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Most of our clients are conditioned to believe in an artificial definition of success. Most clients come to us seeking what they believe to be their goal, but in fact is their desired result. They want to lose X number of pounds, win X number of games, finish a race in X minutes or lift X number of pounds. These 'Xs' by which they define success are what inevitably set them up for failure.

A goal is an intention achievable through actions that are planned, quantifiable and consistent and most importantly, actions that are within their control. A result is the byproduct of evaluating, setting and achieving goals.

While the popular SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) may seem like a good way to approach goal-setting, when it comes to fitness and health goals, I argue that this approach often leads clients into a tailspin of disappointment. If a client tells me they want to lose 15 pounds in three months, in theory this may meet all the criteria of a SMART goal. But what the client is setting is a SMART result, not a SMART goal. The SMART goal needs to be centered on specific daily/weekly/monthly actions that are within the control of the client and (in theory) lead to the lasting lifestyle habits that keep them from the perpetual success-failure pendulum.

This can be a challenging mindset shift for most people. I often feel like I'm slowly chiseling away years and years of bad information and misdirection. But by empowering clients with the proof of science, providing education that is applicable to their daily lives and positioning the power of success-driven lifestyle changes, all with a coach's positivity and tough love, it is possible to shift our clients' mindset to focus on the goal, not the result. That is when true transformation occurs.

Empower and educate your clients to recognize the difference between a result and a goal. Make sure the semantics around how you communicate goal-setting and achievement with your clients fosters achievable success. Applaud results, but not without celebrating the goals that are the crux of real transformation and change.

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