In part I of this series I gave an overview of two key components of a successful resolution, motivation and planning. In part II I discussed different types of motivation, why proper motivation is crucial for a resolution, why you should focus on the process rather than the finish line, and I gave you a task to explore the reasons why you want to achieve your goal. (If you haven’t done the drill then I suggest you stop right now and either do it or give up. I’m speaking honestly with you.) Now I’m going to dig deeper into the planning process. We’re going to discuss goals. In order to get you from where you are to where you want to be you will need a detailed roadmap, a step-by-step process to move you forward.
SMART goal setting
At the end of Part II of this series, I asked you to write down your “whys” or why your resolution is important. I wanted you to develop emotional buy-in and motivation for working toward your goals. Now I want you to get specific with exactly what you want to achieve. Weight loss? Muscle mass? Strength? Mobility? More energy? Some combination thereof? You need to be very specific so that your time and hard work will deliver you directly toward your goal. Otherwise you may do the wrong kind of work and never approach your goal. As with figuring out your “whys,” this is a brain exercise. You need to think. You need to connect to your goal on several levels. You may be familiar with the SMART goal setting concept. It works very well for setting and planning for fitness goals.
To make your plan specific to your needs and wants, you need to be very clear on how you define success. What does a successful resolution look like to you? This information will dictate such details as exercise selection, dietary modifications, exercise frequency, and rest habits.
- You want to be “in-shape.” Define in-shape. What does that term mean to you? A different physique? What does that look like? More muscle? Less fat?
- You want to “feel better.” What does that mean? How do you know you don’t feel well right now? Describe what feeling better will feel like.
- You want to “be stronger.” How do you know you’re weak? What tells you that you’re not strong? What tasks are you unable to perform due to weakness?
- You want “better balance.” What tells you you have poor balance? What tasks and activities would you like to perform as a result of having better balance?
- You want to be “more flexible.” Why? How do you know you’re not flexible? Give a specific example of how your lack of flexibility limits you.
- “I want to run a 10k this year.” That’s specific.
Once you’ve described your resolution in specific terms, we can determine how to measure progress. You need to keep track of certain metrics to make certain that what you’re doing is working and that you’re progressing toward your goals. Tracking progress will do a lot for your motivation. If you’re not seeing progress then your plan needs adjustment. If you’re not assessing then you’re guessing.
- Lbs. lost or gained
- inches lost or gained
- body fat % up or down
- amount of weight lifted
- exercise proficiency (perform a good pushup, squat, or kettlebell swing for example)
- exercise frequency
- ability to perform a task (climb stairs, run a given distance, work in the yard, or pick up a child for instance)
Is your goal realistic to your skill level, experience, and ability? It’s important to shoot for a goal that’s appropriately challenging. People often aim too high and set an unrealistically difficult goal. Failure then kills motivation. It’s also possible to pick a goal that’s too conservative. It’s not a huge problem but it may not provide much motivation to you and if you reach your goal then you won’t get the sense of achievement that you want. A trainer or a coach can help you set a proper goal.
- Overly aggressive goals:
- Losing more than 2 lbs. per week.
- Adding more than 1-2 lbs. of muscle per month
- You’re never completed a triathlon but you want to race an Ironman.
- You don’t hike or climb mountains and you want to scale Mt. Everest.
- You currently don’t exercise and you’re not a morning person but as part of your weight-loss goal, you resolve to work out every morning before work.
- You hate to run but you decide to lose weight through running many miles.
- You decide to lose weight by eliminating your favorite foods. Now you’ve set yourself up for an arduous struggle that you will lose and then you’ll feel guilty. Better to reduce certain foods, not eliminate them.
- Making the Olympic team in a sport you don’t play or just started to play.
- Become a pro athlete at any sport. (If you have the potential to be a pro then you’re already competing at a very high level, you’re a microscopic fraction of the population, and you already have excellent coaching.)
Is your resolution relevant to your values? Do you have a strong emotional connection to your resolution? Are you making this resolution of your own free-will or is someone pressuring you? Is now the right time in your life to pursue your resolution or are there significant obstacles to reaching your goal? A strong connection of your resolution to your values and emotions is immensely important in developing and maintaining your motivation. You must be honest with yourself here.
Your goal should be set within a timeframe. A ticking clock will help ensure that you actually do the work necessary to achieve your goal. Checking the measurable metrics of your goal in a timely fashion will ensure that you’re on track to reach your goal.
“I want to lose weight,” is not only non-specific but it’s also an open-ended in terms of time. Open-ended goals can be done anytime, which means they can be done later, which means they’ll never be achieved. In contrast, “I want to lose 20 lbs. in 15 weeks,” puts your goal in a definite, attainable timeframe. Now it’s far more likely that you’ll get to work.
Your first homework assignment was to flesh out and determine your reasons why you want to achieve your resolution. Now I want you to apply the SMART concept to your resolution. BTW, you should do these assignment away from distractions. Get away from the phone, the TV, and other people who need your time. Find some time and a location where you can think clearly. Bonus points go to you if you put pen to paper instead of pecking on a laptop.
If you’re confused by some of this then now is an excellent time to contact me or another certified fitness professional and we can sit down and figure this out together. Stuff like this is why I have a job! I’d love to help you get off on the right foot and see measurable success.
In the next installment of this series, we’ll continue to plan by discussing objectives. Objectives are a little different from goals. Objectives are measurable steps that lead to the goal. They’re a vital consideration for succeeding in your resolution.