We live in a culture driven by success and greatness. The level of competition is ever growing. Athletes at all competitive levels are getting bigger, stronger, and arguably more talented at an earlier age. A lot of people want to be one of these successful athletes they see on TV. They want that fame, that glory, that strong body, that money, but they do not understand the hard work that it took to achieve that level of athletic performance.
Why are athletes such a small percentage of the population? They may have extraordinary talent and genetic gifts, but they are also the small percentage of individuals willing to go the extra mile. They are willing to exercise self-discipline in their workouts, their nutrition, and to sacrifice valuable time for the purpose of achieving their goals and dreams. They are the ones willing to do the work that most people would never dream of doing. They set goals and they take action.
Now it all comes down to you. It is time for some self-reflection. You may have goals for your fitness, your nutrition, your health, or your athletic performance – but are you willing to work hard? Are you willing to sacrifice valuable time and to get uncomfortable? Google defines a goal as, ‘the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.’ Effort is extremely important, and it is time to give your effort direction and purpose.
There is no better day than today to start pursuing your goals – and I want to give you the tools to help transform you from an OK goal maker to an effective goal achiever. In this article, I am providing you with five tools that I refined working with athletes throughout my Sports and Performance Psychology Master’s program at the University of Denver. If you integrate these five strategies into your fitness and training routines, I can guarantee that you will find more success.
1. Set S.M.A.R.T.
Goals When you set any goal for yourself, short term or long term, it needs to be a S.M.A.R.T. goal. It must be specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and timely. A specific goal states the objective in a clear and concise manner. As the name suggests, a measurable goal includes a unit of measurement such as pounds, days, hours, etc. For example, I would like to lose 5 percent of my body fat in 5 months by exercising at least 5 days a week for 30 minutes. An action-oriented goal clearly states the action that will be taken. To lose the 5 percent body fat, I will exercise 5 days a week.
A goal without action is simply a dead resolution. A realistic goal is something that can be accomplished in the allotted time. For example, if I said that I wanted to lose 5 percent body fat in one week that would not be realistic or healthy. Realistic goals lead to success, and success leads to greater motivation!
Finally, a timely goal clearly states the amount of time set aside to complete that goal. I will lose 5 percent body fat in 5 months. Putting a time limit on your goal is extremely important, because this keeps you more accountable and focused. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Time is money.” Now that you know the essential parts of setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, let’s take the next step.
2. Write Your Goals Down
In the Master’s program at the University of Denver, we worked with a lot of athletes. Athletes typically find a successful routine, and they stick with it no matter what. One habit I have observed in a lot of athletes is the use of visual cues. Visual cues are aids in their environment that remind them to do something. After a period of time, that repetition creates a habit and that habit creates a lifestyle change. This is what I want for you.
After you have your goals in mind, you have to write them down, post them on your Facebook, draw them on your bathroom mirror, type them in the notes on your phone, or just hang up a sticky note on the inside of your locker or on your computer at work. The key is to make them visible. You want to see your goal every morning and every night. If this goal is important enough to you it should be on your mind to some extent 24/7, and it should positively affect other parts of your life as well. In creating a visual cue for yourself, you have taken one step closer to successfully achieving your goals!
3. Make Action Steps
You have created your goals and written them down, and now it is time to create three action steps. Action steps are the smaller tasks that build towards your final destination. If I want to lose 5 percent of my body fat then I have to make some intentional changes in my life. Therefore, I must create my three action steps. First, I will limit the consumption of fatty foods in my diet. Second, I will not drink any alcohol. Lastly, I will engage in cardiovascular exercise three days per week for 20 minutes. All of these steps will help me to achieve my long-term goal.
Now that you have an idea of what action steps are, it is time to create three of your own. If you think of more than three write them down, but they should be posted with the goal you created. By writing these action steps down, you are keeping yourself accountable for your decisions and your actions. You will be your greatest ally or your greatest enemy. Every choice matters in the big picture.
4. Revisit Your Goals
One mistake a lot of people make when they set goals is not revisiting them. Sure, if you write them down you will see them every day, but I am talking about revisiting them and reanalyzing them. Sometimes a goal needs to be readjusted. Life will throw you curveballs indefinitely, and you have to be ready for them. If life interferes with the timeline you set for your goals, it may be time to revisit, rethink, and readjust.
Let me use a personal example. My goal really is to lose 5 percent body fat in five months. Right now I have time to work out consistently and to prepare meals, but that time may disappear after I open my Max Muscle Nutrition store in Destin, Florida. When that time comes, I will revisit my goal and do some self-reflection. Can I really lose 5 percent body fat or do I need to change it to something more realistic like 2 percent body fat? Do not set yourself up for failure!
5. Find Accountability
Human beings are social creatures, and we need accountability in our lives. A healthy lifestyle can be a lonely one when you see everyone else around you drinking consistently and eating whatever they want. I once heard a man say, “Eagles soar with eagles and turkeys walk with turkeys.” It all comes down to the people you surround yourself with.
The key is surrounding yourself with people who have similar goals and dreams as you do. Success breeds success and everyone needs someone in their life to keep them accountable. You can write your goals down and post them somewhere visible, but on some days discipline may take a rest day and you will need a training partner or your “swolemate” to step in and kick your butt into action.
I am one of those people who likes to train alone, but there are some days I am just exhausted and need someone to talk to or to even yell in my ear in the middle of a set. Find an accountability partner with a similar work ethic, share your goals with one another, and work together until your destination is reached. Having accountability is not a weakness, it is being humble and accepting that you are human and that your journey will not always be perfect.
In short, goal setting is a simple concept, but there is a lot that goes in to being a successful goal setter. You can talk all day long about doing something, but are you going to take action? The decision is yours and now you know just enough to be dangerous. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals, write your goals down somewhere visible, make action steps, revisit your goals, and find accountability in someone reliable! Stay hungry and stay dedicated! You are worth every bit of your effort.
By Brian Missirlian