Every new year brings new goals and those famous New Year’s Resolutions. While you have likely already set some goals for 2017, I have important news for you – you are not done yet! You are missing out on the next level of goal setting. This is the level that will help you to actually stick with your goals and effective guide you on your journey to these goals. Are you ready?
First, a quick review...
Goal Setting Level 0 – the Non-Goal
As a trainer, I always ask a new client, “What are you goals?” Often what I get is something that is not even close to being a goal. People say things like:
- “I want to get bigger”
- “I want to lose weight”
- “I want to get stronger”
- “I want to increase my vertical jump”
- “I want to get in back into shape”
- Or, the all-time classic non-specific fitness goal – “I want to get fit” What in the world does that mean???
Most people who think they have set goals are not even close. What they have is really more of a generic objective. You can start here, but this is not a goal – you have to keep going.
Goal Setting Level 1 – SMART goals
The first level of actual goal setting is turn general objectives into real goals. You have likely heard of SMART goals: specific, measurable, action-orientated, realistic and time-sensitive. For example:
- “I want to get bigger” becomes “Gain 5lbs and increase my chest and thighs by ½” in 6 weeks.”
- “I want to lose weight” becomes “Lose 5lbs and decrease my waist and hips by ½” in 6 weeks.”
- “I want to get stronger” becomes “1 want to increase my deadlift weight by 15lbs in 6 weeks.”
- “I want to increase my vertical jump” becomes “increase my vertical jump by 1” in 6 weeks.”
The “get back in shape” or the “get fit” goals require time and reflection to figure out what that actually means to you.
I’ve actually stopped using the acronym S.M.A.R.T. because many people seem to still struggle with what that actually means. Instead I recommend you ask these simple questions to get your goal setting started:
- What do I want change with my body? (e.g. increase my muscle mass)
- What do I need to change with my body? (not always the same as number 1)
- How will I measure that change? (e.g. girth measures)
- How much change do I expect to get? (be challenging but realistic)
Once you have answered these questions – it’s time to move on to the next level!
Goal Setting 2.0 – the Next Level
Goal setting takes a critical step past typical SMART goals by forcing you to ask the all-important question: “Why?” It gets to the root reason you made the goal in the first place. In doing so, you get two amazing benefits.
Benefit #1: Big Picture Connection
I firmly believe that one of the main reasons people fail to achieve their goals is that they fail to make the big-picture connection. We are all busy, life is hard and there are many distractions. In all this craziness it is easy to lose sight of your little fitness goals. In the grand scope of life does it really matter if you gain that inch on your arms or lose that inch off your waist?
Instead of setting these little fitness goals, ask yourself, “Why?” Get to the root of why you want to go after that goal in the first place. Hopefully this will lead you back to something bigger and more meaningful. Once you make this connection between your goal and the big picture, you will be less likely to stray from the pursuit of that goal.
Here is a personal example that may help give you clarity on this. These days I’m juggling multiple jobs and helping my amazing wife raising our four young children, life is crazy. However, I still manage to train four days a week for about 45-55 minutes. What keeps me getting back into the gym (even after a rough night with the kids) is I have been able to connect my training to the bigger picture:
- I want to take care of the body God has entrusted me with
- I want a strong, fit body to protect my wife and kids
- I want to look good for my beautiful wife
- I want to be respected by my kids and show them an example of discipline
- I want to “look the part” as a trainer as this is how I put food on the table for my family
- I want to be able to bring that “under the bar” experience to the people I train
- I want to lead by example for my athletes, students and clients to help them improve their lives
These big-picture reasons keep me on track with my training and nutrition.
Your application: go back to the goals you set for yourself. Ask yourself why you want to achieve these goals? Keep digging until you get to the bottom of this. Make you make the big-picture connection.
Benefit #2: Clarity & Direction
One of my fundamental training philosophies is that the goal dictates everything. Once you have established a goal it locks you in to what you should and shouldn’t do. Next-level goal setting provides you even greater clarity and direction for exactly what you need to do.
For example, a solid level 1 goal is, “I want to increase my squat by 50lbs this year.” However, a level 2 goal starts by asking the question, “why do I want to increase my squat?” Your answer to this question tells you exactly how you need to train the squat this year.
Let’s say your answer to the level 2 “why question” was because you wanted to compete in powerlifting. If this is the answer, you know how you should squat: wide stance, sit WAAAAYYY back, wear a big belt and a squat suit.
However, what if you are an athlete, and you want to have stronger legs to help you accelerate quicker? What if you wanted bigger quads? In this cause, squatting like I suggested above is the wrong approach. This powerlifting-style squat focuses on moving as much weight as possible to the legal depth. It moves the stress away from your quads and onto your hips and low back. For bigger, stronger legs you want to think “down” not “back” when you squat. This will keep your torso more upright Also, unless you have a really good squat structure, you want to shift to something like a front squat that allows you to keep from leaning over and “missing” your quads.
Don’t make the mistake of wandering aimlessly through your training life without clear goals. However, don’t miss the opportunity to enhance your motivation and execution with next-level goal setting!
Want more on effective goal setting and goal reaching? Check out:
How about you? What are your reasons for your goals? As always, I invite you to leave your questions and comments below or on my Facebook page.