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Goal Setting: How granular should one's approach be?

A Stoic would say that you cannot control how your body will respond to a specific diet or exercise routine. Because of science we can have a general idea, but there are too many outliers for a specific goal. What we can control however is how much and what we eat, and the type and frequency of our exercise.

So realistically one can either set a specific goal and attempt to work towards it with the realization that it might not happen no matter what one does, and then be satisfied with the effort while pressing on towards another potential goal, or one can just say, "Here is where I am. My goal is to do better each day until I no longer can."

IMO anything else is setting oneself up for failure. I'm interested in hearing other opinions


  • kommodevaran
    kommodevaran Posts: 17,890 Member
    I like setting behavior oriented goals and not outcome oriented goals, for things I don't have direct control over, like my weight. I do, however, have direct control of my food intake, so I plan my meals and aim to stick to that plan.
  • hesn92
    hesn92 Posts: 5,949 Member
    I think to each their own as well. Some people do better with specific goals and that is fine. If you pick a goal weight that's in the normal BMI range, chances are, that is an achievable and realistic goal to strive towards. I do like the idea of behavior related goals as well though. Just depends what works for the individual.
  • tbright1965
    tbright1965 Posts: 852 Member
    One can set themselves up for failure in a number of ways.

    On the surface, saying "I will do better each day" sounds great. How do you define better?

    That's the tricky part. Too "squishy" and you'll never really get better. Too difficult and you may give up due to failure.

    Finding the middle that provides continuous improvement, but doesn't kill your enthusiasm may take several iterations.

    My personal approach is to set ambitious goals. I'd rather fail at an ambitious goal and get maybe just above-average results than to fail at an average or lesser goal and get even lesser results.

    But you do you, and good luck on the approach you choose.
  • Me2FitMe
    Me2FitMe Posts: 1,285 Member
    Hmmm, I've set specific goals before and once I get out of the lines/rules I've specified end up saying *kitten* and seem to feel all is lost. I have had results with that approach, so it does work but I have not been able to sustain such results. Currently, I've had the mindset of I will try to do good every day. Seems to be working. Goals are set, like calorie intake, exercise routine, etc. The difference is I am not having the all or nothing approach, if I don't stick to calories, it's ok. If I don't meet my exercise goal, it's ok. I do however, let that one thing slide and get back on track! Yes, now I have that cake or rest for a week (or few) then get back on track. Without any guilt or shame or giving up per se. Down 36#, Jan-Now. The process is definitely slower but hopefully sustainable.
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 40,772 Member
    I don't think setting a specific goal necessarily sets one up for failure. That said, one issue I see a lot is setting unrealistic goals...like someone shooting for the bottom end of the BMI chart just because they like that number and not taking into account their frame and muscle mass, etc.

    I personally never had a particular number in mind...more of a look and certain body composition and I didn't really know what the number would be. My goals were also more behavior oriented in that my belief was that If I'm doing X, Y, and Z then everything will ultimately fall into place. I also placed an emphasis on behavior because I knew I was going to have to learn and establish healthy habits to take into maintenance.
  • sardelsa
    sardelsa Posts: 9,826 Member
    I have fairly specific body composition goals, but they are realistic for me. I find I need to set specific goals otherwise I lose my sense of direction and I would fall into the "well I'm good enough." Maybe because I have always been closer to my goal so i know what is realistic or not. I don't have specific measurements or a weight in mind, but I know it when I see it. Not perfection by any means, but a level where I feel satisfied.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 24,481 Member
    I've never been much of a goal-oriented/goal-motivated person (but I think I'm an outlier in that respect ;) ). Consequently, neither of your alternatives appeals to me that much.

    I tend to be pleasure-seeking overall, but on a mysteriously strong foundation of sense of duty (for lack of a better term). I enjoy novelty and learning things, and lack both patience and dogged determination. I'm more interested in opportunities - fun directions I could take at my current point in my path - than looking further outward to a distant goal. I procrastinate, but if something must be dealt with, I can deal matter-of-factly with some pretty ugly stuff.

    For me, in that context, weight loss was about recognizing that I was (and had long been) too much prioritizing current pleasure over long-term well-being, and figuring out that I needed to change behavior to give future Ann a little more love and respect so she, too, could be happy and enjoy life. My health markers and experiences simply became an ugly thing I couldn't procrastinate any more; it had to be dealt with. The actual weight loss was more process-oriented, treating the process as a sort of fun science fair project for grown-ups, because I tend to be analytic, enjoy data, etc.

    If I look at my natural tendencies, it seems like I should be a partying wastrel, but in actual practice, I think I've led at least a normally responsible, effective, "mature" kind of life. At age 62, I think I'm better than I used to be at gaming my strengths and weaknesses to make progress, even though setting goals isn't per se motivating, mostly.

    I guess that's an opinion? (Doubt it applies to anyone else, though. ;) )
  • jjpptt2
    jjpptt2 Posts: 5,604 Member
    I've done both in the past. I typically setup behavioral/habitual goals that I need to achieve in order to reach my specific goal. This is most clearly seen in race training. For example, I may set goals for x number of workouts per week with a certain number of those being tempo efforts and a certain other number being "easy" workouts. That could end up looking like 2 hard runs, 1 hard bike, 1 easy bike, and 1 easy swim this week. I do somethign similar for, say 12 weeks as a way to, hopefully hit my goal race time.

    It's similar for weight - I try to hit my calorie goal on a daily basis, but allow myself some slack if the overall weekly numbers are where they need to be. So habitually I manage my intake. If I do that well enough for long enough, I'll hit my specific goal of X number of lbs lost.
  • garystrickland357
    garystrickland357 Posts: 598 Member
    Disclaimer: I read the OP's statement and some of the responses, but not all.

    One thing that has made a tremendous difference in my weight loss journey has been the focus on behavior goals that I can control. Outcomes - like losing weight - are a result of the behaviors I have control over. So weight loss "goals" are a moving target. Daily habits and behaviors that take me toward the goal are more specific and quantifiable.
  • VUA21
    VUA21 Posts: 2,073 Member
    Personally I set multiple goals. Weight & activity. They are either time or specific, but not both. I race myself on 5ks I try to beat previous bests every month, but only to be faster than before, not hit any specific time. I also have a 5lb weight goal, but no time frame as I'm now in the "normal" weight range, I know that it's going to take some time.

    I also set semi-realistic goals for myself as ultimate goals: I want to run a 5k in under 20 minutes. As someone who had never ran until this year, and am a 42 year old woman...that's one hell of a goal. Possible: yes. Going to be extremely hard: also yes. But even if I never achieve it, I still do my best.
  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,882 Member
    I think I must have different kinds of goals than most people.

    I want to climb Mt Shuksan, do the Angels Staircase MTB loop, and ski in new places.

    I hope I'm not setting myself up for failure. Especially on the loop, I'll have to finish that one too get back to my car!
  • IHaveMyActTogether
    IHaveMyActTogether Posts: 945 Member
    I guess my reply is to each their own. Different people need different approaches to their goals to be successful. Trying to make one or two approaches as the only way to do something seems pretty narrow minded.

    I agree.
  • jwcanfield
    jwcanfield Posts: 192 Member
    Granular? What does that even mean?
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 24,481 Member
    jwcanfield wrote: »
    Granular? What does that even mean?

    Free Dictionary, definition 2:
    a. Having a high level of detail, as in a set of data: a more granular report that shows daily rather than weekly sales figures.
    b. Consisting of multiple diverse or discrete elements: granular income streams from a variety of tenants.