Why Most Goal Setting Is Crap – And Yours Doesn’t Have To Be

goal setting 101 - how to accomplish your goalsI wanted to take a second to talk about goals.  It’s January, this is a fitness blog, I own a training facility, and that means that I spend a lot of time talking about goals.  Time for some Goal Setting 101.  Actually, the real issue is that I have to spend so much time talking about goals.  Having goals is awesome.  I recommend to all my clients that we help set some goals.  However, too many people spend way too much time talking about their goals and not enough time conquering them.

Why’s that?  Is it because you’re lazy?  Probably not.  Are you too much of a pussy to get what you want?  Honestly, despite what the hardcore talking heads out there will tell you, that’s probably not it, either.  Usually the reason that people fail in their goals is because they don’t have any clarity on what those goals are in the first place.  There’s lots of people who say that they “have goals”, but never really articulate what those goals are. As a result, they never really achieve them.

For example, here are a couple of things I hear a lot:

I just want to feel good in my clothes

and

I just want to be healthy

Now, both of these things are great and I support them… but they’re not really goals. They’re desires and wishes. They are also going to be very hard to accomplish in any meaningful way.

Want to feel good in your clothes? Buy bigger clothes or nicer clothes, depending on what “feeling good” means.  Check that shit off your list, because you’re done.

Agent Smith, looking sharp.

Want to be healthy? Well, health is defined as the absence of disease, so as long as you are in that category then check that box, too. If you’re not, go get some treatment and you’ll be there. If you’d rather go by the popular definition of being “healthy” then you’d realize that one of the most commonly pointed-to health problems is that people don’t drink enough water. Well, here’s a glass, drink it down.  Now you’re “healthy”.

That’s not what you meant, is it?

Of course it isn’t, but if you don’t specify the goal, then it’s hard to get there. If you imagine going to San Francisco, but I just tell you simply to “head West”, then chances of you seeing the Golden Gate are not awesome.

However, if you can nail down a more specific goal, San Fran, in this case, then even if you don’t have the exact map it’s still going to be easier to get there than simply heading West until you get wet.

So here’s how I break things down for my clients:

1.  Think of 1-3 long-term goals. Really flesh them out in your head. Come up with a target, even if it’s one that you end up revising later.  This can be your big goal and it can be a bit audacious.

2.  Once you have that target, break it down to a smaller group of goals that are headed in that direction for the next four weeks.  You could go further and break it down to the week or the day.  One of the most best recent example of this in my life has been taking the Precision Nutrition course (awesome, by the way).  When I first purchased the course they sent me a big ass textbook and a workbook.  They were both great, but with everything else going on in my life I had a hard time dedicating the time to it and crushing through that book was daunting.

After a while they introduced a new aspect of their teaching model where they broke every chapter down to several basic tasks (read the chapter, watch this video, read this article, etc).  Each task was basically on a little checklist.  I found that I could justify the time to do one task at a time to myself, and as a reward got to check it off.  After a while I got on a roll and ended up finishing the course pretty quickly, but it was that one little, easily-achievable goal at a time that got my momentum going.  Do the same thing with your goal, whatever that may be.

3.  Understand that your path may change, even if the goal doesn’t.  Chances are you might not know every single step of your big goal.  If your goal is a concrete vision of world peace (to go with your Miss America trophy), then you probably don’t have every little step mapped out.  You do have a concrete vision and an awareness of your current surroundings, though.  So you can map your next steps to help create peace in your local community.  Once that’s achieved, you can widen the circle.

4.  Focus on enjoying your process and moving it further down the line rather than the end result.  The Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad Gita says “not to worry or desire for the result but perform one’s Karma“, which basically beats that point home.  The end result is sometimes out of your control, but what you CAN control is moving yourself down the line towards that goal.

There’s more to goal setting than just desiring something.  Like the old line says:  “A goal without a plan is just a wish“.  Make this the year you actually crush your goals, not just let them blow away!

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