The key was to set realistic goals, while still making them challenging enough to keep my life rich and satisfying, full of opportunity to learn and grow. From personal experience, goal setting is one of the important determining factors behind the success of any physique transformation.
Why Goal Setting?
Goal setting should not just focus on the goal itself. The goal is the destination; it is the "what." More important than the goal itself is the "why." Former Bodylogix champion and competitive bodybuilder Tom Roehl has written some great messages about "finding your why." It is not enough to know where you're going, because you might find yourself wandering without direction. Knowing why you want to make the journey will help drive you to that destination and keep you focused on the main road.
When I began my own journey, one of my goals was to lose fat. That seems like a simple goal on the surface, but beneath that goal were some complex issues. Why did I want to lose the fat? At first, it was for vanity. I didn't like the way that I looked with the extra weight, and I wanted to look lean and muscular instead. This was my "why," but it was a shallow, surface "why." When I was faced with temptation in the form of unauthorized foods or the chance to miss a workout, it was easy to say, "Hey, I'm happy with the way I look, and my wife is happy with who I am, so why not have some extra ice cream because it will make me happy." Of course, I was lying to myself, but my goal was difficult to obtain with such a weak "why."
As I learned more about physique transformation, I learned more about health as well. I began to understand the risks of being overweight. I also found the knowledge that proper nutrition could help extend my life, reduce my chances of obtaining certain diseases or illnesses, and help me become a more positive, energetic person. My "why" began to change, and this why held more weight: it was about more than just appearance; it was about health. Along the way, I found another why for losing the fat: control.
I was obviously out of control, because my mind was so weak that it let cravings for food control my health. This wasn't fair to my children who looked to me as a role model, nor my wife who had committed to spend her life with me. What right did I have to be unhealthy, irritated, tired, and unable to play with my children without falling out of breath or help my wife around the house because I was too lazy?
So in addition to the "why" of good health, I grew a "why" of self-discipline. It became a personal challenge. I would lose the fat to prove that I could do it. It would be a lesson of discipline and sacrifice. For once in my life, instead of worrying about the now and instant gratification, I would set that aside and sacrifice the "instant" gratification of eating unhealthy and not exercising for the "long term" gratification of being healthy and in control. What is amazing is that by developing this "why" it let to new goals - that control I was experiencing with nutrition and training would lead to control in other areas. I would learn patience, understanding, and forgiveness. I would learn to take control of my career instead of feeling like I "had" to work - I would create the opportunities for myself. That "why" became very powerful.
The When & How Of Goal Setting...
After knowing your why, you are left with your "when" and "how." The "when" is simple. It is people who have not discovered why they are driving toward a goal that have problems focusing on it. Once you know why, then you are ready. The shortest distance between two events is now. The "when" is right now. Once you know why you need to change, and what you want to change, it is time to do it.
So "how" can you make those changes? That is for you to decide. For me, it meant reflecting upon my current schedule and finding opportunities for change. I knew that my time with my children was important, so I would have to workout early in the morning. This meant getting more rest. I also watched a lot of TV at night.
It was a simple matter to trade the TV time for and earlier bedtime, and get that extra rest. I knew that nutrition was an issue, so because my "why" was so strong, I knew "how" to get there - by eating healthy and training vigorously. Piecing these together allowed me to take the simple goal of "losing fat" and make it into a powerful milestone of achievement. How much fat? Is that really important? Many people want to focus on measurements and fat loss or gain.
I set goals using numbers as well, but I do not worry about not meeting them. Why? Because numbers are simply tools to chart your progress. If you know why you are doing this and are ready to make the change, you will make the change. If you do not do it in 12 weeks, then allow yourself 12 more. Or more - whatever it takes. As long as you are progressing and don't lose sight of why you want to change, you remain focused and "on track."
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When you do decide to place numbers on a goal, be realistic. The average person may lose about 3 pounds of fat per week if everything is perfect and they are going "all out," or about 1 percent of body fat per week. 2 pounds a week is a safer goal, and women may lose at about half the rate as men (this means body fat percentage per week and 0.5 - 1.5 pounds per week, although some may make it to 2 pounds with the proper discipline). Goals of muscle gain are very arbitrary. Fat is a function of reducing calories and increasing activity. When you drop weight, some of that is bound to be fat. Muscle is a different concept entirely.
It takes much more than simply eating more. The proper stimulus, training, genetics, hormone balance, and a myriad of other factors determine rate of muscle growth. This is why I always try to grow some muscle, but I don't try to put a label on it - when I say "5 pounds in 12 weeks" it is a "carrot" I dangle to train hard, but I could be doing everything perfect and still fall short of that goal. The key is to be happy with the effort I put forth - as in the movie, "Pay it Forward" - in this lifestyle, you are graded on the effort.
Don't Lose Track Of Other Goals!
Don't lose track of other important goals. Physical goals are great, but by binding these goals to other areas in your life, you are sure to succeed. Parents may have a goal of spending a certain amount of time with their children. You might have a goal to excel in your job in some way, or even obtain a promotion. You might set a goal to visit a place you've always wanted to go. Keep these other goals right there with the physique transformation goals and watch your transformation unfold from the inside out. Make them all realistic and know why and you will make it!
What I like to do is print out a piece of paper. I will write down 4-to-5 goals for a period in my life. Then I will write down 4-to-5 reasons why I have those goals. I will write the obstacles that might hinder my progress, so that I am ready to learn from those situations rather than let them thwart my progress. I write a few good habits I will form in order to support my goals - i.e. "Go to sleep early so that I can wake up to train." I finally like to have a mantra for each "challenge" like "I will succeed" or "I am in control."
Don't underestimate the value of having precise, concise, written goals. You should always have goals that reflect your desire to grow in mind, body, and spirit. Successful goal setting means knowing not only where you want to go or how to get there, but why you are even making the journey in the first place. Set realistic goals, and follow through. With the right plan in place, the sky is truly the limit on the journey to your peak physique.