When setting goals there are several things to keep in mind of and a process that one should take to make effective and successful goal setting. This process can be used for any type of goals, but since this is a health and fitness website, that will be the focus. Effective goals are: Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Reasonable, and Timed (or the S.M.A.R.T. principle of goal settings). I will expand in explaining other ways to create successful goals.
S.M.A.R.T. goals will be goals that are not vague and can be measureable by empirically. Saying you want to be more flexible or want to lose fat is not specific and does not have a unit of measurement. To make these examples more specific, I want to lose a certain percentage of body fat, I want to improve my hamstring and lower back flexibility by achieving a sit and reach test that is 2 inches better.
Goals should be reasonable and may be attainable within a time frame. For example, it is an unreasonable and unattainable goal for an experienced exerciser to want to increase their biceps by 3 inches in a month. An inch increase would be a more reasonable goal and quite an accomplishment.
It is important to write down your goals. It is a great idea to have 2-3 goals ranked in priority. Make short term (every month) and long term goals (yearly). Write down what steps you will take tot make these goals happen. Also, write down the factors that may prevent you from attaining these goals. Set up re-testing/assessment dates. Keep a journal and progress reports. See where you plateau and see what mistakes you made that are hindering your progress.
Reward yourself once you achieve a goal and set up new ones. Rewards may be a trip, a night out, a new pair of shoes - whatever floats your boat.
Tell your social circle about your goals. You will feel as you are held more accountable to achieve them.