Goals. Resolutions. Promises. The tendency to look ahead kicks up to a seasonal high during the first few months of a new year, and without reflecting, without looking backward, you pursue your goals with limited potential. Reflection is valuable, but it's only a piece of the bigger goal-achievement puzzle.

The New Year's celebrations are behind us, but this is an ideal time to illuminate the future, to see where you're headed and to gain clarity as to where you'd like to be, but there's more to achievement than articulating goals.

Let's drop in on Jessica, a trainer in Philadelphia who earns $40,000 a year and trains upwards of 40 sessions per week.

Jessica wrote down her goals for the new year: "Be free from debt, become the dominant fitness expert in Pennsylvania and earn six figures in personal training."

Let's now take Jessica's statement and modify it a bit.

Jessica wrote down her goals for the new year: "Be a fairy princess, find a handsome prince, fall in love, fight off a dragon or two and live happily ever after."

What's the difference between those two scenarios? While at first glance they may appear to be diametrically opposed, the reality is, they're quite similar. Unless there's a real plan and an expression of quantifiable results, even the most compelling goals melt and meld and morph into something far less fulfilling.

There's a difference between conjuring goals based on pure fantasy and planning outcomes based on your power, your crystallized wants and the lessons that you've learned.

Lofty expressions of want without a sensibility and a strategy fuel the all-too-familiar New Year's Resolution failure.

Think, for a moment, of the absurdity you witness every year come a new January. People flock to diets, shake-till-you-get-fit devices and trimmers of every body part notorious for needing trimming. They begin the year with enthusiasm, wearing their new exercise footwear and shaking or crunching just as the "programs" outline.

You know, despite the utterance, "I'm going to lose weight, get fit and be healthy," if a legitimate path is obscured, failure is inevitable.

So what can we conclude at this point? That, despite what the New Age books say about wishing and attracting, a resolution is nothing more than a lofty wish without a valid strategy of achievement.

Let's look at Jessica's goals under a microscope, and then revise them so they have a greater likelihood of bringing that elusive sense of "I did it!"

1. Be free from debt. This is a common goal among personal trainers, many of who are paying 21% interest to their maxed-out credit card accounts. The wish for "the absence of" is weak. Debt is good... if it's entered into with sensibility. I couldn't own my health club if I weren't willing to take on debt. By that token, I couldn't own my home without a willingness to embrace debt. Unless Jessica is prepared to buy a home and car and pay in full with cash, as she progresses in her financial growth, she'll want and deserve new things, and if you put aside the abuses, we live in a capitalist environment where we can acquire things based not only on what we already have but on what we're capable of earning.


Being free from debt might be better expressed in terms of specifics that would bring a sense of financial stability. Perhaps Jennifer might say, "I'll pay off the $3,500 on my Visa account by raising my rates five dollars per session and use the increase to establish a savings account."

Is this realistic? Let's do some math. Five dollars per session, 40 sessions per week equals a $200 per week raise for doing the same volume of work. In 18 weeks, her credit card account can have a zero balance and she won't have to touch any of the earnings she previously counted on. By the end of the year, after paying off the credit card, if she puts five dollars per session into a savings account, she'll have accumulated $6,800 in savings. With a zero credit card balance and a growing savings account, elective debt can become not only manageable but gratifying.

2. Become the dominant fitness expert in Pennsylvania. It's an enviable wish, but is it really quantifiable? By whose standards should Jessica's dominance of lack thereof be judged? It's an expression that may evoke a sense of hope, a sense of significance, a sense of enthusiasm, but it comes without a true milestone, without a finish line.


Fifty-five fat burners claim to be "America's #1." Forty-one burger joints in Chicago promise to have "Chicago's best burger." It's obvious that if an entire field of competitors all claim independently to be "the best," the self-proclaimed achievement is rendered an opinion; it's a selected slogan. If Jessica seeks a sense of dominance, she likely wants exposure and increased presence. By quantifying achievements that lead to increased exposure, the revised goal can be exceeded with a sense of thrill. Perhaps she might set as goals, "a weekly fitness column in the local paper," "a weekly fitness tip on a local radio morning show" and "a local celebrity as a client." Given the entirety of 2011, these three elements appear not only realistic, but I daresay easily achievable.

3. Earn six-figures in personal training. A potential reality, as many trainers today amass earnings over $100,000 annually, but the "six-figure" statement is thrown around much as the phrase, "a million dollars." It's overused, it sounds attractive, but if your income is $40,000 a year right now and you feel overworked, how will you earn more than twice as much money?

Six figures is almost an intangible. It may sound like a nice paycheck to someone earning $40,000, but with time even a $100,000 annual take will leave you with new aspirations for more. Instead of a generalized income want, Jessica might consider what it would take for financial growth. Raising her rates is an option, as discussed earlier, but it isn't the only one. In fact, after the initial bump, it's challenging to find comfort with “still more dollars per session."

The greater growth strategy involves replication, the ability to reach and serve greater numbers of people by recruiting technology (i.e. a series of fitness DVDs or weekly webinars) or by recruiting human capital. At first, the idea of having employees seems burdensome, but look at the upside potential. If Jessica already trains 40 sessions per week, she's going to find a ceiling on the number of clients she can add, but with three employees, each generating an additional $20,000 for the business (after they're paid), Jessica will have found her way to $100,000 strategically, methodically and with a sense of greater power to grow forward.
Connect with your goals, not only emotionally, but with a plan. Both the emotion and the plan are vital if you want to make every year feel like a year of growth and achievement.
I started this article by saying, "without reflecting, without looking backward, you pursue your goals with limited potential." Let's wrap it up by understanding the virtue of that statement.

The individual who makes the same resolution, year after year, is failing to accumulate lessons, thus he's failing to hone his achievement skills. If a diet failed you in 2006 and another failed you in 2007, in 2008 a wise resolver would consider the very real possibility that a diet is not going to lead him to his goal. Apply that sensibility to your goals. Have you set these goals before and missed? Learn from your own history. When you combine emotion, strategy and experience, you gain new power. Make this the year you unleash your true power to achieve. Welcome to 2011. Make it a great year in which those wants you have now materialize to become your tomorrow.

Phil Kaplan is committed to helping fitness professionals find ongoing betterment. He's established a Facebook Group, "Every Personal Trainer Needs to Know" and invites you to join. Find more info at www.philkaplan.com