When most people are sleeping or maybe headed home from a long day of work you are already on your way to get after it and challenge yourself in the gym. When your friends are out and about posting up #SundayFunday you are stuck at home in the kitchen prepping your food for the week to come. You commit to all of this (or some less extreme variation) but for what? How do you stay consistent and maintain this?
WHAT are you working so hard for? and WHY? Because you have goals right?!?
I know most people don't get all jazzed up for a solid session of "goal setting" but maybe they are just going about it all wrong. Not a lot of us have great relationships or experience with goal setting which is unfortunate because the research is overwhelming in the favor of using it as a tool for accomplishing goals. Make no mistake, greatness does't happen by accident. It is a practiced process of identifying a future state of reality that you wish to live in and creating/executing a long term plan to make it happen.
Easier said than done, I know.
STEP 1) Develop a Vision
First, I want you to imagine something that you REALLY want but make it somewhat realistic. I am all about thinking big but "marrying the hunky firefighter in the back of class by next week" or "looking like Hugh Jackman by Friday" don't quite make the cut. On the other hand you have to make sure it's also going to be a challenge to get there or it's unlikely to motivate you for action. Get descriptive here! Just thinking about your goal is not enough. To really develop a vision you need to be able to "feel" yourself already there. What does that state of reality feel like, look like, smell like. Imagine what a normal day is like when you have actually met this goal. This involves being as specific as you can, which research shows makes people significantly more likely to actually reach their goal.
To develop something is to "grow or cause to grow and become more mature, advanced, or elaborate" so understand that this should take some time and continual revisiting, because in order to work it has to truly mean something to you.
STEP 2) Commit to the Goal
The step of committing to this vision and goal is more than going through the motions but involves a feeling that is a part of who you are. If you don't like running then would it make sense to commit to running a marathon? Not at all, you are setting yourself up for failure because the goal does not intrinsically drive you to want to achieve it. Running a marathon is an amazing goal and so is losing 20lbs but only if there is a real emotional driver that is attached. It has to be strong enough to help you get past the struggles that are sure to come. This is where you need to look yourself in the mirror and be honest about what you want out of this. Challenging yourself can be a great thing, but is this a goal YOU want? Only you know but if that answer is yes, you just took a few big steps closer to living your goal and vision.
STEP 3) Focus on One Step at a Time
(Fist Bump if you get this picture)
This means creating a plan! Since your vision and goal are challenging there should be a number of checkpoints to keep you motivated along the way. Here is where it becomes important to not only set product goals (end result) but process goals to lead you there. This means breaking down your larger goal of running a 21 minute 5k into smaller goals such as getting stronger legs which you can develop into a process goal of strength training lower body twice a week. This makes it easy to see progress and stay motivated for a goal that day to day can seem abstract, far away, or even unimportant. This makes a huge goal like losing 50lbs managable as you break it up into smaller pieces.
It's also important to remember there are many routes from A to B so you MUST BE OK with set backs and changes to the plan. This can be a HUGE roadblock for many people as we like to get in our own way but it's all a mind game! One day, meal, or training session will not make or break things so do your best to be ok with changes to the plan.
STEP 4) Share this Goal with Others
Doing things like writing it down and sharing with others makes your goal and vision that much more real! And it doesn't hurt to have a little bit of accountability. There is some interesting research that showed a group of college students who shared their goals with friends and talked about it via social media including continual updates were 25% more likely to achieve their goals than their peers who merely wrote them down. Translation= look to others for continual support and know that the more you can get them involved in your goal the more likely others will not only support you, but push you to continue on when the path gets rough.
If the goal is exercise and fitness related then work out with others (oh hey there group training plug) or at least surround yourself with like minded people who will make things easier.
Goal setting can seem like its overdone and a waste of time but that is the mindset of someone who will never achieve something better than average. Maybe that's not what you want but I would imagine if you are reading this now you are someone who wants more.
If you can find triggers, environments and the right supporting cast of people to let that internal motivation and drive (the WHY) live inside of you every day, then the WHAT will come. You just have to be ready for the path and maybe even your WHAT to shift along the way.