Photo: Lululemon Athletica

When I think about lululemon, I think about sexy tank tops, sleek running jackets, and those (darn expensive) black yoga pants. But when Erin Hochstein, Communications Director at lululemon, reached out to tell me about their goal-setting program, I was intrigued. Is there more to lululemon than just apparel? By now, New Year’s Resolutions may seem like a thing of the past, but at lululemon the practice of goal-setting doesn’t disappear as the calendar moves farther away from January. The company recognizes the importance of setting goals year-round, and the program’s been an integral part of the culture since the business launched in 1998. “[Goal-setting] gives people a chance to experience and connect to an ideal life,” said Chloe Gow-Jarrett, a goal coach at lululemon. “It can sound fluffy, but it’s not.”

The 10-Year Vision

Lululemon’s goal-setting program is based on a 10-year plan and breaks down into three areas of life: health, personal, and career. People interested in the program, whether lululemon employees or customers, are encouraged to read about goal setting on the company blog and fill out a vision worksheet. They begin by visualizing what their life will look like in 10 years: What will I love? What will I have accomplished? Who will surround me? From there, the goal-setting works backwards: The big vision is broken down into five- and one-year goals to help make the long-term objective a reality. Want to sail around the world in 10 years? You’d better know how to sail in five, and open up a savings account by year one. According to the folks at lululemon, the point of setting a long-term goal is to become connected to your future self. Many times, people set one-year goals that are easy to visualize and within arms’ reach, like completing a 5K or getting a promotion at work. But the problem with only setting short-term goals is that they don’t contain a bigger picture. Lululemon advises goal-setters to start making little changes immediately, since those can add up and end up influencing who they’re hoping to become in 10 years. And sure — this method doesn’t work for everyone, and perhaps looking for advice from an apparel company isn’t a surefire away to reach your dreams. But for many people at lululemon, they’ve witnessed its positive impact.

Goal Setting in Action

Talking to Gow-Jarrett, I got an idea of what the hallways at lululemon’s headquarters in British Columbia, Canada, must look like. There’s a wall titled “People Potential” that’s filled with everyone’s 10-year vision. Setting goals is a very personal thing, and yet at lululemon its purpose stretches far beyond the individual. For company employees, setting goals is also about fostering relationships. “You learn what [your co-workers] want from their life. It creates a different level of relationships, of trust,” explained Hochstein. Every employee at lululemon is asked to put up a 10-year vision worksheet at his/her place of work. This turns the store into not only a workspace, but also a support center, taking work relationships to the next level. Knowing the big dreams everyone is going after also fills their stores and offices with rewards, high-fives, and simple “How’s the half-marathon training going?” in lululemon’s across the country. Steph Corker, manager of global recruitment at lululemon, sees the impact the program has on building and managing a team. “If someone is able to articulate that loving and being with their family matters most, then every time they leave the office at 5pm, we don’t question it. [If someone’s] goal is move to Los Angeles, then we can talk about career opportunities at lululemon in LA.” Corker has her own goals posted up at lululemon HQ, and has a particularly inspiring goal-setting story. In 2010, she decided she wanted to qualify for and race Ironman Hawaii by 2020. So she began breaking down her goal, getting up every morning and putting on a swim cap, hopping on the bike, or hitting the roads. “I had to train my heart and mind to know that it will hurt, and I will have to work through it. What I learned from mentors and coaches was that if you get faster, it never gets easier. You just get better at coping with the pain. Then, I was able to translate that discomfort to other areas of my life.” In the end, Corker completed Ironman Hawaii eight years early, in 2012

Alexis McDonald is a lululemon educator (that’s what they call their retail employees) who works at the company’s Vancouver location. Her goal is to travel to India in February 2014, and she wrote a blog post about saving up enough money for the trip. “The whole team [at lululemon] got so on board that when I go into the store, they hold me accountable to achieving the vision that I set out to create. They wont let me buy new products. [It’s] pretty cool and empowering to know I have a circle of friendships that are holding me to my dreams.” McDonald is equally interested in helping others achieve their big dreams by making small changes. When she sees people peruse a collection of running crops, she’ll ask, “Are you training for something?” If the answer’s “yes,” she’ll invite them to a lululemon running club or yoga class. “Basically, by looking at a pair of pants they can begin to visual their goal,” says McDonald.

Stretchy Pants and Big Ambitions

Lululemon stresses that setting goals is an ongoing practice, something we should do for our whole life. As Corker put it, “Declaring what you really want means you learn the sweetest failures along the way. There’s a certain clarity to setting a goal, and if I fail, it will cause me to say it was too big or that I’m willing to try again.” For McDonald, the clothes and customers she surrounds herself with daily mean more than simply sales.“[I want to] always be in the constant conversation for how to make the world a better place through black stretchy pants.”

What goals are you going after? Would you consider trying out lululemon’s goal-setting program? Tell us in the comments below or tweet the author @lschwech.