One of the things I’ve learned recently as I’ve started to seriously workout again is that achieving a goal is a lot less complex than we make it out to be. Really, there are three basic steps: set the goal, create the action plan and then follow through with it. As I’m sure you can guess, most people fail on one of the last two steps.
Setting a goal is easy – people rarely fail on this part -yet most goal programs waste a lot of time on this one step. In my own goal setting class, I do spend a good amount of time helping people define appropriate goals but it’s more about gaining clarity and figuring out if the person is truly committed to a goal. Other programs do what I consider “day dreaming” – spending a lot of time dreaming about things people want in life as well as envisioning life with the goal achieved. While there is some value in these exercises, dreaming only gets you so far.
Back in March when I decided to revisit my health, I set some goals for how I wanted to look. Like most people, I had parts of my body that I wanted to get smaller and some I wanted to get bigger. This part was easy, we can all identify our desired result. So what I did was create a plan. I came up with a workout that works each muscle group the way I wanted them to change. The muscles I wanted to grow used low repetitions with heavy weights and the ones I wanted to tone used less weight but more repetitions. And I did some other things like research which exercises hit my muscles to maximize results and also factored in appropriate rest times for each group. Yes, this was a bit of work but I based this on a few articles I read in exercise magazines (and most of this information is available online for free – just use the search box in the right column and search for it). And of course, I’m oversimplifying here as I modified my diet too, but the focus of this article is on goal setting, not getting in shape. I can do another article on the latter later on.
Finally, I did the third piece which I found to be most challenging – dragging my butt to the gym on a consistent basis. Luckily, I’m very committed to my goal so I’ve been able to make working out a priority. Like most people, I have a very busy life with a lot of things going on so it has definitely been a challenge. I’ve found myself in the gym as early as 7AM on the weekends and I’ve rearranged meetings just to ensure I don’t miss my daily workout. Now getting to the gym is only half the battle – the other half is following through with your workout. And trust me, it’s easy to sit in there and think “wow, I really should get home so I can get to my errands, maybe instead of 30 minutes on the treadmill, I’ll cut it back to 20” or “I’m feeling tired, I’m only going to do half of the exercises today.” Guess what happens when you that? You keep cutting back. Yes there are times where you should cut back so you don’t hurt yourself, but that’s different than looking for excuses to just rush through a workout.
Of course, when executing a plan it needs to be reviewed and modified regularly. I review my workouts on a weekly basis where I adjust the weights and repetitions and sometimes even add or remove exercises based on how things are going. It’s like flying an airplane, you keep adjusting the course based on the wind, turbulence and other air traffic to ensure you’re heading towards your goal.
So what are the lessons here? First, you need all three parts to reach your goal: a clear outcome, an action plan and the motivation to follow through. An action plan is a lot simpler than many people make it out to be – it can be as simple as a checklist with some dates next to each item. Honestly, this piece scares most people because they fear they lack the knowledge to create a plan. Well, depending on your goal, you can sometimes hire help to make this part quick. To again use fitness as an example, I could have simply met with a personal trainer to create my workout plan in about a fifth of the time it took me to do the research. It would have cost money and I would have had to ensure that the trainer I worked with knew what he or she was talking about (which is somewhat easy to figure out – simply look at the person and determine whether he or she is in shape). If you’re looking to increase your wealth or start a business, there are people out there that can assist you in creating a plan to help you reach your goal. Again, we’re all different and some of us prefer to do the research and create the plan while others prefer to pay someone else to do it. I’m in the former group as I find the research and effort invested in creating the plan to help commit me to the process. But others prefer to just get started. Again, both ways are fine, just do what works best for you.
Lastly, you have to commit to following through with your plan and that’s where only you can make a difference. While you can pay a personal trainer to workout with you each day, it can get costly. But if that’s the only way you’ll be able to commit to working out, then that’s what you need to do. The same is true if you need a financial or business adviser to check in with you regularly. This is why coaching is so popular. I offer check-ins to my clients where I’ll call them monthly, weekly or even daily to check in to make sure they are on track. Again, some of us need more of a push than others.
So as you sit down to set your next set of goals, remember that all you need are the right instructions and the commitment to follow through. It really isn’t rocket science, it’s actually as easy as (baking a) pie.