This is the time of year that many people already start to give up on their New Year’s Resolutions. Especially fitness goals. Don’t be one of those people!
Not getting to your destination? Having trouble achieving your goals? You may have a problem that you haven’t considered – how you set them in the first place.
When you are doing everything you possibly can to achieve your goals, but just can’t quite seem to reach them, the problem might be that you are setting the wrong type of goal. Here’s a real-world example that you might see in business:
My goal is to increase company sales this year.
What’s wrong with this goal?
“This Year” is too long a time frame to measure progress. You can easily lie to yourself each month you fail to see higher sales, by saying “I’ll make up for it next month”.
You don’t directly control company sales. Most likely, you aren’t in a position to control company-wide sales. Even a director of sales doesn’t technically “control” sales because customers must buy something for sales to increase, and you can’t control the customers. You can only take actions that will influence their decision to purchase.
Not measurable. How will you measure your success here?
Photo by: Philo
So forget the “S”, “A”, and “R” for now and just focus on the “M” and “T” – make sure your goals are Measurable and Timebound (you do this right, and the S, A, and R will come along for the ride).
And since you are the only person that you have complete, direct control over, you are the only person that your goals should ever focus on. You will only set yourself up for disappointment if you create a goal that you can try your hardest to achieve and still fail at.
Your Workout Goals – Outcome vs. Performance
You don’t have direct control over your body composition either. If you did, you would just add 10 pounds of muscle or lose fat whenever you want. Instead, you have to take the specific actions that influence your body to look the way you want. You don’t just lose fat… you increase your metabolism, run hard, and eat clean food, and then your body may or may not lose 10 pounds of fat.
So setting a goal to lose 10 pounds of fat is an outcome-based goal. Outcome-based goals are fine and usually the place people start. And they are an important part of goal setting. But they don’t tell you what to do – what action to take. If you don’t know what the best mix of diet and exercise is most likely to lose 10 pounds, no amount of goal setting will make it happen.
The solution to these problems is to set performance-based goals. This type of goal focuses first on the actions you will take instead of the outcome you will try to get. These goals start with action in mind and end with the outcome, instead of the other way around like most other goals.
For fitness-based goals, due primarily to natural day-to-day variability, you might want to consider emphasizing performance-based goals.
For example: Outcome-based goal: I want to gain 10 pounds of solid muscle in the next 2 months. [Notice it is measurable and timebound.] Performance based goal: My goal is to do 3 sets of the bench press with a target pressing weight of 180 pounds twice a week, and I’ll add 5 pounds weekly. I’ll measure my goal by recording it in my training log at the end of each workout. [Notice it is still measurable and timebound.]
Notice that the second goal doesn’t focus on the outcome, but on the actions you will take to influence that outcome. If you keep taking the correct actions, the outcome you desire will eventually be yours.
This doesn’t mean that getting results isn’t important. Getting results from your goals will always be important, but in the end, goals are only a type of mental conditioning to help your mind commit to taking real action that leads to results.
It’s not enough to just throw a goal up in the air and just try to work really hard to make it happen. The actions that you will take must be a part of your goal. The point is, if you are taking the correct actions and you stay committed, you will achieve the results you’re looking for. If the results don’t come immediately, you shouldn’t feel like a failure for giving your best effort to the plan you have made.
When Results Don’t Come
This will happen at some point. Some people follow their performance-based goals to a tee, but stop seeing results after a period of time. This is especially common in muscle-building when you hit a plateau or a sticking point.
If you are performing well and giving your full effort, but the results don’t come, you’ll have to refer back to the outcome-based goals and create a new method for getting the outcome you want. In other words, every time you achieve your goals (outcome- or performance-based), you need to kick it up a notch when you set new goals and possibly consider alternative training approaches.
Again, don’t beat yourself up because the results say you’re failing to achieve your goal. If you giving a 100% effort, you are not failing at your goal. You just need to rethink your goal and tailor it for new actions that will give you the results you want.
Separating Goals From Targets
You may have noticed that I wrote a goal earlier that used a target pressing weight of 180 pounds. Isn’t the amount of weight you press an outcome? Yes and no. You should always set a target to shoot for when you go into the gym. You might have a target running speed, a target weight to press, and you might have a target number for sales at work.
Related Post: On Achieving Goals
Hitting your target each day will depend on many factors, such as your energy reserves and how early you do an exercise in your workout. Set your targets high and aim to achieve them. Even if you don’t hit your target one day, you can still achieve your goals 100% of the time.
Isn’t This Just a Mental Thing?
Yes, this is all mental. That’s what goals are. They are a type of mental conditioning designed to help you commit to taking action. With performance based goals, you are able to separate actions from outcomes.
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If you don’t achieve the outcome you desire, you won’t have to feel like a loser because you didn’t achieve your goal. You will recognize that you did everything you could and did achieve your goal, but you just set the wrong goal. Don’t quit. Study what was wrong with your first goal, learn, and set a better one.
With this in mind, you’ll still have the confidence to set a new performance goal for new actions that lead to the real outcome you desire.
This article was written by Jason and Darrin, authors with World Fitness Network. World Fitness Network focuses on the art and science of building lean muscle mass – and an awesome physique. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to the .
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