How to Set A Goal You Won’t Hate
Have you ever been inspired by a fresh new year, a milestone birthday, or one of life’s wake up calls and decided to make a big change….only to end up with a goal that made you miserable?
Often we make our goals with the best of intentions, especially fitness-related ones. Maybe you want to heal injuries, lose body fat, or simply fall in love with training again. Inspired and motivated, you take on an impressive goal – but getting it to stick is the tricky part. Read on for 5 ways to make sure your fitness goals will actually take you where you want to go.
Brad is 37 and loves being a family man for his wife and two daughters. He also just got a promotion – sweet. But all is not well in Brad land. His promotion came with a hefty dose of stress and longer hours, and on top of that, his dad became seriously ill over the past few months.
While juggling these different priorities, Brad’s fitness took a heavy hit. He used to train for two hours a day but barely has thirty minutes these days. Forget the time, there is no energy to give! Brad had been an avid fitness enthusiast his entire life. Now he’s starting to feel random aches and pains that are becoming annoyances in his day to day.
Knowing he needs to reconnect with his fitness, Brad decides that he wants to run a half marathon. This is awesome!! He decides that he is going to sign up for a competition and figure out a way to train 60-90mins in the morning before his family is awake.
He is feeling like The Rock right now.
But hold up: is a half marathon the best goal for Brad right now given his emotional, physical, and mental stress?
Secret #1 – See it, feel it, describe it.
Quite often, we can end up chasing goals or priorities that aren’t really that important to us just because of what others are doing or what we think we should do.
The problem is that Brad actually wants to use his fitness as a way to have more energy, feel mentally sharp, and be able to invest that energy to the job and family he loves. He also wants to be pain-free because he doesn’t like feeling 60 years older than he is.
Now, if that’s the case, then why did he choose a marathon? In reality, this is going to do a variety of things to throw him off. He won’t know what to do after the marathon is over. He was never a runner. He actually doesn’t enjoy it that much. All that running without proper preparation clearly won’t help him get pain-free.
The style of training needed to run a marathon doesn’t guarantee Brad more energy. In fact, he may have to sacrifice some focus elsewhere. Or he won’t recover with all the added stress. Then we’re off the boat again – whether that is by mid February or after the marathon.
How did we arrive at some of these answers? Use these questions to get in touch with your goal even if you think you already know:
- If you get what you want, how will you know?
- What specific things will be different?
- Once you get what you want, how specifically will you feel?
- What specifically will you be doing or able to do?
Secret #2 – Start smaller than you want to.
This is SO key in regards to helping you stay on track mentally. Brad went with a half marathon, but he may have achieved the same feelings (emotionally) if he decided to jog for 15-30min in the morning, 3 times a week.
Try not to let your previous successes get in the way of choosing what it right for you at THIS moment. Brad used to train 6 days a week for a couple hours per day.
He doesn’t have that kind of time or energy to dedicate anymore. Nor does he need to in order to stimulate some of the things we mentioned above. Think about that for a second. To someone like Brad, this could be a big hit to the ego. “You want me to work out ONLY 3x a week?! That won’t do anything.”
The point is to start with something that you feel like you can achieve at least 90% of the time. This is what allows you to rack up wins mentally.
We know that consistency is the name of the game. So focusing on something like drinking 12 oz of water first thing upon waking is better than saying I’m gonna get in 120 oz per day, because that’s technically what my body needs.
The trick is that if you focus on just the habit of drinking water first thing in the morning, it will subconsciously inch you towards the 120 oz anyways. You’ll be more likely to do something above and beyond. But the beautiful thing is that it’s without the pressure.
This is so important because when the bar is set too high and you fail to meet it consistently, it can trigger feelings of guilt, shame, and overwhelm. This is not productive to helping you stay on track. In fact, you’re more likely to just avoid the goal altogether.
Anything above and beyond can be thought of as bonus points. It’s a little hack for your brain, but it works.
Secret #3 – Use Two Week Blocks
This is a wonderful way to build consistency with any of the habits or behaviors that you are working on in your fitness. As we mentioned, choosing something that you can do 90% of the time is important.
At the end of a week, you might feel like you’re ready for more. So use that opportunity to show yourself you can hang in there for another seven days.
Fourteen days is a great period of time for you to get to the point where you can tell, “Okay I got this.”
After two weeks, you can add another layer to build on top of what you have created. As you are focusing on this new addition, you’ll continue to maintain what you’ve done previously. Brad is now consistent with working out 3x / week. Now let’s add the 12oz of water in the morning to the mix.
After about three months, you may have six behaviors/habits that are feeling ingrained in your system. Keep in mind that 2 weeks is not the only increment of time you have to use. If you find yourself unable to hit that 90% mark, then you may want to spend another week or two ingraining that habit before moving on. It may also indicate that you’d be better off starting even smaller.
Secret #4 – Don’t break the chain.
One of my favorite pieces of advice I’ve heard from Jerry Seinfeld is in regards to writing. But it can be applied to almost anything. He had a calendar in his room with a bunch of “X”’s on it. Other comics would ask him what it was. He said, “Every day that I write for 2 hours or more, I mark an X on the calendar.”
“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.
I prefer using a physical calendar for this technique. There is something about physically marking it up every day that gives me a sense of fulfillment. Now, you’re probably limited to one or two core priorities that you can use this technique for on the physical calendar. You may want to spend some time figuring out what those are for you. Ask yourself, “What are the 20% of things I can do that are responsible for 80% of my results?” Start there.
If you want to use technology for this instead, there is a wonderful app out there called Habit List. It has the exact same idea as marking these “X”’s, but you can have multiple habits in there that you are focusing on. This would be great as you are building upon your behaviors and habits like we talked about in Secret #3. You can see the days you missed, your longest running streak, and a variety of other fancy things.
Something I’ve found with either of these approaches is how easy it can be to forget. Especially if it’s an app. If and when I stop using these techniques, chances are I’m falling off the boat and avoiding the accountability I set out for myself. Go into this with commitment to following through on a daily basis. This is where Secret #2 is so vital.
Secret #5 – Consider Your Blind Spots
What are you not taking into account? If you have a goal to start meal prepping, you may acknowledge that you’re going to spend 2-4 hours on Sunday, for example. What is required to even make that happen? Well, you have to get groceries, which takes some time and energy. You have to make sure your dishes are clean and ready to roll. You want an idea of what you’ll be making.
There are a bunch of different components that we may forget about or not realize until we actually get started. This is okay. As you’re en route to crushing these goals, begin to course correct as needed.
This will help you feel more prepared. It can also give you a sense of relief because your 4 hour prep on Sunday won’t have to turn into 6 hours with all the additional activities. You can figure out when you want to do your dishes, get your groceries, decide on your meals, etc.
Now Let’s Get Rolling
Which one of these secrets resonated with you the most? Let’s hone in on that to get started. There will inevitably be some bumps along the way. But if you can incorporate some of these techniques into your fitness journey, you will be more likely to see long term change.
Of course, this is where having a coach is so valuable. With individualized coaching, we focus on mapping out these types of progressions for you in a way that will allow you to detach from all the moving parts and just focus on execution. When life gets in the way, which it almost always will, having a coach to support you and adjust your approach can be a game changer.
Click here to request a free consultation to learn more about how customized coaching can work for you.