Every year people feel the need to start getting in shape. They make all these oversized goals that they usually end up never achieving. The main problem is that they make goals that are too big. They rely too much on their motivation to get them through the entire year (unrealistic), and can’t figure out why they never hit their goals by the time the next year rolls around.
I’ve had countless clients, family and friends all come to me with some version of the above. It’s hard to watch because I want to help them, but it’s hard to help someone with unrealistic expectations. So with that said, I want to help give people a realistic guideline so they can keep themselves in check throughout the year.
Let’s start with the most obvious. Motivation is super easy after you see yourself looking schlubby in the mirror, and watched a fitness influencer on Instagram give an awesome inspiring speech on how you can become a better you. Fantastic. But that’ll only carry you for so long. Anyone can stay motivated when things are going great. But over the course of 3 months to a year (which by the way is the length of time it takes most people to hit their fitness goals depending on the goal), let’s be realistic – you WILL lose motivation. Your schedule is going to be too busy one week, you’re kids are going to interfere, you’ll oversleep, miss a meal, overeat at a party, you name it. It’s just too much time that has to go by for something to NOT go wrong.
Action: So instead of living in denial, how about we just prepare for the worst case scenario? Create weekly and monthly goals that you know, at LEAST 90% of the time, you’ll be able to get it done. Ask yourself – “Can I keep doing this when I have zero motivation?” Simplify it down enough until you hit a point where your goal matches the answer to that question.
We don’t have a discipline problem. We have a willpower problem. Focus on honing down the discipline. The decent program followed consistently is always better than the perfect problem rarely followed.
2. Goal Setting
Set a goal too high and you risk not achieving it. If you don’t achieve it, it won’t matter what you tell yourself because psychologically you’ll register it as a fail. Follow the mind game more than the logic game. We are emotional creatures and emotion is going to trump logic every time. After all, we all KNOW we need to eat vegetables or not eat processed junk yet why do we still do it? Emotional attachment.
Action: Set the easiest goal you can adhere to. Realize you can always overachieve and do more if you are in the mood, but at the very least keep a minimum realistic standard.
Wrong way – Let’s say I’ve never went to the gym before. This year I tell myself I’m going to go 5 days a week. Week 1, I go 5 times. Week 2, I got a little busy so I only got there 3 times. Week 3, I lost motivation and only went once. Week 4, I go 5 times again but im frustrated because my weight didn’t go down and I blame my lack of showing up all 5 times as planned the last two weeks.
The problem with this is because you set the goal so high, again, psychologically you failed to hit what you planned in your mind, so you wrote it off as a failure (even though hey, you went from zero times a week to even GETTING to the gym).
Right way – same example as above, except instead of 5 times, I set my goal for going once a week. Using the same result in attendance as above you’ll finish the month happy and feeling accomplished. How is that possible? Because even though you went to the gym the same amount each week your goal was more realistic. In this scenario you went to the gym at least one time a week which was your goal (most weeks you actually went above and beyond your goal by a lot!) so again PSYCHOLOGICALLY, that came off as a win to you.
3. Behavior Based Outcomes
Everyone makes goals based on the superficial. I want to see my abs, I want to look tone, I want big biceps, etc. But what happens when you finally reach those goals? You no longer have anything to shoot for and you might even fall off the wagon. Behavior based goals allow you to focus on the bigger picture which will keep you focused for the long run. A study showed that 80% of the people who make weight loss goals gain all the weight back and then some after they lose it. Which to me, proves you can overachieve as much as you want, but if it isn’t sustainable, you’re going to bounce back to your original weight and have wasted that entire miserable time restricting. Behaviors goals, even though the changes come slower, will ultimately last longer.
Action: Workout because you love yourself not because your hate yourself.
Examples of behavior based goals-
Another thing I’ve found has helped me out is attaching a new behavior to an existing habit. An easy example is when I wanted to meditate more, I decided every time after my lifting session to go find a quiet space and set the timer for 10 minutes to calm my mind down from the workout. By attaching something new and difficult for me to a habit I already naturally do everyday, I now naturally meditate as if I’d been doing it all along.
One last thing to note. Health and fitness goals don’t have to require a gym. Find activities you might enjoy to get you moving. Watch a lot of UFC? Go try a jujitsu class. Go for a run, play tennis with your friends. We’re humans. Humans don’t do things that they hate. Bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts have learned to love the process. That goes for anything in life. You need to enjoy the process more than reaching the goal.