Habit Hacks: 5 Steps to Better Goals

Tara Penawell Habit Hacks Blog Cover Photo

Simplify starting and consisting a new routine with Habit Hacks! Every month, Elite Personal Trainer and Health Coach, Tara Penawell, will serve up and break down the building blocks of creating a routine that sticks. Learn hacks from the pro that will help you actualize your goals! 

Hack 1: 5 Steps to Better Goals

It’s almost the New Year. One of the beautiful things about this time of year is the sense of renewal, hope, and inspiration that we feel as we close the chapter on the past and look toward the future. It feels like a fresh slate and anything seems possible! 

Then we sit down and write out a few goals for the new year, only to give up on them by the end of January. In order to be consistent in a new routine, it needs to become a habit. And a goal is also the first step to building those habits! So starting off with a strong baseline of concrete goals is critical. If you want to accomplish your goal(s) or keep your resolutions this year, here’s my hack on how to do it in 5 steps. 


Make sure you’re completely connected to your goal and that it’s truly important to you. The 5 Why’s is an exercise that helps you to understand more deeply your reasoning for wanting to achieve a goal, and clarifies why it is important to you. Understanding this helps increase your engagement and motivation. It may feel a little silly to keep asking yourself why, but the key to success here is to be honest, curious, and compassionate. 

An example of the exercise in action: 

Goal: I’m going to exercise more this year. 

  1. Why do you want to exercise more this year? 
    Because I put on some pandemic pounds and I would like to lose them.
  2. Why do you want to lose weight? 
    Because I currently weigh too much for my height. 
  3. Why do you care that you weigh too much for your height? 
    Because I’m concerned that it’s bad for my health. 
  4. Why do you worry that it will be bad for your health? 
    Because my grandfather and brother both had heart attacks before age 50. 
  5. Why does this concern you? 
    Because I am worried that I will also have a heart attack. 

It can get pretty intense quickly, but it is good to connect to our real motivation. It can keep you going and serve as a reminder throughout the year why you set these goals. 


To get what you really want, you need to be specific about it. So ask yourself: what do you want? When do you want to have that accomplished? How will you measure success and what does it look like when you get there? Specifying your goals will help you visualize what you want, and what you need to do to get it. 

A good example of specifying a goal is: 

General Goal: I’d like to do some traveling. 
Specific Goal: I’d like to go to Costa Rica, sit on the beach, and stay for a month by the end of the year.


Once you’ve figured out the specifics of your goal, then it’s time to break it down into achievable micro-goals that focus on your daily actions or behaviors. Think about what you want to achieve versus what you’re already doing. Think of the skills that you might need to achieve what you want. What could you be doing differently? Or, what are you doing well that could do more of? 

Then, take each skill and break it down into smaller behavioral changes. Focus on one thing for several weeks and make sure it seems almost too easy! You’ll then proceed to work on building that one skill, reassessing every few weeks based on your progress. It may seem like barely any progress is being made, but it builds with time. One of my favorite books, Atomic Habits by James Clear, calls this ‘continuous improvement’. Even a 1% improvement per day = 37 times better in a year. 

Example Goal: Increase activity level next year, because I’ve been too sedentary this year. 
Now let’s break it down. 

  1. Brainstorm all the ways to increase activity levels. I enjoy going to the gym, so I could take some exercise classes. I can use my pedometer to focus on step count. 
  2. Big Behavioral Goals: Take 3 classes a week at the gym, and get to 10,000 steps every day. 
  3. Break Down the Big Goals. Currently, I’m doing 3,000 steps a day. My first micro-goal will be to take one class a week and get to 5,000 steps a day. In two weeks, I can see how it went, and decide the next behavioral goal from there. 

Breaking these larger goals into smaller, micro-goals with shorter deadlines will make the results more attainable, with more tangible timelines. 


Simple, but so effective! Take the time to put your goals in writing and then regularly document your progress and challenges. This will help keep you connected to what you are trying to accomplish. Document your milestones in a journal, with gold stars on the wall, or with a photo journal. Whatever way helps to remind you of your accomplishments and how far you’ve come! 


A big part of achieving a goal is believing that it’s possible. Things will come up, like busy schedules, and it will not always be easy, but the important thing is to stick with it. Stick with it, and you’ll make it! 

Better Goals for Better Success

With these five steps, you have the building blocks to set yourself up for better goals. Get ready to start the new year with resolutions that you’ll stick with for the next year, and beyond! 


Elite Personal Trainer Tara Penawell

Tara has an extensive background in the health and fitness industry, with over sixteen years working as a personal trainer. Her experience and dedication to acquiring new skills qualify her to serve a wide range of clients. She enjoys the diversity of working with people with different goals and backgrounds. Above all, Tara is passionate about helping people meet their goals and find the joy and satisfaction that comes along with their success.

Tara also teaches weekly fitness classes on our schedule at our Downtown location, as well as virtually. Learn more about Tara’s classes and to inquire about private sessions at the button below! 

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