Goal setting is just one of those things that we are all aware of, but most of us don’t understand. Sure, we THINK we know how to set a goal, but every day I see people making the same basic errors when it comes to setting goals.
At Fitterbody Bootcamp a new member will enter the gym and book a consultation. At the start of that consultation she will be asked what her goals are, and at this point she will stumble.
The average Joe (or Jane, of course) will most likely say something along the lines of ‘I want to lose weight’, ‘lose fat’, ‘tone up’ or ‘get fitter’, and this is what they will strive to do. I honestly believe that these are what they want to achieve, and I am sure they think about these things, dream about them, and then they talk about them whilst they slowly but surely continue to *NOT HAPPEN*. In fact, the average Jane will be dreaming about these goals for years, even their entire life, whilst they go from gym to PT to bootcamp and diet to diet to diet on a never ending cycle of failure.
So why DO people fail to achieve their goals? I can talk about them not being SMART etc, but honestly we have all heard it before.
A goal needs to be Specific and Measurable (Lose 14lbs rather than lose weight)
A goal needs to be Achievable and Realistic (If you currently don’t train, a 300kg squat might be a bit of a stretch)
A goal needs to be Time constrained (Set a date and stick to it. No slacking!)
But you know all that, so there’s little point. I’ve got three better reasons, and I’ll start with the most important.
1- It doesn’t really matter to you.
I see this all the time. I’ll ask someone what their goal is, what they want to ACHIEVE and they will tell me with a straight face, a monotone voice and a dead stare into middle distance. I can tell immediately that this person will fail, why? Because they don’t actually give a crap about whether they succeed or not.
You need to be really passionate about your goals. They need to be strong enough to force you out of bed in the morning and something which you go to bed thinking about. If you don’t really want to run a marathon, or get down to your university dress size, then what are the chances that you will continue working towards it when it starts to get tough?
You won’t, because it doesn’t matter to you.
We all have dreams and things that it would be really nice to have, but ‘dreams’ is all they are. It would be nice to have abs, or a 6 figure salary, or a 100kg squat 1RM, it would, but it would also take a hell of a lot of work and the cost:benefit ratio just isn’t there for you. To make a goal worthwhile, the pain of achieving it needs to be outweighed by the pain of not doing so. You have to be more uncomfortable without the thing you strive for than you are without that thing in your life at all.
So here’s what we do. Forget the future, and forget all of those dreams and ‘nice to haves’. Think now. What is part of your reality NOW that you absolutely hate?
Get out of breath chasing the kids around the park?
Tired of wearing baggy clothes?
Had enough of seeing the old clothes in your cupboard that don’t fit any more?
These things hold an emotional attachment to you because you live with them every day. Make changing these things your goal and you are a long way further down the road.
2- It’s outcome based
Tying in with the above, people tend to think of outcomes as their goals. They want abs by Christmas, they want to earn 100k next year…but these things often are a long way down the line. It’s going to be a huge task to achieve, but it’s daunting because of all of the work it represents as well.
Think about it, dropping three dress sizes will require patience, determination and consistency. You will have to change your diet, your exercise regime, likely your sleep, maybe social behaviour (no, drinking a ton of Jaegar bombs every weekend is not a great idea) and general outlook on life.
That’s a hell of a task!
What I advise people do, in training or in life, is that they make their goal behaviour based.
Follow the same rules about SMART goal setting, but make it a behaviour change instead. Say someone told me that their goal was to compete in a physique show, but they had only just started and were overweight, we would break that down into steps.
Lose a bunch of fat.
Gain a bunch of lean tissue.
Start contest prep and get really, really lean.
Learn to pose.
That’s a lot of work, and will take years. No surprises just about every beginner (or relative beginner. Training for a couple years doesn’t make you an intermediate trainer…) who has this goal never ends up doing it.
So we break it RIGHT down into habits that are achievable and will contribute to each step. Rather than making it our goal to compete, make it our goal that by next week we will be eating protein at every meal. This is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time constrained. The client can complete this goal, then we add another habit which will be done across the board – let’s make it veggies at each meal, then drink 2l water per day, sleep at least 7 hours as a priority and so on until we have a whole load of healthy habits which have formed into a full-on healthy lifestyle.
All of a sudden our wannabe competitor is losing fat like nobody’s business because they have automatically reduced their caloric intake, and increased activity levels, and when they DO lose the fat they will keep it off because they have the skills to do so. That, you see, is the MAIN problem with outcome-based goals: They leave room for a ‘what now?’ moment.
Make it your goal to lose fat, buy Herbalife and live on that for 6 months, you lost fat. Now what?
Or, it’s your aim to lose fat so you make it your goal to eat protein at each meal, then to cook for yourself 90% of the time, then to eat veggies at every meal which take up half of the plate, then to eat mindfully and focus on your food, stopping when satisfied, then to order a black coffee rather than a Caramel Latte, then to…
Suddenly the fat is gone and you know how it happened. Suddenly you’re in a better position to move forward. Suddenly your goals are taking you towards your overall aim.
3- You tell people about it.
Kinda counter-intuitive, isn’t it? You would think by telling others that you make yourself accountable, and you then receive either support or peer pressure which spurs you on to reach your goals?
It can feel really good to talk about the future, your goals, and what you want to achieve, but that is itself a problem. If you’re always talking about making your fortune you start to feel so much sense of accomplishment already that you get distracted and don’t actually try to do it.
Tell people you’re going to go to the gym every day? You probably won’t, because people will think you’re awesome for saying you’ll go and that’s enough. Talking about dieting? It may make you feel good but it won’t make your clothes any looser. This even makes sense when we think about what happens when people set goals. They are going to overhaul their life in January with the whole ‘new year new me’ thing, and they get all excited about it.
That excitement? It’s exhilarating. So much so that come February, gyms are empty again.
So make goals, but shut the hell up about it and crack on.
I love goal setting. I do it every day in the form of a To Do list. Setting goals that we can achieve keeps us focused and stops us from procrastinating as soon as one task is finished, even though we think we have earned a break.
Make it your goal today to do one thing that matches as a habit already adopted by someone who has achieved what you want to. Do that, and you’re one step closer already.