Easy to conceive, hard to achieve
Whether you want to finally reveal your six-pack or take your athleticism to the next level, you began your training with a goal. Achieving it motivated you and provided the ‘fuel for your fire’. But unless you’re careful that fire will die out. You’ll get distracted, your goals will get pushed to the back of your mind and your training and eating will become less-than-optimal.
Goals are the reason you’re able to push yourself through the toughest training sessions and make sacrifices, day in and day out. If you don’t take the time to delve a bit deeper into the goal setting process, thinking things through properly, then you’re selling yourself short. Use these steps to master goal setting and allow your fire to rage until you achieve what you set out to do.
Step 1 – Set a SMART goal
Using the SMART principle of goal setting is highly effective because it helps you create clearly defined tangible goals. SMART stands for:
- S – Specific
- M – Measurable
- A – Attainable
- R – Realistic
- T – Timely
Firstly goals should be very specific. Instead of aiming to ‘lose weight’ or ‘get leaner’ you need to be more specific, like “get to 12% body fat”. It’s a real number that will give you a final destination, not some vague idea of what you want to achieve. You should also be careful not to set too many ‘big’ goals at once. Unless you’ve just started your training journey chasing more than one goal at a time will prove fruitless. Once your initial gains plateau you’ll need to focus on one main goal and dedicate everything to it. Once you achieve it then you can move on. This is particularly relevant when it comes to adding muscle or getting really lean. Guys can often get caught in the grey area of wanting to add muscle and trying to get lean at the same time. It’s best to get lean first, then slowly add muscle while staying lean, in my opinion.
Similarly, your goal should be measurable. Prescribing a numerical value is a good way to do this as it allows you to track progress and determine if what you’re doing is working. Instead of aiming to improve your lower body strength a better goal would be “add 50kg to my squat one-rep max”.
Your goals should also be attainable and realistic. It’s great to set challenging goals, but setting unrealistic goals will only end in failure. Advice from an experienced fitness professional always provides clarity when it comes to what’s realistic. Remember, more often than not it’s the time frame that needs to be adjusted. For instance, losing 0,25-0,5% or 0,5-1kg of fat per week is a realistic fat loss goals, while dropping 20kg in a month is not. Muscle gain and strength goals are a bit more specific to the individual.
Finally, your goal should be time-specific. Have a start and end date that gives you a time frame. Over the years of coaching my clients I’ve realised just how important a ‘D-day’ is. The clients with a set date, whether it be a wedding or an EFC fight, always achieve the best results and often surpass their goals. If your goal is physique-related then enter a body transformation challenge. If it’s performance-based then sign up and pay for an event like a powerlifting competition, running race or a triathlon.
Cool so you’ve got your SMART goal, now write it down, stick it on your fridge, your wall or even your mirror. Make it real and tangible putting it somewhere that you’ll see it daily.
Renowned strength coach Dan John believes “the goal is to keep the goal the goal”. This simple statement holds a lot of value and once you’ve set your goal you need to keep it in the centre of your focus. The next few steps will help you keep the goal the goal and ensure the journey to reaching it is a lot smoother.
Step 2 Set coinciding behavioral goals
You now have your big outcome-based goal, the final destination. To get there you need to determine what behaviours are necessary along the way and set goals according to them. If your goal is to drop below 10% body fat then behavioral goals essential to this could be:
- I will perform 5 hard training sessions per week
- I will drink 4 liters of water per day and zero calorie containing beverages
- I will avoid all high glycemic and sugary carbs, alcohol and other ‘cheat foods’.
- I will not skip meals
You can control your behaviors, making goals out of them helps you focus on the actual actions that will determine if you achieve your ‘big’ goal.
Step 3 Make failure costly
Often we don’t reach our goals because the cost of failure isn’t big enough. Relying on our own discipline and free will alone isn’t wise. It’s easy to let yourself down and make excuses for why you didn’t achieve a goal when you’re the only one who knows about it. The best way to make failure costly is to make yourself accountable to others. Tell as many people as possible about your goal, tell them in detail. Ask the people closest to you to hold you accountable to it. Nowadays you can even use Facebook to make yourself accountable to hundreds of people. If you walk around telling people you are going to have a six-pack by December you won’t wanna look like a fool when D-day arrives and you’re still sporting the ‘full keg’.