sidetracked by everyday activities. By contrast, end of year resolutions are priorities that we are determined to accomplish in a relatively short period.

There is no better time to work on year-end resolution(s) than now. September is the new December! Here are four steps to get started.

Start fresh. Forget about the goals you set for the new year. Pick one goal that you want to accomplish by year’s end and focus on that goal. Specificity stops you from stalling.

Set a realistic goal. You know you have a few weeks including the holidays. This is not the time to set a stretch goal. Focus on something you want to, better yet you can achieve by year end.

Schedule a celebration party! This is your secondary deadline. Even though December 31 is officially your deadline, an earlier date serves as a stronger motivator. A celebration is also a great reminder that you can accomplish what you set out to do. Don’t forget to share your victory with friends and family.

Select a second goal. There’s nothing better to keep the excillaration that comes with achievement than knowing there is another event/activity to work on. It’ll keep the momentum going into the next year, jumpstarting your New Year action plan. Yet beware not to be sidetracked by the second goal! Your first goal remains your priority until achieved.

Need help with your fitness goal? Contact me at

What Are You Measuring?


“What you measure gets improved!” This is the slogan I hear almost every time I’m in the locker room of my fitness club. Attributed to great thinkers like Lord Kelvin and Peter Drucker, it’s a reminder about setting SMART goals that will help you reach the results you want. Remember that “M” stands for measurable! We use numerical goals that help us measure, compare, motivate and improve. In fact, participants in a recent FitFluential Twitter chat agreed that seeing numbers (calories burned, heart rate, etc.) improves their motivation as they can track their progress. In contrast, an Outside magazine article on fitness myths maintains that tracking metrics doesn’t necessarily lead to improving speed or achieving goals. Our rational brain relates better to numbers. Yet a pre-occupation with numbers gives our emotional brain free reign to react impulsively! There are also factors that we can’t quantify; yet they are as crucial in reaching your desired results.

Next time you are about to set some numerical goals, ask yourself these questions.

Are numbers all that matter? In the age of big data, portable monitoring devices and apps, we are all obsessed with measurements. Yet this obsession doesn’t always lead to the successes we are trying to achieve. Robert Plant maintains that access to big data is useless if you ignore small and simple things, like customer service. In retail, the measurement of choice is conversion rates -the ratio of sales by the number of people entering the store – an inducator of sales but not necessarily customer satisfaction and loyalty. Zara, one of the new icons of retail, has capitalized on customer preferences to improve sales and thus the conversion rate. Customer preference, based on actual sales data drives inventory to ensure that each customer trip results in sales because items they are looking for are available.

In the absence of numerical goals, we are still able to make strides. As a personal trainer, I talk to people about their fitness goals on a daily basis. Most older adults I meet have a very similar response. An hour on the stationary bike or going to agroup exercise class is all they want to do. To this age group, being able to do a 200 Ib bench press or 100 squats is meaningless.

What do numbers actually mean? Measurements have to make impactful sense. Some measurements, such as the number of words in a book or the weight of a television set, don’t reflect the qualities you are looking for. Probably the best example of tracking numbers that may not reflect accomplishments is in sports. NFL quarterback Brett Favre set records throwing for over 70,000 yards, over 6,000 completions, and over 10,000 pass attempts, yet he had a single Super Bowl victory (Super Bowl XXXI) over the course of his 16-seasons career with the Green Bay Packers. Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, one of NBA favorites and league leaders, broke the record of missed shots in 2014.

Will these numbers lead to results? I had a few numerical goals last year – some self-imposed; some developed by others. I don’t disagree that having a number helped me focus on a target. Yet, by its own shear force, it wasn’t sufficient to get the intended result. Where I believed in the reasonableness of the number or could figure a way to reach it, I was successful. Where I doubted the achievability of the number in light of facts I knew, the number didn’t help me in pushing forward.

What do numerical goals feel like? We often associate certain significance to numbers based on our experiences. My early education exposed me to three different scoring systems, leading to my association of dual meaning of excellence and failure to number 1.

Another way we relate to numbers is through visuals and imagery. Visualization is a powerful tool that sports psychologists and coaches often use in training athletes, especially to help them overcome their emotional barriers after a setback. It can also be a powerful tool in accomplishing quantifiable goals. When embarking on a business venture recently, I worked on some metrics and timelines. It wasn’t until I developed a picture of what success looks like to me that I was able to really focus on my goals. The visual helped me rethink the numbers, giving them some emotional significance.

Need help making sense of your numerical goals? Contact me at



Image courtesy of antpkr at

One of the early advices I ever got in life was not to put all my eggs in one basket. I was investing in my first 401(k) plan. The financial advisor encouraged me to have a diversified portfolio. More recently, when embarking on a new venture, the common advice about social marketing was very much the same. The idea is applicable to all facets of life. By not putting all your eggs in one basket, you ensure greater returns. When one thing doesn’t work out, you have your other eggs that can hatch!

Similarly, when you set out to define a path for your future, it’s a good idea to set a variety of goals. Studies show that setting goals makes you happy. You know all about SMART goals – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely. Do you know that you need diversity in your SMART goals?

Here are three types of goals you need in your basket:

  1. Outcome goals – That’s probably the most common type of goals we all set. Since we want to be able to quantify, we come up with goals that we can easily measure. We want to meet a target – run a marathon in 3 hours; increase sales by $50,000; write 300 tweets in one week! They illustrate an achievement when we reach the mark. I often advise people to use percentages rather than numbers. Increasing your social media followers from 100 to 150 may not seem that significant but that’s a 50 percent increase. Sounds a lot better!
  2. Behavioral goals – Even though you still have a target to reach, behavioral goals have a more far-reaching nature. These are activities that lead to permanent change.  While measuring and tracking such goals seem to be less simple, it’s not impossible. The key to any measurement is to know what you are measuring. Say you set out to be a more mindful leader. You can set aside 10 minutes a day to practice meditation. Everyday that you practice for 10 minutes, you have reached your daily goal. If your goal is to drink more water, use fitness guru Mindy Mylrea‘s plastic bracelet system: for every glass of water, wear one bracelet; every time you drink a glass of water, move a bracelet to the other arm.
  3. Competency goals – These goals are specific to skill improvement, like learning a foreign language or improving your presentation skills. Some competency goals go hand in hand with your outcome goals. Improving your sales skills helps you reach your target sales, for example. Improving your Spanish can help you expand your market in Latin America.

There is still another category: the fun goals. Your plan is not complete without having goals that are on the lighter side. My former coworkers Jim and Jay set a goal one year to visit all ballparks in the cities they went to for work. It made their business trips more fun. It also helped them make a dent in their bucket list.

The key to goal setting is writing down what your goals are. It is a proven method for reaching them. When you write down your goals, you are as much as 30 percent more likely to reach them. Yet, keep your list short. If you have more than 5-7 goals, chances are you won’t be able to remember them all.

If you need help with a diversified goal strategy for yourself or your team, contact me at

Lessons from the World Cup and Other Athletic Competitions

The 2014 World Cup became one of the most memorable events of the year with its high and low notes. The victories and defeats taught us a lesson or two in developing and managing teams. In Soccer, like in any team sport, the challenge is to bring out the best in each player to secure a victory. Functional teams manage to accomplish this with or without star performers.

There is an “I” in team! Let’s bust the myth that there is no “I” in team. If your team members don’t strive for success, it’s only an average team that can just achieve average results. If you want a winner team, you have to unleash the beast in the individual. The German victory at the 2014 World Cup illustrates how shifting your focus to the individual can lead to precision and stellar performance of the team. Even though Germany’s accomplishment prompted a wide acceptance of the strength of the team, much of the collective triumph is attributable to the individual players. One of the architects of the success is the team’s trainer, Mark Verstegen who transformed the team’s very general physical training to be more focused and individualized. By strengthening each individual, you improve the performance of the team. Verstegen’s approach echoes Peter Drucker’s prescription for enabling joint performance of individuals with different skills and knowledge by infusing a “commitment to common goals and shared values.”

Change your course. Bringing Verstegen aboard was one of the drastic moves the former German coach, Jürgen Klinsmann, now coaching the U.S. team, brought about to help the team regain its stature. Klinsmann also recruited younger players in favor of the older and more experienced ones, much to the disappointment of the fans. The shift of emphasis on youth and speed, along with better physical fitness and mental energy, has armed the team for better performance under pressure.

In addition to the organizational overhaul, the team exhibits an openness to making deviations from plans in crucial moments. To defeat climatic conditions in Brazil, Germany decided to play with four interior defenders in a line while moving Philipp Lahm, perhaps the best right-back in the world, into the defensive midfield. German coach Jogi Löw, Klinsmann’s assistant during his tenure, changed the course for the match against France, moving Lahm back to right-back where he remained for the rest of the event. Again, the approach reflects Drucker’s emphasis on management’s role in fostering learning and adaptation.

Build resilience. Resilience has become the buzzword of our time. From cities to microbes, resiliency is the key to return to glory. Defeat, whether in the form of an injury or loss, is not a deterrent in the athletic realm. Peyton Manning, after his two neck surgeries and missing an entire season, instead of retiring from professional football, managed to win the AFC West division title for the Broncos.

Resilience is not just rising from the ashes like a phoenix after an injury or defeat. It is also the ability to reverse the course of events under the pressures of time. During the 2014 World Cup, there were over 20 goals in the last 10 minutes of the regular game and over 20 in extra time. In fact, since 1930 the third highest number of goals was shot in minutes 80 and 89. This ability to pull through at the last minute to win the game, also referred to as being clutch, is coined by some of all-time favorite athletes. LeBron James, for example, is perhaps the number one clutch player of the 2013-2014 NBA season with the highest percentage of shots in the last 24 seconds.

Expect the unexpected. I learned early in my career that no matter how well you plan for an event, you have to be ready to deal with the unexpected. In 15 minutes of trying to move a session from an overbooked venue, I learned more than the whole nine months of planning the event.

Athletes spend hours and hours through often grueling drills to prepare for the competition. Despite being well prepared for the event, an unforeseen element can bring a win or loss. Michael Phelps did not expect a goggle malfunction obstructing his vision during an Olympic event. Lindsey Vonn was prepared to reclaim her title at the Sochi Olympics, but her knee gave out at Val d’Isere a few weeks prior to the Winter Games, eventually leading to her decision not to compete.

From Brazil’s first defeat on home soil since the 1975 Cope America, to John Brooks’ header in minute 86 in the US game against Ghana; from Luis Suàrez biting the Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini to Mexican goalie Memo Ochoa saving six shots at nearly point blank in the game against Brazil, there were numerous unexpected moments at the 2014 World Cup. Even hours of technical and tactical training can’t prepare you enough for moments like this. It is mental strength and preparedness that allows you to overcome the element of surprise to proceed with your mission.

Verstegen may have the perfect recipe for a world class team. Correct things right away. As he told Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times, “[i]t’s like an antivirus program on a computer. You want to get rid of the junk and keep the movements precise.”

What I learned from Candy Crush


Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at

Every time I play Candy Crush during my daily commute, I can’t stop thinking about what a great model it is for a goal achievement strategy.  That’s probably the reason for my continued fascination with the game.  I keep playing because it’s not just about completing one game or level; there is a grander scheme.  What has kept me going are some of the factors that can guide your goal achievement strategy.

The path.  Unlike many electronic games, Candy Crush gives you a path that you follow from one successful game to another. As you advance in the game, you move along the undulating path through a Candy universe with Bubble Gum Bridge, Chocolate Mountain, Lemonade Lake and so on.  It’s a great visual reminder of what is ahead and what you have already accomplished.

As we set out to pursue our goals, we need to define a path that takes us to our destination.  Too often, we list our goals without outlining the path, let alone visualizing it. Defining a path that maps goals and action steps, allows us to take small, achievable steps.  Each achievement helps us stay motivated to continue. The strategy map is a great visual tool not only as a motivator but also as a reminder of the wonderful journey you have taken. It provides a visual reminder that anchors you.

Patience.  As you go from one level to the next in Candy Crush, you realize that there are some levels that are easier than others.  In turn, there are levels that appear to be impossible to win.  Yet, as you look at your path, you see your friends (connected through Facebook) who have passed the level and have advanced further.  You realize that through patience and perseverance, you will conquer the level.  Patience helps you continue with your activities to reach a goal, no matter how tough things get.

Enjoy the journey; the next level is even more fun.  At the end of each level, I am excited to see what I need to do to complete the next level.  Just as in Candy Crush, we move from one level to another in our lives, including our goal achievement strategy.  You didn’t stop at acing your physics test, getting accepted to your first choice college, and landing a job with your ideal company.  Your journey has continued as you have conquered one challenge and have moved on to the next.  There is always the next phase that contributes to the game’s excitement.  The path is a great reminder that the journey itself is a significant part of the achievement.

Winning hands!  My son has a screen shot of one of his games with every kind of winning combinations.  Yet, he lost that game.  Gamblers are well familiar with this phenomenon!  Sometimes, the best of plans don’t deliver the intended outcomes.  In times, you have to be prepared to take action based on what you are facing rather than what your plan dictates.  As explorer and leadership expert Alison Levine points out “you must possess the ability to act/react quickly and make tough decisions when the conditions around you are far from perfect.”  Strategic decision making is often about making choices that are equally important and the ability to turn obstacles into opportunities. At the same time, they are a recognition of the achievement even though the final destination is just a few hundred feet away.

It’s a balancing act. The new version of Candy Crush features an owl balancing on a moon-shaped scale. In addition to finding required combinations, you have to make sure that you maintain the balance between two candy colors, so the owl doesn’t fall off his moon balance.  Otherwise, the game is over. The same holds true for your goal achievement strategy. You have to maintain a balance between personal and professional goals.  You can’t abandon your long-term goals to achieve short-term ones and vice versa. You also have to make sure that your goal-focused orientation doesn’t prevent you from experiencing the present.  You have to maintain a balance between taking in every moment of your life and taking deliberate steps toward achieving your goal.  There is a balance between what you want to achieve and where it is vis-a-vis your partner’s goals, your employer’s goals, your family’s goals.

After all, building on the philosophy of the great Forrest Gump, life is like a game of Candy Crush.  You never know what you’re gonna got.


Yes, you need to take another look at your 2015 goals now.  We are only slightly over a month into the year and your journey has just begun.  This is exactly the time to take a second look at what you set out to undertake.

1. Timing – Do you remember when you made the goals?  Most of us decide on what we want to accomplish in the coming year as the holiday season is in full swing.  That’s the time that you allow yourself to be bad because you plan to be good very soon!  “I’ll start a new diet!”  “I’ll join a gym!”  “I’ll spend more time with my family!”  “I’ll learn how to play the guitar!”

The pre-strategy period is also an exciting time for organizations.  The thought of defining a new path drives the need to set lofty goals.  There is a lot of energy that leads to creative ideas.  We all take a bigger bite than we can chew on.  The smorgasbord is just too tempting!

Ambitious goals have the power of dreams.  They allow you to reach higher than you normally would. They are excellent motivators at the start of your journey but then they are not as effective in the long run.  As time passes and you have only inched up towards your goal, you are discouraged.  You’re then more likely to abandon them.

2. Timing – Some things may have changed since your designated start date.  You may have realized you are pregnant.  Your boss may have given you a new assignment.  You broke your leg skiing during the holidays.   The last storm damaged your roof.  Your board champion has decided to step down.  You were awarded a new contract.  You have to make a determination about how these new events will change the path you want to take.  Do they impact your action steps to achieve your goals?  Do you need to move one goal in front of another due to changing circumstances?  Is the goal still relevant?

3. Timing – You have to re-examine your goals often during the course of your strategy.  Hopefully your strategy is a macro-strategy with many micro-strategies.  Athletic trainers usually use this approach to effectively prepare athletes for competition.   There are training periods before competitions followed by rest periods; there is season and off-season training.  Put your goals through a training cycle!

In other arenas, integrating a micro-strategy allows you to celebrate an accomplishment sooner, so you’ll be energized for the next phase.  Examining your goals and the paths you have outlined to reach them regularly allows you to stay on course.  That is, you can determine sooner whether you are heading the right direction.

Look at your goals again.  Are they still realistic?  How about your timelines?  Adjust and tweak!  Making adjustments now will make your celebration in December even more joyous!

For advice on setting your fitness goals, contact me at