Goal setting is the foundation of any successful endeavor. Ask the most successful person you know, and I can assure you they will tell you the key to their success was setting goals.
When I’m working with a client, goal setting is not the first thing I have them do. You read that right. I don’t want my clients setting goals in the traditional sense. Instead, I want them to establish the outcome they want to achieve. I know what you’re saying, “Michael, this is just semantics. Goals. Outcomes. It all means the same thing.” I would counter your skepticism with this thought: Goals and outcomes are not the same thing. At all. Allow me to break it down for you.
Let’s say you set a “goal” to lose 20 lbs. in 3 months. This is certainly an achievable goal. You start off strong, getting to the gym every day, eating the right amount and right kinds of foods, and then life happens. Work gets out of control. You get sick. The kids’ schedules are crushing your spirit. (I don’t remember taking dance lessons, horseback riding lessons, guitar lessons, Spanish level 2 instruction, and being on the school basketball team, all after school in the same week when I was that age.) And then add multiple children and their schedules are untenable.
Frustration sets in because you realize you’ve lost a few days to a week and being able to meet that deadline now seems impossible. It probably feels impossible to follow as life keeps happening. You feel you must start all over, but you’re going to wait until Monday, or the start of a new month, or your birthday coming up, or everybody’s favorite date to start a new health and fitness journey: January 1st. This could be months away from the current date. Do you really want to wait 2–11 months to begin?
This is where a shift in mindset can pay huge dividends. This is where establishing the outcome you desire, then establishing the habits you need to develop to achieve them, can benefit you. What is another word for habits? You’re so smart! That’s right. GOALS!
I coach my clients to establish the habits/goals they need to achieve on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis to achieve the health and fitness outcome they want. If the outcome is to lose 20 lbs. in 3 months, the goals they must achieve on a regular basis might be:
- Work out 6 days per week
- Meal plan and prep on Sundays
- Average 7 hours of sleep per night
- Track and log nutrition
- Consume plenty of water
Some might think I’m suggesting one shouldn’t set a deadline for when they want to achieve a health and fitness outcome. Again, I would disagree. Setting a deadline is beneficial; however, unless you’re competing in a physique contest or some other type of athletic event that has a specific date attached to it (such as competition day), it’s not absolutely necessary.
Stay with me here. Go back to the example I gave before about feeling as though you must start the whole process over when life happens and you fall off track. In my 20+ year career, I have seen so many people who put so much pressure on themselves that they ended up self-sabotaging their progress and lost all hope that they could ever achieve their health and fitness goals.
Again, if you’re a physique competitor or athlete competing in specific events, this doesn’t apply to you. If you are a working mom with children and the health and fitness outcome you desire is to regain your pre-pregnancy body, I’m talking to you. Establish the health and fitness outcome you want, then establish the habits/goals necessary for you to achieve that desired outcome. Achieve those habits/goals consistently and before you know it, you’ve achieved your desired outcome. Chances are, you still achieved your health and fitness outcome around that 3-month mark (or close to it), but at least you enjoyed the process.
A simple shift in your mindset is what we’re talking about here. Instead of looking at your health and fitness approach as a program that can start and stop and start again, look at it as a lifestyle. If you treat your health and fitness journey like you treat brushing your teeth—something you do every day as a part of your healthy lifestyle—there is no health and fitness outcome you can’t achieve.