What, exactly, are your fitness goals?
Any effort to “get in shape” starts with this question.
It seems like an easy question to answer.
Just rattle off how many pounds you want to lose, what pant size you want to wear, how much weight you want to deadlift, or the date you need to look photo-ready… and you’re on your way.
Of course, that’s how most people set their fitness goals. But are they doing it right?
When you set your goals up properly, you have a simple, elegant, action-inspiring blueprint. You know exactly how you’re going to build the skills you need to get the body you want.
Proper goal setting is a plan for getting things done. When you do goals right, you feel ready, willing, and able to make your dream happen.
When you don’t know how to set goals, you get lost. Confused. Overwhelmed. Crushed by “shoulds”. Distracted by wondering and worrying, or by irrelevant details. If you succeed with poor or unclear goals, it’s probably by accident.
Mastering the skill of goal setting is powerful.
You need a formula that can be applied to any desired outcome — from losing weight, to getting off cholesterol meds, to feeling good about where you are in life.
Today, I will outline one of three formulas for goal setting. These are exact strategies that I learned while becoming a Precision Nutrition Level 2 coach, and the same formula I use with Fit-2-The-Core members and thousands of Precision nutrition clients s well with great success.
There are three important ways to instantly transform “bad” fitness goals into “good” ones and today I’m going to share the first one with you.
Step 1: Turn “outcome goals” into “behavior goals”.
Generally, when someone asks about their fitness goals, most people start with the outcome(s) they want:
· I want to lose 20 pounds.
· I want that thin-skinned, ripped look.
· I want to binge less often.
· I want to deadlift double my bodyweight.
Outcome goals describe how we want things to be at the end of the process.
There’s nothing wrong wanting things. Or talking about what you want. Or starting with the end in mind.
But we can’t stop there.
Wanting things isn’t enough. Even if you really, really, really want them.
Because: We often can’t control outcomes.
Outcomes are affected by environmental things. Like:
· Your job gets crazy busy.
· Your kid gets sick.
· Your gym closes for renovations.
· Your mom with dementia needs help.
· You have exams at school.
And they’re influenced by physical things. Like:
· Your hormones get out of whack.
· You have a chronic illness. (Or even just a tough bout with the flu.)
· You’re stressed.
· You’re traveling a lot.
· You’re getting older.
· You’re having problems sleeping.
· You sprained your ankle or your arthritic knee is doing its thing again.
You get the idea.
You can’t make your body do what you want it to. (And neither can your coaches.)
But you can control what you do.
That’s why behavior goals are so important: They focus on the things we do have control over.
Behavior goals represent your commitment to practice a particular set of actions or tasks every day, as consistently and regularly as possible.
Here’s a practical example.
Client:“I want a flat stomach.”
“Let’s write that down as the outcome you want.
“Now let’s think about all the little steps we can take to move you toward that outcome, and which ones should come first.
“In my experience, here’s a step that makes a huge difference, and it’s a great place to start.
“It’s very simple but incredibly effective: Eating slowly.
“I know it doesn’t seem to relate to ‘flat stomach’ right away.
“But in fact, eating slowly helps you pay more attention to what you’re eating and how. That means over time, you make better food choices easily and effortlessly.
“Eating slowly helps you eat a bit less, but still feel satisfied. It helps decrease bloating because now you’re chewing and digesting your food better, which is another plus for Project Flat Stomach.
“Would you be willing to try this first step of eating slowly, and also to track whether you practice this?”
Since eating slowly helps folks eat less, and eating less most often leads to fat loss (not to mention the benefits of better food choices and better digestion), this approach helps turn an outcome (uncontrollable) into a behavior (controllable).
Here are a few other examples of how we can turn outcome goals into behavior goals.
Notice how both outcome and behavior goals are trackable. However, behavior goals are usually more effective because they give you something to do (and track) each day.
So how can you set powerful behavior goals today?
1. Write down one outcome you want. Don’t overthink it. Just name the desire you want most right now.
2. Write down some of the skills you think you’ll need to get that outcome. If you’re just starting out, focus on foundational skills. What are the basics that make everything else possible? (For instance, if you want to manage your time, you need to learn to use a calendar.)
3. Related to each skill, write down a behavior or two you can do today that’ll help build those skills. This can be really easy, like walking through the gym doors or even packing your gym bag for tomorrow morning.
4. Do the behavior today, and tomorrow, and so on. And, keep in mind, if you don’t follow through on a given day, don’t let it derail you. Each day is a clean slate.