Go for the goal

Resolutions come and go, but real change has no season. An Equinox exercise physiologist's top tips for setting achievable goals.

Self-help guru Anthony Robbins says that human beings must constantly challenge themselves in order to be happy. Goal-achievement expert Bob Proctor agrees, arguing that our lives are always either in a state of "creation" or one of "disintegration" — and the choice is up to us.

So why is it so hard to change, challenge, create and grow? Whether you want to slim down, eat better or get stronger, here are a few essential steps to making — and keeping — a fitness goal that I've learned along the way:

Decide what you want
This sounds self-evident, but if you have no idea what the target is, it will be impossible to know if you’ve hit the bulls-eye. Spend some time thinking about what's currently bugging you about your life. What is it that is holding you back? Not satisfying you? What areas do you want to measurably improve?

Want what you want
You have a right to desire this change. It doesn't matter if anyone else understands or agrees. Unless you are infringing on the rights of another, you have a right (and some philosophers would argue a moral obligation) to go out and get what’s best for you.

See what you want
Virtually all self-improvement and human potential experts say the same thing: To have something in your life, you must first visualize it. Imagine achieving your goal in all the detail you can muster. Who’s around you as you celebrate that moment when you know you've made it? What do they say to you? What do you say to them? Where are you? Fill it in with enough rich detail as possible — and run that "movie" over and over in your mind. Not only will you have the joy of experiencing your dream in advance, but you will begin (on some level of your consciousness) to believe it’s real and on the horizon.

Share what you want
Tell one person (better yet: a few people) whom you trust all about your dream — the big dream, the one you're almost afraid to admit that you want to yourself. Are you sitting on Ellen Degeneres' couch (one of mine!)? Are you 25 pounds lighter and in the best shape of your life? Did you just finish your first marathon? There is something incredibly powerful about hearing yourself say what you really want to another person — and knowing that they want it for you too. Better yet, have your friend(s) say what your dream is back to you in the present tense, as if it had already happened. It's very exciting and it feels even more real.

Support what you want
Identifying, visualizing and articulating your ultimate goal will keep you motivated, but focusing on behaviors that support that goal will be the key to your success. When you’re only thinking about the outcome, it’s easy to imagine you’ll make changes … later. When you’re committed to doing what it takes to reach that outcome — whether it’s exercising at least five hours per week, taking yoga twice a week or mixing cardio classes and conditioning workouts every weekend — it’s much easier to hold yourself accountable.

Take daily steps toward what you want
The secret to staying on track is to commit to doing something — however small — every day. A 15-minute yoga break, a bottle of water consumed at your desk, eating vegetables with every meal … every small action takes you one step closer to your goal and, most importantly, reminds you that you are keeping your promises to yourself.

We've still got a whole 11 months of possibility, so carpe diem. Or, better yet, how about we carpe the whole year?

Geralyn Coopersmith is the director of the Equinox Fitness Training Institute, a proprietary education program for personal trainers. She has a Master's degree in Exercise Physiology and frequently appears on "The Today Show," "The CBS Morning Show" and "The Dr. Oz Show."