There’s much benefit to setting specific goals.
Goals give us something to work towards.
Goals give us metrics against which to gauge our progress.
Goals give us a sense of satisfaction when we’ve reached them.
When it comes to improving our bodies, however, many of us aren’t setting goals quite as well as we could.
Let’s say you’ve set a goal to lose twenty pounds.
This is a totally fine goal, especially if you’ve got twenty pounds of extra weight to lose.
However, judging your success solely on this outcome and nothing else might not do much for fostering the mindset necessary to achieve it.
For example, you might spend every single day that you haven’t yet lost that weight reminding yourself that you haven’t lost it.
Especially when we’re not making any progress at all, and the scale isn’t moving, it’s easy to fall into a cycle of negativity.
We might start reinforcing all of the self-limiting and judgmental beliefs that the extra weight represents.
We might start telling ourselves that we’re not good enough.
We might start telling ourselves that we’ll never lose the weight.
We might start telling ourselves that this will be just another failed weight loss attempt.
Another failure in general.
Even when we are making progress, it might not come at the pace that we’d hoped.
What if losing that weight takes longer than you expected?
What if you don’t fit in that dress by the date of the event?
What if the number on the scale isn’t what you want it to be by the time the vacation comes around?
What if you’re not making progress as quickly as your cousin, sister, or husband?
Maybe you read on a magazine cover that your results would come in three weeks.
Maybe you saw on somebody’s “before and after” photos in a Facebook group that they did it in fourteen days.
What if it takes you longer?
Will you remain confident in your plan?
Will you lose momentum?
Will you have the resolve to keep working towards that end goal, day in and day out?
If you’re always looking forward to that end goal, never knowing when or if you might get there, what effect will that have your thoughts and emotions?
How will you respond to the cravings?
How will you respond to the hunger?
How will you respond to the fatigue?
How will you respond to this feeling of failure when you’re tired of white-knuckling it through life, sticking to the rules you’ve set out for yourself?
What if you never lose the weight?
What if the scale just stops moving?
Do you chalk this up to just another failure?
On the other hand, once you reach your goal, what happens next?
Do you maintain the habits you used to get to the new weight?
Do all the problems you had before the scale showed the number you wanted go away?
Will you actually be satisfied once you see that number?
Will that be enough?
Will you have “made it”?
Most of the time, these kinds of goals are rarely as satisfying as we think we might be.
So, what’s the alternative?
Set better goals.
Rather than set the goal to lose twenty pounds and focusing solely on that outcome, also set goals based on the habits and behaviors required to get you there.
Maybe start by setting the goal to eat when legitimately hungry and stop when satisfied, not stuffed, for the next seven days.
If you’re nailing that, maybe add in another goal to eat protein with every meal.
Set your sights on actions.
Set you sights on small “wins” you can pick up on the way to your big “win”.
You might benefit from looking not at the next month or week, but only the next meal.
One meal turns into two, then two turns into three, and each meal that you stick to your habits is just a little bit more momentum that you’re building.
If your streak breaks, start again and aim to push it just a bit longer.
You focus on what you do, rather than what happens.
Even though you’re not making progress, you can still chalk this up as a “win”, because you’re holding up your end of the deal.
If you’re nailing your habits and you’re not seeing any progress, it’s not because you’re not a failure, but only because your plan needs an adjustment.
This is the power of focusing on action-based goals, rather than outcome-based goals.
Outcome-based goals aren’t necessarily a problem, but when it comes to health and fitness, they can sometimes distract us from what we’re really after.
The reason you want to lose weight isn’t because your life is magically better when the scale hits a certain number.
You want to lose weight because you see doing so as proving to yourself and to others that you value your health and that you have the discipline and self-control to act on that value.
The reason you want to lose weight is because you want to prove to yourself that you value your body.
You want to prove that you value your health.
You want to prove that you value yourself.
You want to prove that you’ve got self-control.
You want to prove these things to yourself and to others.
You can value your health, value yourself, and have self-control, yet never reach your weight loss goal, especially if you’ve got a crappy plan.
Don’t let the outcome of your efforts be the sole determinant of your success.
Big goals, even those based on outcomes, are totally fine.
But they aren’t all that matters, and we sometimes lose sight of what we really want.
Is it really your gravitational relationship with the earth that you’re looking to change, or is it something else?
Do you want to lose weight, or do you want to be healthy?
Do you want to lose weight, or do you want to be confident?
Do you want to lose weight, or do you want to be happy?
If you want to be healthy, focus directly on the actions that lead to health.
If you want to be confident, focus directly on the actions that lead to confidence.
If you want to be happy, focus directly on the actions that lead to happiness.
Focus on how consistently you take action towards these goals.
If your plan is a sound one, you’ll get there.
It’s only a matter of time.
Don’t overlook all the small “wins” you pick up on the way to your end goal.
How consistently are you paying attention to your hunger signals?
How consistently are you eating protein with your meals?
How consistently are you eating your vegetables?
How consistently are you prioritizing high-quality fats and carbs?
How consistently are sleeping well, training, and managing your stress?
Make these your goals.
The same can be said for nearly any other goal based around physical change.
Want to increase your bench press by 40 pounds?
That’s totally cool.
Make it also a goal to hit every training session.
Want to drop an inch off of your waist?
That’s totally cool.
Make it also a goal to sleep seven hours a night.
If you want to be lean, strong, and healthy, focus on acting like it.
The size and shape of your body is, for the most part, only a reflection of your habits and behaviors.
If you take care of the habits and behaviors, the size and shape of your body will take care of itself.
If you take care of the actions, the outcomes will take care of themselves.
Change what you do and you change who you are.
You become the person you want to be.
This may take some more time.
This may take more effort.
This may take more fine tuning.
It will be worth it, though.
You are worth it.
You’ve got this.