Goal Setting: Smaller Is Bigger


This post came from a small guy with big ideas, Max.

Screen-shot-2011-08-22-at-11.19.17-AM1-300x202.png“I have a list of goals for the new year. Here’s the one I want you to help with – I want to lose 40 lbs!”

“No, you have only 1 goal, and it’s to get yourself in here three days a week.”

“That’s it? But I thought that…”

“That’s it.”

“But what about the losing weight part?”

“One thing at a time, my friend. One thing at a time.”

Goals are funny things. They can really, really help us motivate and move forward in our lives, or they can make us feel really, really aggro and frustrated about the things we didn’t do.

Many people will recommend a lot of things to help you reach your goals. Things like writing them down, telling a bunch of your friends so it’s “out there,” even spending hours making big vision boards with all of your life ahead of you.

There’s one thing that many of these processes miss, something that often gets glossed over. It’s the daily practice.

While that big initial goal is what gives you the impetus to start making change, it is often way too big to provide daily focus to reach it. Writing your goals down doesn’t mean anything unless you’re doing something about them every day. Telling your friends doesn’t help them help you, unless you really like being told what to do by someone else. Spending hours on a vision board is great and all, but for many people, once the glue dries, it’s a board of what could be, rather than what will be.

I get quite a few new people that come through the doors of the gym with goals this time of year. It’s great that they’ve made that first step and actually made it into the gym. They’re ready to learn, and willing to ask for help. Most have a goal of finally losing X number of pounds. I don’t want to discourage them. I really don’t. But I often get them to agree to a different set of goals as well as their own.

It’s so, so easy to speak the words that you are going to make a change in your life. It’s so, so easy. Actually doing something is completely different. Giving yourself small, actionable goals that you can do daily will help to build habits that lead to bigger and better things without straining too much of your will power.

And please, don’t announce to the world you’re doing something new and amazing. Don’t tell them about your grand plans. If someone asks, only talk about what you’ve already done, and make it as short as possible. Don’t give advice, don’t talk about your 27-step plan to take over the world with your awesomeness. Speak of things in the present or past tense, since that’s the only thing that’s really true.

“I worked out today.”

“I had a wheat & sugar-free breakfast today.”

“I am…breath…doing…breath…100 burpees…breath, breath… today.”

Anything you talk about in the future hasn’t happened yet, and in my experience, the more you talk about it in the future, the more likely it’s going to stay in the future, and the less likely it’s going to happen. Instead of taking action, your brain just likes talking about it.

Success takes work. Down in the trenches, daily, focused work. Is it simple? Amazingly so. Is it easy? No. Hell no.

So here are the goals that I give people when they first come into the gym.

“Be here three days a week.”

After that, it’s –

“At least one large salad a day.”

“Protein at every meal.”

That’s it. Simple. No big, “Are you ready to look like a fitness model?” or big false assumptions. Once you’ve got those three down, we move onto the next. We’re building habits, and those habits take time.

Get a hold of that talking brain of yours and tell it to stop for a change, and get it to help make some action happen instead. Simple, daily, habitual action.

Oh, and  speaking of workouts, did you notice that it only takes 3-4 days a week, and you don’t even need a gym?