by Tim Borys
Setting and achieving goals is a crucial skill for success in all aspects of life. Most people think it only applies to business and work. However, the personal, professional, relationship, social, community, and psychological aspects of every day you experience are shaped by your ability to set, work towards, achieve, and re-set goals. On the base level, nothing worthwhile in life gets accomplished without systematic progress towards a goal.
If you are operating at any level of function, you probably do this already. You just may not be know it, be aware of the process you take, or transfer it to other areas of your life. You are likely reading this because you have a particular health and fitness goal (or many) that has been frustrating you for some time. Perhaps you are successful in other areas of life, but have really struggled to make this goal a reality.
That’s OK. Most of the time the solution comes down to a change in perspective and implementing a few simple tips that someone has shown you.
The following information has been created to light the fire under your butt, provide you the information, tools, and resources needed to finally make your goals a reality!
Jump in head, first, soak up the information, and really open yourself to change! Of course, I’m always available to help you sort through the details should you need it!
STEP 1: FIND OUT WHAT “LIGHTS YOUR FIRE”
I’ve put this step first because it is critical to ensuring long-term success. Even if you closely follow the remainder of the steps, without this important point, it will be extremely difficult to stay motivated over the long-term.
So, what does “light your fire” mean? Essentially, I’m saying that WHAT you want to accomplish is important, BUT the most important thing is WHY you want to accomplish this goal. Once you figure this out, the rest of the steps will be a simple process to help you get results quicker. Without this step, you may be able to accomplish a few objectives out of sheer determination and following some strict action steps. However, your passion and personal motivation will not be behind your changes and the daily tasks you are working on will seem much more like chores instead of positive steps you are taking to your ultimate objective.
To figure this out, you need to look deeper at your motivation. There are two types of motivation…
Extrinsic motivation comes from sources outside yourself. For example, you may be doing something to impress another person or gain external recognition. This is a perfect example and very common. We see this when people decide to lose weight or get fit to attract more attention from a coworker, friend, or that person they’ve been admiring from a distance. While this motivation may be quite powerful at the beginning and produce some exceptional results, it will start to fade and with it the motivation to keep the changes that generated those results.
This is a major reason why people continually lose the same 10 or 20 pounds year after year. They’ve never really admitted to themselves or tapped into the base motivating factors behind their goals. Perhaps they don’t even really know what their goals are and have been working towards objectives that aren’t related to their TRUE goals!
On the other side of the coin is intrinsic motivation. This is when a person is motivated for internal reasons such as personal pride, sense of accomplishment, or other factors extremely important to them alone. These types of goals could be accomplished without anyone else ever knowing and would be just as powerful (if not more) to the person.
Intrinsic motivation is the long-term fuel that keeps people on track to accomplish ANY worthwhile and personally relevant goal. People who tap into this source of motivation have a dramatically higher long term success rate than those who are motivated solely by the recognition of others.
STEP 2: SET SMART GOALS
This sounds simple enough, but very few people actually know how to set a proper goal. Setting and accomplishing SMART goals is so important that I will go out on a limb and say that other than breathing and keeping your heart beating, SMART goal setting is the number one factor in being successful in every aspect of your life!
That’s a bold statement, but if you actually realized how powerful proper goal setting was, you would kick yourself for not learning to do it earlier in life and you would likely be in a much better position today! Going back to your Resolutions, this is likely the prime reason you have failed repeatedly in the past.
Don’t worry, there is a simple system to virtually guarantee success if you follow it. You may be thinking that setting goals can’t be that difficult and that you have lots of goals! You are correct; setting goals is actually quite easy if you follow the right system.
The problem is that most people’s “goals” are really just dreams and wishes that never get acted on, never mind accomplished! This happens because they fail to use a system or to follow through on their plan.
You may notice that I keep using the word “Failure”. That’s because I believe failure is a good thing in life…AS LONG AS YOU LEARN FROM IT! Without failure, we never experience setbacks and raise our confidence by overcoming the challenges that life throws at us. The fact that you are reading this means you are ready to learn. That fact alone means you’ve already breezed past one of the first milestones on your journey to success!
Each challenge we overcome strengthens our resolve and confidence to overcome even greater obstacles. We begin to enter a POSITIVE SPIRAL and start breaking down our habit of learned helplessness. Like the downward spiral of failure and depression that many people experience, a positive spiral “picks up speed” as you get better at setting goals and accomplishing tasks.
It’s important to know that these skills are effective and should be used in every area of life. Strangely enough, few people actually use them in more than one area…if they use them at all!
I know CEO’s and Presidents of major companies that are excellent at setting and achieving business related goals, yet are completely inept at coordinating any aspect of their personal life, health, or fitness. They already have everything they need to succeed, but they haven’t applied the skills that made them successful in business to the rest of their life. From now on, you will not make this same mistake!
Setting SMART Goals takes some practice, but this is perfect because starting with small easily achievable objectives will help you ease into the POSITIVE SPIRAL OF GOAL SETTING SUCCESS!
Up to this point in the report, I haven’t focused on specific health, fitness, or weight loss goals. This is because I wanted to make sure you understood the concepts that are essential to success. It’s common for people jump ahead too quickly without putting a structure in place that virtually ensures success.
In this case, they are often too focused on the outcome and end up forgetting that they need to follow a specific process in order to create success! Also, another reminder that this system works for every goal in your life, not just health, fitness and weight loss!
If you haven’t figured it out yet, SMART is actually an acronym and the basis of your goal setting system. It stands for…
- Attainable-Action Oriented
- Time Sensitive
Let’s look at each of these in detail.
Your goal must describe exactly what you want to accomplish in as much detail as possible. Vague goals leave too much room for interpretation and slacking.
- A common example is when people say “My goal is to get in shape”.
- That can mean different things to different people. Do you want to walk for 10 minutes, run a marathon, be able to do 50 chin-ups, or life your body weight over your head?
- A better example of specificity could be…
- My goal is to do 10 full push-ups from the toes and maintain perfect technique the entire time.
- I defined perfect technique as:
- thighs and chest touch and leave the ground at the same time with full arm extension at the top of the motion.
- No rest at top or bottom of motion.
This is an important step because if you can’t measure your goal, how do you know you’ve achieved it? Additionally, if you don’t know where your starting point is, you can’t tell how successful you’ve been! That means you will need to establish a baseline for whatever your goal will be measuring (current fitness level, body fat %, etc.)
- Measuring the push-up example above is a pretty easy one because you’ve been specific on your goal number and technique requirements. Just test yourself on day 1 to see your starting point.
If your goal was to “Lose Weight” (the most common goal of all), things get a little trickier. Like most people, you would probably use the weight on your scale to measure weight loss. However:
- Scale weight doesn’t tell the whole story because it includes muscle, bone, and all other tissue, as well as fat
- Muscle weighs more than fat
- If you want to “lose weight”, when exercising (especially with resistance training), your goal should be increase the amount of muscle you have (YES, this is true for women too) because muscle is your METABOLIC ENGINE that helps you burn more calories all day, every day, even when you are sleeping!
- Most people on rapid weight loss diets end up LOSING a significant amount of muscle, lots of water, and a little bit of fat
Even though your weight may have dropped substantially in a situation like this, you have actually started that NEGATIVE SPIRAL I discussed earlier by slowing down your metabolic engine and making it more difficult to lose weight in the future (because you are burning fewer calories every day).
Getting back to measuring weight loss, a more appropriate goal may be to:
- Lose 20 pounds of body fat and gain 10 pounds of muscle.
- Your body fat % would decrease significantly and your metabolic engine would boosted dramatically creating a POSITIVE SPIRAL where you were burning more calories every day and able to lose body fat easier in the future, even though your SCALE WEIGHT only changed by 10 pounds.
- This would be measured through common body composition tests that a qualified and experienced trainer could perform. It can also be done through some specialty measurement scales.
Needless to say, you MUST know your starting point and be able to accurately measure your goal to know if you’ve achieved it.
It sounds pretty simple, but your goal must be attainable! There’s no sense setting yourself up for failure.
Also, the goal should require you to actually DO something! As funny as it sounds, many people set goals and think that it will magically happen if they just wish or want it bad enough!
Progress and results rarely happen unless you take concerted action towards a specific and measureable goal! Adding action oriented to the previous goal may include:
- My goal is to lose 20 pounds of body fat and gain 10 pounds of muscle by following a nutrition program customized to my needs, and exercising 6 days per week for at least 30 minutes.
- 4 of those exercise sessions will be resistance training.
- 2 will be cardiovascular training.
This provides you a much clearer picture of what needs to be done to accomplish your goal. You may even decide to go further in taking action by including that you will speak with a nutritionist about your meal plan and a trainer about your resistance training program!
It’s been proven that people working with qualified professionals, see results faster, and maintain their improvements for MUCH longer that people trying to make changes on their own.
You’ve gone through the steps of setting a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Action-Oriented. Now you just have to ensure it is Realistic!
This is where the majority of people working on their own start to sabotage themselves. Just because a goal is Attainable and you want it REALLY bad, doesn’t mean it’s realistic under the current circumstances!
For example, if you’ve been trying for years to lose weight and never been able to lose more than 10 pounds, it’s unrealistic to set a goal of losing 70 pounds. Such a goal will only frustrate and de-motivate you, making it extremely difficult to make any progress.
If you would really like to lose that much weight and it’s attainable (assuming you actually have 70 pounds to lose), then you have to work towards it by setting smaller, more realistic goals until you have built momentum into the POSITIVE SPIRAL of success!
Additionally, on the exercise side, if you are not currently doing any physical activity each week, then it’s silly to think that you will be able to exercise 6 days per week and sustain it over the long-term. This is the prime reason why health clubs are packed in January and back to normal by the end of February!
Taking this point into consideration, there is tremendous value of setting, short, medium, and long-term goals and regularly evaluating them!
I work closely with clients to guide them through this process and make sure they stay on track to each of their goals…and beyond!
On last step in the SMART Goal Setting System and you are on your way! A time sensitive goal is important because it gives you a deadline and provides motivation to get things done!
- Lack of a time commitment is another common area where people go astray. Without a clear time goal, procrastination becomes a problem and things never end up getting done. People will use many excuses for not reaching their goals, but usually it comes down to “Life getting in the way!”
To make your goal time-sensitive, you just have to put a REALISTIC timeline on your progress. For example:
- My goal is to lose 20 pounds of body fat and gain 10 pounds of muscle by following a nutrition program customized to my needs, and exercising 5 days per week for at least 30 minutes.
- 3 of those exercise sessions will be resistance training.
- 2 will be cardiovascular training.
- Knowing that 1 pound per week of body fat loss is realistic for me and that it’s January 1st today, I will have accomplished my goal by May 22nd of this year.
- I will also evaluate each week at the same time and day to track my progress and make any necessary adjustments to stay on target.
- When I reach my goal on or before May 22nd, I will create a new set of more challenging goals to work towards.
Congratulations! You’ve just been through the SMART Goal Setting System and are now ready to begin creating your own SMART Goals in every area of your life!
There are a couple more important terms to know and another layer in the goals setting system to remember. First, I want to introduce you to PROCESS and OUTCOME goals. These are 2 types of goals that are both valid and interconnected, but important to distinguish between when approaching the goal setting process.
Second, it’s important to understand that you need to set short, medium, and long-term goals for yourself so that there is a continual path of motivation, objective, and accomplishment for you to follow. These goals should be revisited regularly to ensure you are on track and that any necessary adjustments are being made.
Because we can never see into the future, things can happen that will change some of our goals. The long-term outcome goals will be a little more stable, but how we decide to get there can change dramatically…and quickly!
Outcome goals are those goals related to a final objective. They tend to be medium to longer term in focus. For example, “I will run a marathon on August 20th, 2010 in a time of 3 hours 45 minutes” is a medium term outcome oriented goal.
Process goals on the other hand are extremely important and the task-related goals that you set for yourself to help you reach those longer term outcome oriented goals. With regard to the above example, a couple process goals that you may set could be…
- “Each week I will complete 2 long, slow runs of at least 90 minutes in duration. My heart rate will remain in Zone 2 for 75 minutes of this time. I will track the progress and results in my online software program for analysis.”
- To help with my recovery, I will perform my Trigger Point Therapy and Foam Roll exercises for at least 5 minutes each night, focusing on the ‘hot’ spots. This will be combined with a weekly scheduled and recurring 60 minute massage therapy appointment on Monday afternoons with Jane at Massage Inc.”
It’s easy to see the difference between process and outcome goals. Outcome goals tell you WHERE you are going and process goals tell you HOW to get there! Both are vitally important, but most people tend to neglect the process goals and focus on the end picture. This leads to a great vision, but no concept or accountability on how to actually get there.
You’ve probably realized that to accomplish any complex task, you will have an overlapping series of process and outcome goals. It is the tracking, planning, scheduling, and ACTION on these goals which truly determines your ultimate results!
Now that you understand the basics of SMART Goal Setting, here are two more important Steps that will virtually GUARANTEE SUCCESS!
STEP 3: IDENTIFY THE BARRIERS TO YOUR SUCCESS
You’ve built your SMART Goal List and during the “REALISTIC” section, you probably had to make some adjustments based on what you know of your personality, motivation, and current lifestyle. That’s great because it will help you tremendously in this section.
Your next important task is to closely evaluate all aspects of your life, look at past failures (remember, they are there for you to learn from), and brainstorm all of the possible obstacles that will stand in your way during your journey to success.
These barriers will be different for everyone, but I’ve listed a few common obstacles that I see with many of my private clients.
- Work schedule
- Long, inflexible work hours
- Long commute
- Family commitments
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of equipment or resources
- Limited knowledge
- On how or what to do to reach your goals
- Lack of support from family, friends
- Active sabotage from family, friends, coworkers or self
- Injuries or medical conditions
- Poor time management skills
- Not enough money
Once you’ve identified what the top 3 or 4 roadblocks will likely be, write them down on a sheet of paper (or contact us to invest in our Goal Setting Toolkit which walk you through each step and provides all the forms and templates you need for success). It’s important to be a specific as possible when writing down these barriers. The more clearly you define the obstacle, the easier it is to overcome the challenge.
For each obstacle, write down two or three actions you can take to minimize or sidestep the potential barrier
For example, if you feel that your lack of motivation and ability to stick to a plan will be issues, you may brainstorm the following options:
- Hire a trainer for regular accountability check-ups and training sessions.
- Engage the help of a supportive friend or family member to keep you accountable and on target to your goals.
- Brainstorm the things in your life that motivate you the most and link your success to those items through rewards, bonuses, or incentives.
This brainstorming is extremely important because you will definitely encounter obstacles on your journey and they can easily derail your progress unless you are prepared. By having your plan in place well in advance, you will be able to smooth out any “bumps in the road”!
STEP 4: FOLLOW THE PLAN!
It goes without saying that the greatest plan ever designed is useless if it isn’t followed! Over my 20 year career in health and fitness, I’ve seen this happen more times than I can count.
Many people used to complain to me about the lack of results they were seeing from the program and plan I put together for them. When I asked questions about their execution of the program, they would provide heaps of excuses about why they couldn’t do this part, that part, or had to change another part.
When I pointed out to them that they didn’t actually do the program I provided, they would often say, “But I got busy!”, or “It was too hard!” Yet, throughout the time of their program, they never once contacted me to discuss their challenges.
That’s why it’s important to take the initial goal setting process seriously. Challenge yourself, but keep the plan realistic because your success depends on being able to follow that plan exactly!
“Some people make things happen. Some people watch things happen. Some people wonder what happened.”
Best of luck with your progress! Feel free to contact me with any questions or if you need some additional help creating your SMART Goals.
Yours in Health and Success!
FRESH! Wellness Group