Dos and Don'ts of Goal Setting

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Health to Vitality Blog/Mental Performance/Dos and Don'ts of Goal Setting

"If you don't know where you are going,
you will end up somewhere else."

- Yogi Berra

More than ever, people feel overwhelmed, burned out, defeated, and numb.

The New Year presents an opportunity to "start fresh," hit the reset button, and “do it” this time.

Whether you approach the arrival of 2024 with enthusiasm, apprehension, or a mix of emotions, there are straightforward actions you can take to elevate this year beyond the previous one.

However, for those interested, here are a few ways to ensure 2024 is dreadful:

  • Count down the days till your next day off or vacation
  • Grab any opportunity to numb yourself with distractions​​​​
  • Engage with your daily activities as "have to's."​​​
  • ​Go through the motions every day

But I'm sure you are not aiming for a dreadful 2024 if you read this. I'd bet you are excited and would love to be in action to make 2024 a great year.

In this blog, I will share the key dos and don’ts I have discovered over the last 20 years of optimizing goal setting for myself and the thousands of individuals I’ve coached.

Following these guidelines will provide you with:

  • Clarity, meaning, and purpose driving your daily actions
  • Confidence, motivation and inspiration leading your decisions​​​
  • Energy, resiliency, and perseverance overcoming daily challenges

The Dos & Don'ts

The Dos

  • Go BIG
  • ​Sniper​​
  • The Number 12
  • ​P&P

The Don'ts

  • Sharing
  • ​Visualizing​​
  • Posting

Before jumping into each of these, it is important to know that you must align goals with meaning and purpose. If you have not taken the time to name, reinforce, or remember your meaning and purpose, I'd highly recommend it.

This process can take some time but is worth the investment. If you'd like guidance on how to do this, check out my blog, "The Secret to Goal Setting in 2024."

You are good to go if you are clear and aligned with your meaning and purpose or meaning behind a specific goal!

Why Set Goals?

There are two main reasons why setting goals is valuable.

  • Motivation
  • ​Context​​

One of the main challenges in making changes is finding the motivation to act.

Setting goals is a primary motivator of human behavior. This is why people are most likely to follow through on their fitness goals before getting married and after getting divorced. There is HIGH motivation because there is a specific goal tied to meaning.

Studies show that setting a goal can increase your motivation and productivity by 11-25%. Setting goals is, without question, the easiest way to ignite motivation.

The second thing setting goals does is create context. Anytime I feel overwhelmed, not knowing what to do or focus on, it reminds me that I forgot my goal.

When all tasks seem to have equal importance, it is a sign that you've lost perspective. That is, you've lost your reference point. Goals create a container or context for us to operate inside.

When you anchor your goals with your mission and purpose, you have identified what is MOST important. You have clarity. You know the priority. You can take aligned action.

During periods of overwhelm, you use your goals as a reference point to regain balance and feel grounded.

The 4 Dos of Goal Setting

When you are ready to set a goal, there are 4 elements that will ensure you are closer to that 25% increase in motivation and productivity.

#1: GO BIG

The latest research has shown that setting BIG goals is much better than setting small or medium goals. This may seem counterintuitive because if it is too big, there is no belief, and you don't bother.

On the other side of that coin, if the goal is too small, you won't activate what I call the challenge mechanism.

One of the ways to motivate yourself is to challenge yourself. We are wired and motivated to evolve and learn. That being said, there is a sweet spot. It can't be too big, but it also can't be too small.

The ideal target for your goals is at the threshold of, "I believe I can do it, but it's a stretch." & "No, that is impossible." The key is to be at the point where your current skillset is right BELOW the skills needed to fulfill that goal.

This puts you in a position to be challenged enough to learn something new without overdoing it.


The second component of effective goal setting is to make your goal as specific as possible. No shotgun goals - be a sniper. One thing I would strongly advise against is the “overhaul goal.” The overhaul goal means you're going to change everything at once. You will work out, eat better, meditate, manage your finances, and learn how to play the piano. Take it from someone who has tried this countless times: focusing on ONE priority first is much better.

"Set your PRIORITY, not your priorities."

- Andrew Huberman

It has been well established that picking ONE goal and being specific is the best way to set you up for success. Many acronyms have been created to help with this. The most popular one is S.M.A.R.T.

Setting SMART Goals provides a great checklist when naming a goal.

S - Specific
Is your goal specific? Is your goal "I want to be healthy." or "I want to run a 6-minute mile." The more specific, the better. Think of your goal as a destination you are looking to reach. The more specific you are with the location, the higher chance you will get there. Similar to coordinates on a map.

M - Measurable
Can you measure where you are at any time? In the example above, being "healthy" is hard to measure. How fast you can run a mile is easy to measure. Think about being able to name exactly where you are, as you are driving to a new destination. 

A - Achievable
This all ties back to belief. Do you believe it is achievable? You are good to go if you believe you can run a 6-minute mile! If you do not believe it is achievable, the motivation to pursue it fizzles.

If you do not believe in your goal, make a small modification. If a 6-minute mile doesn't seem achievable, then see how a 7-minute mile feels.

R - Relevant
Is this goal relevant to your purpose and mission? Does your goal tie back to what is MOST important to you? This ensures you will have the passion and resiliency to get there.

T - Time Bound
Does your goal have a defined timeline? "I want to run a 6-minute mile by April 1, 2024." This activates the motivation driver of urgency. There is no urgency to take action NOW if no time is defined. The goals I’ve created that had no defined time to complete were the ones that would haunt me regularly.

"Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value."

- Jim Rohn

3: The Magic Number

The magic number is 12. This number represents a great place to start with your Time-Bound Goal - 12 Weeks.

I have found that a 12-week goal creates enough urgency and increased focus to make tremendous strides toward meaningful goals.

It also aligns the flow of the seasons and our quarterly calendar, which has benefits.

Do your best to name a goal that you believe would be a stretch but possible to achieve 12 weeks from now.

#4: P&P

This could easily stand for PASSION & PURPOSE because your goals will have no fire without them. But this P&P stands for Pen and Paper.

There is great value in physically writing out your goals with Pen and Paper. The way our brain relates to writing vs. typing is very different. Humans have been writing much longer than we've been typing.

Writing with pen and paper engages parts of the brain that play a role in memory and retention. A study by Dr. Gail Matthews, Doctor of Psychology, showed that you are 42% more likely to remember and actively pursue your goals if you write down your goals with pen and paper.

So get out your pen and paper!

The 3 Don'ts of Goal Setting

It is equally important to know what NOT to do when setting goals. These three don'ts are commonly taught to help you achieve your goals. It turns out these three things are leaks in your motivational gas tank. All three of these actions will slowly drain you of motivation and increase the likelihood that you will run out of steam or burn out.

#1 DON’T - Share Your Goals

Contrary to popular belief and practice of many personal development organizations, you do NOT want to share your goals with many people. Especially people that will champion and praise you for striving for those goals.

This creates the "social reality effect."

The social reality effect gives you the reward of a MASSIVE dopamine hit. This gives you the feel-good experience of accomplishing the goal without doing anything.

The more you share it, the more hits you get, and the more you drain your motivation to pursue it. The motivation diminishes because you've already received the reward you'd get by doing it - so why do it?

Instead, work in the shadows, reward the day-to-day effort, and only share with those who will keep you accountable for the day-to-day efforts.

I used this strategy to publish my first book, "Health to Vitality", in 6 months. I told nobody I was doing it except my wife and hired a writing coach to hold me accountable.

#2 DON’T - Visualize Yourself Fulfilling the Goal

For the same reasons as not sharing your goals with others, not visualizing yourself in fulfilling the goal is not recommended.

This common mistake creates something similar to the social reality effect. If you spend too much time imagining yourself in the experience of fulfilling your goal, your brain starts to perceive that you are already there, decreasing the need to pursue that goal.

That being said, there is a benefit to SOME visualization of achieving future goals - maybe once a week for 5-10 minutes.

The rest of the time, your focus is better kept on the day-to-day inputs and continually calibrating those efforts.

#3 DON'T - Post Your Goals

The last thing you want to cross off the list when making goals is posting your goal in a space you see daily.

For example, posting your goal on your bathroom mirror, refrigerator, or coffee maker. The more your brain sees something, the more it starts to filter out - it becomes background noise.

Writing out your goals and/or life mission in your journal is a much more effective daily practice. Again, taking advantage of the brain's intimate relationship with pen and paper.

Summary for Goal Setting

This boils down to a few KEY steps when creating your goals. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Follow these steps and get better and better at executing them.

I continue to work and refine these goal-setting steps each time I name a goal. It was clunky initially, but I have learned and grown so much by going through these steps each time. I’m a long way off from walking circles in my office, completely overwhelmed.

If I can do it, I know you can do it.

Here are the Steps to Creating Goals that Matter

  • Clarify and Reinforce Passion, Purpose, & Meaning
  • ​Pick ONE SMART 12-Week Goal
  • Make sure goal feels challenging and is just outside of current skillset​
  • ​Write your 12-Week Goal down every day in your journal
  • ​Share your goal with ONE person to keep you accountable

Practicing and refining these simple steps will continually fill your days with clarity, meaning, purpose, passion, challenge, confidence, and motivation. So take your time, focus on ONE of these things at a time, and you will get there.

I wish you an abundance of Vitality in 2024!



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Who is Matt LaBosco

I am a integrated holistic health professional that has empowered thousands of individuals over the last two decades to optimize their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, I am obsessed with empowering myself and others to embody the principles of vitality and no longer settle for the current traditional models of "health."

You can work with me virtually or at my office located in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

Services include:
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20 years of experience working intimately with individuals to overcome unnecessary orthopedic surgeries, autoimmune disorders, anxiety, depression, relationship conflict, parenting issues, and more - distilled down into ONE BOOK!  Ger your free hard copy today.

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