The notion of setting goals can conjure up both positive and negative associations depending on past experiences or how necessary we think they are. Some people who are anti self-help can avoid them altogether because of this very association. But there is no way around improvement and achievement without defining WHAT it is we’re aiming to improve.
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The cliché New Year’s goals that are set on January the 1st are often the least followed and least effective way to set goals. Writing something down once a year in a book or on a piece of paper, only to be looked at once again at the end of the year, if at all… The results from this are always sub-par and we often have forgotten all about our initial goals set on this date or, by some miracle chance we in fact achieved it without even knowing! The latter is about as random as playing darts in the dark.
If we’re aiming to improve our health and fitness, then there needs to be a level of clarity and effectiveness with regard to setting goals. So, improving the way we set and define our targets can in fact increase the likelihood of a near-miss or nailing the goal altogether. Don’t let yourself get disgruntled if you haven’t hit your goals in the past, it’s much better to aim and miss, than not take a shot at all!
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky
If you’re aiming to lose 10kg in the next 6 months and you only seem to make it to 9.5kg or less, will you be more disappointed by missing by 500g or not setting the goal and being the same weight you were 6 months ago? Sure, it’s nice to set targets and achieve them, but the real growth comes from the times we miss and need to alter our approach, or learn a new method to get closer to the set goal.
If we hit the target 100% of the time, then there can be very little learning and most likely you haven’t challenged yourself with something that has forced you out of your normal way of thinking.
When it comes to setting your fitness goals, stay away from the word “realistic”. This can be like kryptonite, keeping you in a fixed mindset and stopping you from going after what you really want. Sure, there are things out of the realms of physics and physiology that can make things impossible, but just because it hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean it can’t be done!
When setting your goals, find someone who already has the results you’re after. This can shortcut your success in a big way! For example, if you wanted to add 10kg of muscle on a raw, vegan, whole foods diet, then look specifically for a person within that very niche, that fits your demographic, body shape and results. No point hitting up a paleo, meat-eating, steroid-taking coach, unless that’s the path you’re going to take!
Don’t get hung up on HOW you’re going to achieve these goals. That must only be focused on after you have set WHAT you want and WHY you want it. Doing research once you have set the what and why, will give you the fuel to find the answers, coaches, books, articles and mentors. If you focus on how you’re going to do it before you know why it’s important, then you’ll end up spinning your wheels with no purpose!
It makes me laugh when new science or methods come out into popular media and people get sold on the idea or product, mainly due to how it works. They’ll list how this new supplement or training protocol works and people buy into it like that’s the answer they have been waiting for! Yes, science and technology are amazing, but there are still fundamentals of psychology that need to be followed for sustained results.
You can zap or suck the fat from your body, but unless you address what’s going on between your ears, then the results will be back at square one or presenting in another form. Be sceptical and think, before being sold on HOW things work, without addressing the elephant in the room a.k.a. the mental approach.
When setting your health and fitness goals, it’s important not to gloss over this task and be focused on getting the ball rolling with the diet, lifestyle or training plan. Spending time in the planning phase will enable you to develop a stronger HOW plan and find the right methods to the solutions.
First, spend considerable time thinking and developing WHAT it is you are focused on achieving. Being as descript and crystal clear with what you want is critical for your health and fitness goals. This will essentially set the road map and coordinates for the journey ahead. Being ambiguous with this description will not only make it impossible to achieve, but also to plan for.
Then comes the part of establishing WHY the goal is important and the reasons for pursuing it. This creates leverage on yourself and will help you when the going gets tough. When it’s cold outside, you are tired and feel like six Krispy Kreme donuts instead of training – having a rock-solid reason to stick to the plan will keep you on the straight and narrow!
Once the above has been set, then comes the part of finding the best approach and methods to start implementing. This is coming up with the plan and map of how to navigate from point A to point B. Reverse-engineering is often the smartest approach.
The final step is setting a deadline for this goal to be achieved by. This often can be neglected and forgotten about, only to stop people from following through. Setting an end date will not only help with a timeline and the ability to setup checkpoints to see if you are on target, but it is also helpful in creating urgency and compliance. Don’t be easy on yourself with the deadline, make sure it is a stretch and a push to get there!
Remember Parkinson’s Law: “The notion that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” So, set a shorter timeline than expected to help with behaviour change and compliance.
I have created a FREE goal setting chart with all the above-mentioned steps. It has been used with countless clients and goal setting over the years and never fails to produce results. Simply enter in your email address and you’ll have access to download it.
If you would like to know more, see this article here for further information.
Be clear, set goals and take action!
Here is a video explaining some of the key points talked about above
Further reading can be found at James Clears blog on Goal setting. James is one of my favourite bloggers.