Achieving your Goals and Dream Life – Step One

Achieving your goals and dream life…take step one!

Working in the fitness industry for 25 years, I’ve noticed that there are certain things that those who are successful at achieving their goals do on a regular basis. I’ve narrowed it down to the top 10 Tips and will share those tips over the next few weeks to help you as you prepare to launch your 2014 year – potentially the best year of your life! 

Early in my career I used to get so frustrated if a client wouldn’t do what I knew they needed to do to achieve the results they wanted.  I used to bang my head against the wall trying to figure out how to motivate them.  Then one day, I was on a hike with my daughter Brianna and I learned my biggest lesson about goals and dreams.

Beacon RockWe had just hiked Beacon Rock in WashingtonState, a beautiful scenic hike with amazing views of the Gorge and the Columbia River.  I was getting my daughter situated in her car seat when a pick up truck pulled up beside us and two women jumped out to have a smoke.  They each lit their cigarettes and then one looked towards the top of the rock that we had just climbed and stated “You know, people actually hike to the top of that rock!”  The other gal took a long drag on her cigarette, looked up and then exclaimed “Why in the world would anyone ever want to do that?!”

My jaw dropped.  I couldn’t believe she had just said that!  I thought she would say something like “Gosh, I wish I was in good enough shape to do something like that!” or “I would love to do that” or “Maybe one day I will be able to do that!” But she had no desire, no interest for ever hiking to the top of that rock. And without any will, there is no way. So no matter what I said or programmed or suggested, nothing I could do would ever convince her to summit that rock.  There was no compelling reason for her!

So it taught me that I have to help people figure out their ‘why?’  Once there is a will, there is way.  But without a compelling force, success is so much more difficult.  The motivation and inspiration to stick to your program or your goals is within you.  You have just got to find the right reason – the reason that will make you so emotionally charged that you will take action, make the changes and stick to them regularly – no matter what!

Here is an example to demonstrate this phenomenon.  Let’s imagine that you are on the 28th floor of a sky-rise building.  There is a small wooden plank that extends from the window of your building to the building on the opposite side of the street.  In the other building, there is a man who is holding a $10 bill and will give it to you if you walk across the plank to the other side.  You look down 28 flights and you see the cars speeding by and your stomach turns into a knot.  Would you go for $10?  No way! How about $100?  Probably not!  Would you go for $1000?  Still, no way!  It is not worth it!  But now imagine, the man is threatening to shoot one of your closest loved ones – your spouse, your daughter, son, grandchild – if you do not walk over.  Now, there is a different story.  You would probably, without a doubt, without even thinking about it, walk the plank.  You can see by the example that the ability to walk the plank is always there.  If the plank was on the first floor it would be no big deal – you could easily do it.  It is never a question of ability!  You just need to find that reason to walk the plank – to do something you would really rather not do.  Perhaps just losing 10 pounds or decreasing your risk for cardiovascular disease is like $10 – just not enough reason to walk the plank or take action towards your goals.  You will need to get more emotionally charged in order to stick to your plan.  Discover what it is going to take for you and remember, everyone is different.  What is going to motivate me is not necessarily going to motivate you. Keep asking yourself why, why, why and get to the heart of the matter!

So Step One is clearly laying out your goals.


I use another analogy for our clients.  Remember Alice in Wonderland?  She’s running through the forest and she’s lost.  She comes across the cat and says “I’m lost. Where do I need to go?” And the cat asks “Well, that depends, where are you trying to get to?” Alice responds “I’m not really sure!”  Then the cat says something so insightful and so profound “Well, then it doesn’t really matter where you go then does it?!”

Can you see what the cat is saying?  You can either coast through life and see where it takes you.  You’ll wind up somewhere but it may not be where you want! Or you can create a map of who you want to be, what you want to do and what you want for your life.  


Over my years in the fitness industry, I’ve found that the biggest difference between those who succeed and those who don’t has nothing to do with intelligence or beauty or money…but those who succeed know exactly what they want and are willing to do what it takes to get it!

So be very clear with your goals for all aspects of your life…physically, professionally, mentally, socially, travel, relationships…Paint a very vivid picture of what your dream life would look like. Write it down! The brain processes things differently when it’s written down and you read it.

GoalsGrab a sheet of paper and create a list of all the fitness goals (or any goals you have for yourself) you would like to achieve.  It is your personal fitness wish list.  Remember when you were a kid making up your Christmas wish list.  You wrote down everything under the sun.  You did not care whether you thought you would actually get it or not.  You wrote it anyways.  That is what I want you to do.  I want you to write down anything you have ever thought of achieving with regards to your own individual health and fitness.  Which health and fitness goal, if you achieved it, would make this year unbelievable?  Have you ever wanted to hike the Grand Canyon, complete a marathon, cycle through Italy, learn to Rock climb, or would you just be happy with working out 4x/week consistently?  What are you health and fitness wishes?

Setting goals is the key to success.

But it is not enough to say, “I want to get into shape”.  Effective goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reward-based and have a Time frame.  Here are some examples of SMART goal setting:

  • Hike the Grand Canyon for 1 week this May
  • Run on the treadmill for 30 minutes 3x/week so complete 24 workouts by December 31st
  • Resistance train every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until December 31st
  • Train for and complete the Half Marathon on April 10th
  • Exercise on the cardio machines for one hour without stopping by February 1st
  • Work out with a personal trainer 2x/week
  • Sign up for the Scuba Diving course that starts March 1st
  • Drink 6 glasses of water every day by January 1st
  • Eat 5 small meals/snacks every day by March 1st

Each goal is clear, easy to measure your success and has a deadline. Now go back to your fitness wish-list and make sure each goal is specific, measurable, attainable and time-framed.  Revise all your goals to make them as SMART as possible.  You will also notice that none of the goals that I have listed include anything about body weight or size.  Deciding to lose 10 pounds is an “Outcome-oriented” goal.  I prefer to use “Behavior or Action-oriented” goals.  I firmly believe my approach is a lot more positive.  For example, in the process of training for a half-marathon, you will definitely lose body fat but your focus is on something so much more positive.  So avoid setting any weight or fat loss goals.  Instead focus on the actions you can take which will promote fat loss.

But don’t stop there.  Successful goal-setting requires two more things.  Be prepared to reassess and reevaluate your goals on a regular basis and reward yourself once you have achieved a goal.  For example, treat yourself to a massage, a new outfit or a trip.  Then set your sights on the next goals.  Go back to your goals and attach a reward to each one.  Be sure that the reward is motivating enough to encourage you to stick to your plan.

Taking Action

Be a Human Doing, not just a Human Being.

You can’t just set goals and dreams, you actually have to DO something.

If you are undertaking a major lifestyle change, the big picture may be a bit overwhelming.  Take the big goal and split it into small, easily achievable goals and itsy bitsy baby steps.  It will help you succeed on a regular basis and that will give you the momentum you need to reach the ultimate goal.  It’s called “Results Momentum.”  No matter how small or insignificant the action step is, if you do it, it will give you the belief and self confidence to achieve the next goal and the next goal and soon you will be there!

Go back to your fitness wish list.  Take the top three goals from your fitness wish list and break them down into smaller goals and action steps that will act as milestones towards your ultimate goal.

For example, if your ultimate number one goal is to complete a half marathon, here’s how you’d break it down into smaller action steps.

  1. Enroll in the local half-marathon running clinic that starts on January 7th.
  2. Purchase new footwear and clothing by December 25th
  3. Consult with a personal trainer for 2 sessions to get help with designing my program by January 15th.
  4. Schedule 3 morning runs a week with friends
  5. Register now and pay for the local 10km fun run mid-way through my training program
  6. Register now and pay for the half-marathon event on May 1st.

Last, avoid the Law of Diminishing Intent.

This states that you may be motivated after reading this.  You may have a few AHA moments and decide you need to start or stop doing something.  But the longer you wait to do something, the greater the chance that you will never do anything.  So take action right away!  It doesn’t matter what it is…anything that points you in the right direction towards your goals.  Just do it!

Start this process now and you will be well on your way to an incredible 2014! Stay tuned next week for Step #2 to Achieving your Dream Life


Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for over 20 years and has received numerous industry awards including International Personal Trainer and Fitness Presenter of the Year. She is the author of five books including “Go For Fit – the Winning Way to Fat Loss” and “Fit over Forty” and is the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs.  She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver and can be seen running, hiking or cycling with her two children, Brianna and Jackson.  She can be reached at or Note:  As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started.  Contact 360.574.7292 for more details.  

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 33 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver, the founder of WHY Racing Events & WHY Community, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at

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