Goals are a great way to stay motivated. They will keep you focused and on track. Be committed to meeting them, do what it takes to meet them, and you will certainly meet or exceed them.
Here's my story regarding goals and fat loss/lean body weight gains. Be advised that I am 47 and my goals and time frames are probably MUCH different than most. My father died a while ago of congenitive heart failure. The docs said it was probably a genetic thing and his younger brother and sister had already had heart problems. His advice to me was control the lifestyle issues.
I did and bought a Bowflex. At the time I was almost 45.5 yrs old (my dad had his first heart attack at 44). I followed the eating and exercise plan as outlined by Ellington Darden, PhD. (see his interview with Shugart at: http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=508353). I had met Darden back in the late '70s while attending Baylor. Fast forward 25 yrs and I began my new fitness endeavors.
As I had participated in sports all my life and was no stranger to the weight room, I went for it. I began researching nutrition and exercise, all the while following the "Bowflex Body Plan."
My numbers were as follow (I did my own caliper measurements):
bf: 30% / 68.4 lbs
lbw: 159.6 lbs (Lbw=lean body weight)
That was January of 2003.
Today, the numbers look like this:
bf: 17% / 35 lbs
lbw: 174 lbs
That's 15 pounds in a calorie restricted, high carb, moderate protein and fat diet. I have good energy stores and my CNS is not over taxed. I have kept records of everything from skinfold measurements to workout log. Recently, I have been journalling all food and water consumption.
When in fat loss mode, my caloric intake was between 1500-1800 kcals/day. I worked out 3x / week following a HIT protocol of 1 set per exercise, 8-12 reps done to momentary muscular failure in relatively exceptional form. I would complete 10 - 12 exercises per day. When I began, I was benching about 130 on the machine 8 times. Today, the 310 lbs is not enough and I have to pre-exhaust to max out. I know, the "weight" isn't accurate, but the progression is. As you can see, I am not catabolic and am seeing results. I do not always limit myself to 1500-1800 kcals, only during a fat loss cycle. Usually I am at around 2000-2400 kcals
Today, I still use the Bowflex with a HIT protocol with some variations. I am, once again, in a fat loss mode. I perform seven exercises plus ab work. I follow up with a resisted Tabata Protocol using dumbells. I work out 5 times every two weeks and take a week off every two months.
Bottom line, I set goals and have achieved them. I have set new goals and am on my way to meeting those. Just because my methods are different, doesn't mean they are wrong. Remember, my goals are different than most, as well.
As an aside, I train elite HS and college athletes and don't recommend a calorie restricted diet, unless in the offseason and there is fat to lose. Usually only for a two week stretch as elite athletes don't usually have much fat to lose.
At my age, I am pleased but not satisfied. My eating and workout habits will pretty much fly in the face of what is talked about on this site. TFB.