I've got to be honest, when I first started training I never had a clue about goal setting, mindset or anything of that nature. From my limited perspective at the time, I saw a big round belly (man boobs included), and I wanted them gone. To me it was a physical problem that required a physical solution. So I spent a long time learning about nutrition, training and so forth and put them into action.
In theory this was a sound approach. I had a problem > I looked for solutions > I put the solutions into practice. Although to my surprise, I found out that I'm not an entirely perfect and logical entity. I had things like emotions, limiting beliefs, social influences, self sabotaging triggers and miscellaneous psychological baggage to contend with first.
So after yet another failed body transform attempt, I came across a book by Tom Venuto. I cover this in My Story < Read Here >
Basically, Tom introduced me to a myriad of concepts including scientific goal setting as he describes it, I assume to differentiate from the metaphysical nonsense out there. Beforehand, I wouldn't have even glanced at this type of info, I was busy looking for the “best” training and diet plans. However, something clicked inside me. I had been doing the same things over and over again and was getting nowhere. I started a method > got so far > self-sabotaged > ended up exactly where I started > rinse and repeat. Perhaps if I wanted different results, I'd have to do things differently!?
In hindsight this is obvious, but then again isn't everything? At the time I was stuck in an unconscious haze, I was unaware of WHY I kept sabotaging my efforts. At the time, I assumed it was a lack of willpower, motivation or perhaps I'd hit my genetic limits… maybe I was destined to be obese. I was banging my head against a brick wall, and instead of climbing the wall, I found new spots on the same wall in which to bang my head!
What Do I Want?
Clarity is power, and after being introduced to goal setting, I realised that vague wishy-washy goals such as “I want to lose weight” simply won't cut it.
My first step was to write down exactly what I wanted, even though I wasn't 100% sure on how to make a reality yet, that bit came later.
I also had to get myself out the mindset of chasing “big goals”. And by big goals, I mean the big goals by the subjective and ever-changing standards of society. In other words, I had to focus on what I truly wanted, as opposed to the outward appearance of success to others.
I've found that striving to achieve a goal for anybody but yourself leaves your happiness at the mercy of opinion. This was about figuring out what I wanted for me, for what I believed would bring me the greatest fulfilment.
My goal was challenging but I was determined to make it a reality, I wasn't going to settle for what I limited myself into believing I could get at the time. As I progressed, raising my standards and increasing the belief in myself, those seemingly insurmountable goals became smaller and smaller. I guess mountains always look bigger from the bottom!
If you've just realised that your current goal sounds a lot like “I want to lose weight” or something equally as vague.
- Take out a pen and paper or open up a notepad file.
- At the top put WHAT DO I WANT?
- Then answer that question.
BEFORE STARTING, however, take a read through the points below.
- If you want to look like a fitness model, that’s your goal. Don’t try and convince yourself that you don’t want the physique of a fitness model just because you don’t think it’s achievable. Conversely, don’t strive for the body of a fitness model if you actually want a physique like Arnold Schwarzenegger. You may only want to “drop a few inches”, which is fine so long as that’s genuinely what you want and not a limit you’ve placed on yourself.
- Let go of your inhibitions. Let go of the voice telling you that you’d never be able to get what you TRULY want. Ignore the voices that you believe to be what others may say, do or think about you, it’s all just negative programming in your mind. If you let these voices drown out your own, you will most likely stay exactly where you are indefinitely.
- Never shrink your goals to match the small mindedness of others. People are always going to tell you their opinions… opinions are NOT FACTS (that includes mine), trust in your own instincts and listen to yourself. Even if you set massively ambitious goals with the odds stacked against you; would you rather live a mediocre life with others dictating your limits, or would you like to find out if you even have limits?
- Imagine you’ve stumbled on a genie in a lamp, you’ve got 3 wishes… the genie will make it happen for you with no effort on your behalf – WHAT DO YOU WANT?
Start writing NOW.
There’s no excuse not to do this NOW. Don’t “come back to it”, open up a notepad file or get a pen & paper.
Don’t keep reading in an endless quest to soak up the entire informational capacity of the Internet. Take action! Are you going to be the type that reads everything, knows everything, but applies very little? Congratulations, you can be one of the millions of armchair experts out there, I used to be one! I was obese for 2 years but I knew everything about getting lean. There’s no reward for what you know, only what you DO with what you know!
Why Do I Want It?
After figuring out what I wanted, the next big question was “why?” Personally, I believe it's important to understand the reasoning behind why I want to achieve something. For me, discovering my true motivations, writing them down, and then reading them every day helps keep me focused and determined.
At first, a lot of the “whys” I wrote down were what I would now refer to as “surface level motivations”. Most people are probably aware of their surface level motivations. For instance, you may want to look fantastic for an upcoming holiday (a surface level motivation). However, the real motivation comes from the desire to achieve a certain feeling. Conceivably, the WHY behind this desire may be to “feel” a greater level of confidence. Perhaps the perceived increase in desirability could lead to feelings of fulfilment or joy… of course the desired outcome is very individual. You may even have negative reasons; for example, a person being bullied about their weight may want to get in shape to avoid feelings such as humiliation, inferiority and rejection.
I've found that I can boil just about every surface level motivation down to a desired feeling or experience.
When you know what you truly want, have strong reasons why and you’re willing to persist, there will be no obstacle big enough to keep you from your goal.
There are four main reasons I choose to figure out my “whys”.
- I can assess whether a goal is actually worthwhile. Sometimes the desired feelings can be achieved by alternative means.
- When written down and read every day, they act as a great motivational tool.
- They help me understand a little bit more about my own psychology and what drives me.
- I can use the surface level motivations in conjunction with the associated / desired feelings for visualisation exercises (this is part of a subsequent step).
If you want to figure out or understand your own whys, then answer this question.
Why do I want to achieve my goal?
If nothing really comes to mind, try this reframed question instead.
When I achieve (insert goal here), what will be different about my life?
I’ve put down some fairly commonly used surface level motivations here as examples.
- I will no longer feel insecure about taking off on my shirt on holidays
- I will be able to take off my shirt in hot weather without rolls of fat popping out
- I will look fantastic for an upcoming event
- I will look good naked
- I will look and feel more attractive to the opposite sex
- I will be fitter, healthier and more energetic
- I will have tested the very limits of what I’m capable of
- I will have pushed and expanded my comfort zone
- I will prove to myself that I can achieve what I set out to achieve
- I will prove the naysayers wrong
- I will make my friends / families / partners jaws drop
- I will inspire my friends / family / partner by becoming a role-model
- I will have people come up to me and ask how I got in such great shape
After you’ve listed your surface level motivations, try digging a little deeper to find out what you expect to feel or experience by achieving a goal. To dig deeper, simply ask WHY is this important to me?
So for example.
After achieving my body transformation goals, what will be different about my life?
I will look good naked
Why is this important to me?
Because it will make me feel more self-confident
Because I want to feel more desirable, attract the man/woman of my dreams.
Who Do I Need To Become?
Not so long ago, it dawned on me that I wasn't really striving to achieve my goal so much as I was aligning who I was with my goal. By this I mean I was changing my beliefs, qualities and self perception to be congruent with the kind of person that could achieve my goal. As I began to change how I saw myself as a person, I noticed that the physical process of achieving my goal became SO MUCH EASIER.
If you imagine a shape sorter toy. I used to be a cube and my goal was the circular hole. No matter how hard I tried to bash that cube, it simply would not fit. I was an incompatible shape. It didn't really matter how many different methods I tried, my shape was incompatible. I could force my way in to a point (with a huge amount of energy), but inevitably I popped right back out again every time.
To put this in context, the cube represents my old beliefs and qualities. I was undisciplined, I saw myself as a fat person, I had a negative self-image, I had many limiting beliefs, I was inconsistent, I was unsure of myself and therefore in the plans I created, I had no social support structure, I was inexperienced and I was unaware of many of things that I am today.
In order to pass through the circular hole (the goal), I needed to change my qualities and beliefs first, I needed to change “my shape”. Once my shape began to change, it became much easier to align myself with the goal. There was no internal struggle or force needed to go from A to B, I could simply slide right on through. Of course in the real world, effort is still required to make any worthwhile goal a reality; however, once your mindset is harmonious with the goal, the amount of bashing of the hammer required is minimal.
I someday hope to be famous for making terrible analogies. So I hope this sets a firm foundation for amazing analogies to come!
I may be creating more questions than I’m answering with this article, but I cover a lot of similar subject matter in subsequent steps that should clear things up.