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The Best Tool for Setting Goals That Are Both Challenging and Achievable

By Kenzie Kramer on 01/29/2018 | Wellness Tips

As a coach for Girls on the Run, one of my favorite things is watching each girl realize she’ll be doing a 5K. This typically happens at the first practice when girls share what they already know about Girls on the Run: we do fun cheers at the end of practice, we play games that are related to the theme of the day, we can go at whatever pace as long as we’re challenging ourselves, and we run/walk a 5K at the end of the season. At the start of the season, it’s rare to see a ten-year-old girl who looks confident about completing 3.1 miles, but after ten weeks of going a little further each day, the same tentative girls are the ones ready and waiting at the start line of their first 5K.

Goal setting is a key part of the Girls on the Run and Heart & Sole programs, which is why each girls set lap goals at each practice and every season concludes with a 5K event. While our programs are for elementary and middle school girls, goal setting is beneficial at any age because it gives us opportunities to continually improve and provides a good feeling with the sense of accomplishment. When setting a goal, it’s important to aim for something challenges us enough to feel like we’ve achieved something but isn’t too far out of reach that our excitement fizzles out and we give up.

Queue S.M.A.R.T. goals. 

S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym to help you think through what you want to accomplish and set a goal that you can actually achieve. When you’re thinking about the next thing you want to work toward, setting S.M.A.R.T. goals can help get you started:

Specific – What is your goal? In order to reach a goal, you’ll need to clearly define what you’re working toward. Instead of “I’m going to be more physically active” think “I’m going to start walking or running” or “I’m going to do yoga”. 

Measurable – How will you know once you’ve accomplished it? This takes the specificity one step further and defines what you’ll consider success. If you wanted to start reading more, you could decide you want to read one book per month for the next six months. If you’re going to start running or walking, you could decide how many days a week you’ll exercise or pick an event like a 5K to train for.

Aligned – How does this fit into the bigger picture? You’re more likely to want to achieve a singular goal when it aligns with other things you want in your life. If your goal is to practice your cooking skills, cooking dinner at home twice a week can align with wanting to live a healthy lifestyle. Your goal can also be aligned with wanting to challenge yourself to try something new, especially if getting outside of your comfort zone is something you value.

Realistic – Is this something you can actually do? Setting a doable goal is a key part of staying motivated but is also one of the most difficult. Dreaming big is admirable, but oftentimes it takes little goals to work your way up to the big ones. You need to walk before you can run and learn the basics of coding before building an app.  

Timely – When do you want to do this by? Setting a deadline requires you to set up a timeline of when and how you’ll work toward your goal. You’ll want a timeline that’s realistic but also has some sense of urgency to avoid getting stuck in the “I’ll start tomorrow” mindset. If your goal is to complete a 5K, finding a event and registering is a great place to start.

Now that you have the tools, it’s time to get after your goals! 


Kenzie Kramer


Kenzie, a veteran GOTR coach, is excited to share content that connects readers to the GOTR vision and inspires them to bring the joyfulness of the core values into their lives. In her free time, she enjoys baking, biking and running with her dog. 

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