Big Man On Campus: Goal Setting

Clear goals are essential to academic and fitness success. Learn to set, achieve, and exceed your weight-room and classroom goals.

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Too many people go into school and the gym without a clear goal. Students start working out, but they don't know whether they want to gain five pounds, increase their strength, or run a faster mile. Without a clear goal, guys tend to spin their wheels in the weight room and classroom. I'll help you set, achieve and exceed any goal.

Big Man on Campus Goals
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Even if this is your freshman year, some of you probably have a major in mind. You've got clearly defined academic goals; you're hunting a specific degree to gain a specific job. Others among you may not have a major selected yet, but you should still set some college expectations. Pledge to have a 3.5 or better GPA; make it your long-term goal. Pledge to build muscle. Pledge to redefine your fitness level.

Set smaller goals each term (semester) that will help you achieve your long-term goals and scores. Exercise goals make excellent short-term goals. Let's say you want to gain 10 pounds this semester. That's a relatively long-term goal. To get there, you know you need to set small, achievable, progressive goals. Check out the sidebar.

Each step seems small, but they add up to the completion of your long-term goal. Draft long-term goals, and then institute short-term steps to achieve them. Plan them out step-by-step so you have a tiered plan of attack. Whether you want better grades, stronger lifts, new friends, or better nutrition, you should build short-term, achievable steps that will lead you to success.

If you want to have a better GPA, set aside time each night for your classes—maybe an hour for the harder courses, 30 minutes for easier classes. Create the expectation, stick to it, and you'll create a new habit. Stick to the process and you'll succeed. Remember, hard work trumps talent.

Own Your Goals

It's easy to set and achieve goals when you're focused on results. If you want to improve your math scores, focus on the final sense of accomplishment and victory; don't get bogged down by your dislike of numbers.

If you're an athlete, you're already goal-oriented: You want to win. Translate that competitive desire to the classroom. Turn a test into your opponent. Make adding 10 more pounds to your bench press a championship game. Start to enjoy overcoming an obstacle, beating back a struggle, and conquering it. The reward is always worth the work.

You only fail a goal if you decide you're done, that you're not going to change, that you're just going to quit That's the only time you fail. If you continue to try and honor the goal-setting process, you can't lose. It's okay to adjust goals, but don't give up on them.

I wanted to start at running back in college football, because that's what I played in high school. I went to college and they put me at linebacker. That's not the goal I started with, but it seemed to be the best use of my talents. I started at linebacker for three years. If your original goal doesn't work, don't quit. If you don't quit, you can't fail. Re-write the goal to become more realistic.

Keep in mind, I have failed a class. I got a 3.3 in high school. One of my college goals was to get on the Dean's List. I made it and maintained a 3.5 in college. There are times when you'll wonder if you can handle everything. You can. Don't quit, and you won't fail. You'll learn something new with every struggle—on the field, in the gym, or in the classroom.

Don't Cheat Yourself

Shortcuts exist, but they don't help. If you cheat on a test, copy someone's assignment, or chat in the gym, you don't gain, grow, or learn. You only cheat yourself. Success is the result of hard work, failure, and more hard work. Get to know your full potential by trying as hard as you can. Shortcuts end up creating more work and hurting your long-term development.

setting goals

Instead of taking shortcuts, build some accountability into your classes and workouts. Train with a lifting partner. Make your goals public. Tell your professors and coaches and friends what you plan to achieve. When you broadcast your goals, you'll find an entire network of people willing to support you: counselors, student teachers, coaches, peers, older students, and more.

I told my behavioral neuroscience professor that I needed her to hold me accountable and push me to succeed. Behavioral neuroscience was one of my most difficult classes, but the prof knew I was there to learn. She accepted that; I accepted that. She pushed me and I worked as hard as possible. I achieved the third highest grade in all of her classes. It was an extremely tough class, but she knew I wanted to succeed, and I did.

Role Model Motivation

Find role models and study what makes them successful. I studied my favorite football players, like Ray Lewis. I learned everything I could about his methods. I watched YouTube clips on him. I read everything he wrote. He taught me that hard work beats talent, which motivated me to work harder.

In the bodybuilding realm, I loved Arnold Schwarzenegger. I watched 15 minutes of Pumping Iron every night in college. I loved to watch it; it motivated me. It was my pre-workout ritual. I'd bust out Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding and read about the body parts I was scheduled to train. When I didn't feel like lifting, Arnold's passion for the sport motivated me to train harder than ever.

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