Goal Setting – Its Importance and a ‘How to Guide’
Goals. Goals are crucial when it comes to achieving anything in life, whether it be in your career, relationships, or, in our area of focus today, the body. If you’ve failed to set yourself serious and achievable goals, you will have denied yourself the most effective motivating factor in reaching your desired aims. Now, it’s important to remember that these goals must be tangible, they should be anything but vague. A goal that is nothing but a thought in the brain is of no use to anyone.
“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”
- Pablo Picasso
While the great Picasso might have been an artist, his drive, ambition, and talent for goal setting couldn’t be more relevant to a discussion of personal fitness. With these wise words in mind, in today’s article, we are going to discuss the art of goal setting, how to go about it, and most importantly of all, how to manifest these goals into reality.
Write your goals down
Before anything else, deciding on what you want and committing your desires to writing is the very first (and most crucial) act you must undertake in your quest to achieve your dream physique/figure (or, in fact, any other goal you wish to attain in your life). Be that as it may, an extraordinary amount of people simply either opt to ignore this step or, if they do consider it all, only give it cursory attention, never bothering to get specific by making a firm declaration of intent in writing.
Regrettably (but unsurprisingly), the result of this negligence is, of course, failure and disillusionment in your ability to achieve your goals. Such disillusionment can end up lasting for an extended period of time (months or, in some cases, years). This is a precarious path to be on, as this sense of failure can easily bleed over to other areas of your life, infecting your relationships, your career etc, resulting in a diminished sense of your overall confidence.
So how do we prevent this insidious cycle of ‘heartfelt action’ that is ultimately rewarded only by ‘dejection’? It’s quite simple. By doing the thing we should have done in the first place – i.e. taking the time to put pen to paper and write out a set of clearly defined written goals. In other words, to plan.
This terse aphorism says it all, “Poor planning leads to poor performance”. Action without planning is the number one cause of failure as far as most people’s quest for physical improvement is concerned. It’s akin to driving through a vast monotonous expanse of land in pitch dark, with no lights or instruments to guide you – you are highly unlikely to reach your destination in such circumstances!
Emotionally charged goals (which have been articulated in writing and inculcated into one’s thoughts) create energy and motivation. Such goals propel us out of bed in the morning and compel us into the gym. If we really want to achieve success in any given endeavour, then we must remain conscious of (and focused on) our goals every minute of every hour of every day.
The necessary means of reaching our desired circumstance
An analogy I frequently use to demonstrate the importance of goal setting (and other complimentary characteristics) is that of a bridge. Allow me to explain...
As you know, a bridge is a physical structure built to connect or span points and locations. Now, imagine your ‘current circumstance’ as residing on one end of a chasm (this might be your current physical health, financial health, social health or academic health etc.) and then imagine your ‘desired circumstance’ as residing on the opposite end of the same chasm.
Assume also that the chasm is of such depth and breadth that it may only be crossed by the use of a connecting ‘bridge’. Like all bridges, in this example, the ‘bridge’ we use to get from our ‘current circumstance’ to our ‘desired circumstance’ is made up of three equally crucial parts – the Superstructure (which supports traffic), the Substructure (which supports the superstructure) and the Foundations (which transfers the load from the substructure to the bearing strata).
Continuing the analogy - here Thoughts (particularly, positive mental thoughts/attitudes) play the role of our bridge’s foundations. Meanwhile, Goal Setting acts as our bridge’s substructure and, finally, Self-Discipline serves as our bridge’s superstructure.
Together, all three equally important characteristics form the means by which we cross from our ‘current circumstance’ to our ‘desired circumstance’. There is, of course, an awful lot to be said on those other great planks of personal achievement – positive mental thoughts/attitude and self-discipline – but we will return to such matters in subsequent posts.
How to set your fitness goals and reach them
Having established the importance of goal setting, let us now look at the mechanics of setting goals or, in other words, the ‘how to' of setting goals. As alluded to earlier, just plucking an arbitrary goal out of thin air, without any thought, or any mechanism for bringing it to fruition is an exercise in folly, and frankly, a waste of time. So, how can we set goals and at the same time ensure that we have provided ourselves with the best opportunity to accomplish them? Well, it seems to me that there are six steps on the path to success.
1. Identify your ‘Why?’: i.e. establish the underlying reason why you want to achieve your goal. Your why is the seat of your motivation and sense of purpose. If you don’t know why (i.e. the deep seated rationale and purpose fuelling your desire) then you are relying on emotions alone to sustain your motivation. As we all know, emotions are fickle and capricious. You can feel a thousand different ways about any given subject in one month. Therefore, the fluid nature of emotions/feelings make them poor foundation stones upon which to build the edifice of your motivation. On the other hand, identifying your highly personal why equips you with a highly personal, unconditional resolve which is impervious to the whims and caprices of circumstance and emotion. Hence…know your why.
2. Set SMART written goals: Friends, this next step couldn’t be more vital, and as such please allow me to break it down via a helpful acronym:
· Goals should be Specific – e.g. I want to lose 5 kgs of body weight. I want to gain 4 kgs of lean muscle.
· Goals should be Measurable – e.g. you could measure your progress with a body scanner/body composition machine weekly or fortnightly. For meaningful feedback, I would advise that you take readings on exactly the same day, at exactly the same time and under consistent conditions (clothed or lightly clothed or non-clothed etc).
· Goals should be Achievable – e.g. trying to gain x kg of lean muscle whilst also trying to increase your run time on the half marathon are conflicting goals and thus unattainable. Prioritise your goals, know what’s possible, and then put all your energy into achieving what is most important to you.
· Goals should be Realistic – e.g. trying to lose 14 kg (approximately 2 stone) in 10 days is not realistic. When setting your fitness goals, try to set realistic deadlines; for instance, to lose between 0.5 to 1 kg per week.
· Goals should be Time-based – e.g. I want to lose weight by Christmas. I want to lose weight in time for my wedding/graduation/upcoming 30th, 40th, 50th birthday etc. and so on.
3. Set long-term and short-term written goals: This will help in terms of motivation and pacing. Achieving those smaller, short-term goals will be the fuel and inspiration you need to help you reach those larger goals in the future. Moreover, just as little drops of water make an ocean, securing your long-term goals is built upon the stepping stones of your attained short-term goals.
4. Set Big / Stretch goals: Such goals can further inspire us to think big, beyond our current capabilities, encourage us in our journey, and to remember the big picture.
5. Reread and revisit your written goals daily: Please don’t write your goals down and bury them in a drawer somewhere. Constantly re-read your goals to remind yourself of what it is you need to accomplish so that you don’t let yourself fall away once your initial enthusiasm has waned. Let your written goals serve as your north star…your inviolable compass and guide.
6. Visualise achieving your goals and believe in your ability to achieve them: The power of visualisation is truly phenomenal and an endlessly helpful tool to have in your self-improvement toolbox. If you can picture it, you can believe it, and if you can believe it, you can make it happen. As we think so shall we become. Visualising your end goals and having faith (i.e. Positive Mental Attitude) in your ability to realise your goals, are both critical tools in the manifestation of any type of success in your journey through the theatre of life. Top tier sports persons (across all disciplines) and high performing professionals (across all fields of work) utilise and speak to the centrality of visualisation and positive mental attitude (i.e. faith).
The art of goal setting
There we have it, my friends, I hope the above introduction to the world of goal setting will prove useful on all of your own personal journeys of self-improvement. Fitness, of course, involves a lot of hard work and physical (as well as mental) determination, but none of that is of any use without not only the proper mindset but without first developing a plan or series of goals. This is where so many try and fail, where a myriad of individuals start off with grand ambitions, and sincere motivations, only to find themselves up a creek with no canoe (let alone a paddle), and then ultimately fall away, returning to their state of silent desperation and quiet self-loathing. For when we fail to meet our own personal commitments to ourselves, we rob ourselves of self-respect. I know this from the growing pains born from my own long and often times painful personal experience. Don’t allow yourself to fall into this trap. Set your goals, write them down, and become the person you want to be…the person you promised yourself to be. And remember, this methodology can be applied in many areas of life, so go ahead and apply it, and see where the art of goal setting, properly executed, can take you. I truly believe you will find the results to be life-changing.
Make sure to explore all of our materials here at The Odissean Experience, helping you to set goals and achieve a fully enriched body, mind, and soul.