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6 Ways to Set Smart Goals—and Follow Through with Them

  • Know Your Short- and Long-Term Plans

    If your goal is to run a marathon and you can barely make it down the block, you're probably not running 26 miles for a while. Instead, take it a little at a time. Week one, run a block. Week two, run five blocks—and before you know it, you'll be running miles at a time. "I always set short-term and long-term goals," says Olympian gymnast Nastia Liukin. "Growing up, my long-term goal was to compete at the Olympic Games, but I knew that would only be possible in the future," she explains. "Short-term goals kept me driven and motivated."

    Don't Do This: Never let your mental state get weaker than your physical state. "In a sport like gymnastics, when the Olympic Games are only every four years, it's definitely more of a mental game than a physical one. You're physically more prepared for that moment than any other time in your life, but it's about staying mentally tough," says Liukin. Liukin has a saying she repeats to herself before competition: "Keep a positive thought, because a positive thought cannot be denied."

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    Be Accountable

    If you don't have the right support system, you're setting yourself up for failure. First, clarify your vision: "What does your dream look like? What positive effect is this having in your own life, in your community, in the world? How do you feel when you're living this dream?" asks life coach Stefanie Ziev who just started the "On the Hook" movement. "Then, tell someone and take action!"

    Don't Do This: Don't keep your goals a secret because you're afraid of failure. If negative voices start to surface, turn to your support system for a confidence boost.

  • Squire Fox

    "See" Your Goals

    "Seeing" your goals makes it harder to forget about them. "It's so easy to lose focus when you're training as hard as you possibly can," explains American international swimmer and two-time Olympian Chloe Sutton. Her solution? An inspiration board featuring her goals and motivating quotes. "I currently have my goal board in my bathroom," says Sutton. "This way, I'm reminded of what I'm fighting for when I first wake up in the morning and right before I go to bed."

    Don't Do This: Don't get stuck in the same routine, even if it involves looking at your vision board every day! "A change in scenery can help a lot," says Sutton. "It's easy to get into a rut, and changing things up to break out of it can be just what the doctor ordered."

  • Aaron Richter

    Be Consistent

    Consistency is key: "If you do something every day towards your goal, you'll achieve it." says Craig Hatchett, fitness expert, personal trainer and owner of D-Fine Fitness and Row45. Example: Even if you can't make it to the gym, don't completely throw in the towel on having a healthy day. "You can still eat well." Every little bit counts.

    Don't Do This: Don't let one "off" day define you. "One bad day isn't the end of the world—just don't make it a series of bad days," explains Hatchett. "That's how you fall off."

  • Amy Postle

    Treat Yourself!

    "A lot of my goals take time, so I reward myself with things like vacations after a long season or a hard training session," explains American World Cup alpine ski racer and Olympic gold medalist Julia Mancuso. "Rest and recovery are important, and rewarding and encouraging yourself are just as important as accomplishing your final goal."

    Don't Do This: Don't invite downers to your rewarding getaway. "Choose who you surround yourself with wisely," says Mancuso. "If someone in your inner circle isn't being supportive, then you may need to rethink the relationship."

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    Go After Goals You REALLY Want

    Probably the most important question to ask yourself is, "Who are you achieving this goal for?" If the answer isn't you and only you, then you aren't likely to be successful. "Is your goal coming from your heart? From that voice inside your head that says 'YES'? Or is it coming from your mom, your boyfriend, or some old 'I want that' list from years ago?" asks TV host and health guru Robyn Youkilis of YourHealthiestYou.com, who has helped hundreds of clients reach their goals both big and small.

    Don't Do This: Don't be afraid of making necessary adjustments. "Sometimes your first goal is just the starting point," explains Youkilis. "You never know what could be coming your way. Keep your eye on the prize, but remain open to how moments or experiences may shift your goal—for the better."