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Setting Goals: The Importance of Being Kept Accountable

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

This is the second blog in the Beginning Running Series, and I feel like I am going into teaching mode. But I can’t emphasize enough the value in setting a goal or even having a goal list. Setting a goal helps you to trigger new behaviours. Setting a goal helps to guide your focus and enthusiasm. And ultimately setting a goal keeps you accountable. In 1990 Dr Gary Latham stated that workplace performance was inseparable from goal setting!

I like to use S.M.A.R.T. goals in my planning. This style of goal setting stems from the work done by Dr Edwin Locke in his 1968 paper “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives”. And it culminates in George T. Doran’s article in 1981 titled “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives”

So yes, yes, they have been around for a while, and they are straightforward to apply. Here is the breakdown

SPECIFIC: Be specific in your goal planning. Target something is going to affect a change that will help you improve. It doesn’t need to be planned to the most minute detail, but it does need to be specific to you and your journey.

Think about the WHAT, the WHY and the HOW. For example, my goal is to perform 30 single leg calf raises on each side. That is the what component. The why part would be that if I can do this, I am less likely to have a calf injury. The how is, well I can do 15, so ill start off by 2x10 then progress to 2x12, then 2x15 and so on until I can do 30 straight.

This isn’t planned to every last detail. But it does give me a fair idea of what I need to be doing.

MEASURABLE: Measurable is easy. I am currently at Point A. I need to be at Point B. As long as I can measure my target and track my progress, and it is not too subjective then we are on the right track.

Using the above example, Point A is 15 and Point B is 30. As long as I am trending towards B, we are in a positive space. ATTAINABLE: or achievable. Both work in this situation. But this one seems very black and white. You either finished the task, or you didn’t. Pass or Fail. The way you set this is you want the goal to stretch you, it cannot be so easy you get it without trying, and it cannot be too hard that you don’t make any progress. It has to be able to take you out of your comfort zone but not destroy you.

A goal should be hard enough that if you don’t achieve it in your time-frame, you need to have seen some positive progress that you can build on. Goals should never be set in a way that they will be deflating.

REALISTIC: Realistic or relevant, or both is how I would describe this one. You can choose a relevant goal like running sub 2hours for a marathon if you are training for a marathon. But in reality, it is not realistic unless you are the GOAT Eluid Kipchoge. Your goal might be to be able to juggle 3 balls. Realistically you might be able to juggle 3 balls but is it relevant if you are training to run a marathon? No, not at all.

So when framing your goals, consider both parts to the R. Is it relevant and is it realistic!

TIMELY: Timely, time-bound, time-based. Whichever way you want to have it, your goal needs to have a time in which to complete it. Use this as a guide to complete your training or any other steps you need to achieve your goal. Think back to your school days or uni days when you had to complete a task. Most of the time, you would have let things slide until the last minute and then rush the task to have it submitted. You don’t want to be that guy or girl. That is just unwanted stress and not the right way to set a time frame.


Now that you have a framework to write up your goals, what do we do with them? Do we put them in a diary that we don’t check back on, or that no one else knows what your goals are? Well, you need to find a way to make yourself accountable.

MAKE IT VISIBLE: Individually, you can write a schedule, and commit to it. Write your goals up and post them somewhere visible. Track your progress and make it visible as well. Reward yourself for making progress. These are all viable options. But some of the best ways to keep yourself accountable is actually through someone else.

FIND A SUPPORT PERSON: Find someone that you can trust and share your goals with and invite them to check in on you and your progress. If you have a coach, they will or should have been a part of your goal-setting process. And be 100% open, honest and transparent with this person. They will be your backbone and support.

DIARY/JOURNAL: Writing down your goals and progress. This brings your goals and progress into reality. It serves as a reminder as to what you are doing and why. You are more likely to achieve a goal if you have written it down.

REEVALUATE: Accountability does not necessarily mean you keep going on the same path until you hit your goal. Some times it means taking ownership of the course you have set, and at times this may mean it needs an alteration.

The goal you are working on might start to detract from positive achievements in other areas so you may need to address it. Maybe your progress is going either too fast or too slow, and you might need to reevaluate and readjust. The action of reviewing is positive and it should occur regularly basis.

There is a lot you can do with goal setting, and it is a great educational tool for young athletes. It provides a sense of ownership in what you are doing. It really does enable you to focus your energy in the right direction.

If you would like to know more or would like to schedule a goal-setting session, please check in with us! Or check the links below resources

Yours in Running


Head Coach/Founder



Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a SMART way to write management’s goals and objectives. Management Review, 70(11), 35-36.

Locke, E. A. (1968). Toward a theory of task motivation and incentives. Organizational behavior and human performance, 3(2), 157-189.

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