As a fitness professional, time and again I meet intelligent people who know how to tackle challenges in every aspect of their lives but, somehow, fitness eludes them. They don’t realize the same methods they’ve used to be successful professionally can and should be applied to exercise.
Define the problem, then set the goal
If your boss gave you an assignment to write a report or land a new client or design a new structure, where would you begin? Would you just start writing, grab the phone and randomly call leads or just start ordering building materials? Probably not, you’d probably start by further defining the problem, digging deeper into what the desired end result is. Before you lift a single weight, start by doing the same thing, define the problem as accurately as possible. Why do you want to get in shape, what does that mean to you, and what exercises and lifestyle changes will put you in the best position to achieve your ideal?
Too many people set goals like “losing weight” or “toning up,” but these don’t necessarily mean anything on their own. Take a step back. It’s important to have a good idea of what you want and why, because the plan for losing weight is very different from the plan for adding muscle, and very different from the plan for doing both.
At the office, once you have defined the problem, if you are anything like me, you’d outline a plan. Take the same approach with fitness, break your mission down into smaller pieces so it’s easier to tackle and build positive momentum. Completing simpler tasks gives us the confidence to take on bigger ones. Soldiers make their beds first thing in the morning for this very reason; completing a task sets a satisfactory tone to begin the day.
Next we need to set process goals. Process goals are the kind we have total control over. They happen - or don’t - strictly because of our actions. They’re not the big picture or end goal, but if we accomplish them, they’ll make the finish line more attainable. Results goals, on the other hand, involve many variables that are beyond our control.
If you were writing a report, process goals might include: complete outline by Monday, complete research by Wednesday, etc. In the context of fat loss, a process goal might be to go to the gym three times a week, while a results goal would be to lose 10 pounds of fat. There are many factors that play into weight loss - far more than whether or not you hit the gym. The beauty of following process goals is if you set the right ones and keep achieving them, you’ll inevitably meet your results goal too.
Follow the criteria for meaningful, achievable goals
There’s another mental tool that applies here, and that’s setting SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely, and it refers to a criteria for goals that will be both easier to complete and lead to precisely the results you’re targeting.
Using our prior example of weight loss, a specific goal would be to lose 10 pounds of fat, rather than just 10 pounds. Of course the goal is measurable, since we can easily determine when we’ve achieved it. It’s attainable, provided we have 10 pounds of fat to lose. It’s relevant, in that it fits with our general desire to have better body composition. And it can be a timely goal if we constrain ourselves to realistic expectations (not tomorrow or 10 years from now).
By setting SMART goals, you’re making it easier to hold yourself accountable, but at the same time you aren’t setting yourself up for failure. The criteria keeps you from choosing a task that would be too difficult to achieve, and hinder continued progress if you failed it.
Attack your goals with realistic planning
Most people have a tendency to implement a very strict plan at the outset, like a new diet (when they’ve never dieted before) or two-hour daily workouts (when they’re new to working out).
This is a perfect recipe for failure. Making extremely aggressive changes makes it harder to follow through on your plan. And when you fail once, it becomes easy to start thinking, “well, if I haven’t achieved anything yet, I may as well give up.”
The failure, however, is one of planning rather than execution. People typically understand the importance of starting slow at something new, but when it comes to fitness, the tendency is to begin at full throttle. The trick is to adopt a plan built around incremental changes which also allows room for a little slippage.
With respect to dieting, instead of diving into an all-kale regimen (not that I’d ever recommend that), start by eating less sweets (but remember to quantify what “less” means). For exercise, instead of two hours a day, try two to four times per week this month. These kinds of plans allow growth and a clear direction for progression, which will encourage you to set more challenging goals.
Remember the bigger picture
Engineers know it’s all about the initial blueprints, lawyers know finding good case law is the first step in writing a great brief, and salesmen know if you don’t fully understand your product, you can’t sell it. Why should fitness be any different? As the old adage goes, “measure twice, cut once.” Define the problem, then think about how you can put yourself in the best position to solve it.
Most importantly, remember you are human. To quote John Lennon (who quoted a few people before him), “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Don’t be afraid to give yourself a bit of leeway so every setback isn’t seen as a failure and an excuse to give up. If your boss asked you when you could deliver a report by, odds are you’d build in an extra day if possible, because any good professional knows managing expectations is part of the job. Always underpromise and overdeliver.
by, Errol Ismail