Let's say you have career aspirations to be a doctor. Likely, you'll take pre-med classes in college, get your hands wet working in a medical setting, discover what fields really interest you, study for med-school entrance exams, apply to the best universities, and follow a logical progression of steps to make your career choice a reality.
None of that happens randomly. To be successful, you need a plan.
The same holds true in the fitness realm. You'll be more successful if you know what your goals are and how you're going to achieve them.
Perhaps your goals are outlined in detail—perhaps not. But without goals, you're basically wandering through life like a person walking through the desert at midnight without a guiding light or a map. You're lost, and it doesn't really matter if you just stand there or move. You don't know where you're going, anyway.
Success in the gym, like your career path, doesn't happen by accident or a lucky break. Start taking charge of your journey through life. Set goals for yourself and stay on track to reach them. Here are eight ways to ensure you find the path that will substantially increase your odds of reaching your fitness goals.
Know Your Long-Term Goals
Think about the future and what you want to accomplish. Perhaps you want to lose 50 pounds over the next 12 months. Write it down. Hold yourself responsible and accountable for reaching that goal. Putting it down on paper is like creating a covenant you have to stick to. Put that paper on a refrigerator or mirror—anywhere you look on a daily basis. This is a constant reminder of the pact you made with yourself to reach your goal.
Set Short-Term Goals
While writing long-term goals is a great start, achieving them requires detailing a number of steps to help get you there. After all, losing 50 pounds doesn't just happen because you write it down. Using that example, create monthly goals, or even weekly goals. For instance, you can reasonably lose 1-2 pounds per week in a healthy way. (Yes, you can lose weight faster, but 1-2 pounds per week is considered healthy for most people.) Then, write it down. You can then create a monthly weight-loss goal of 4-8 pounds.
Make Your Goals Measureable
How do you think you can ensure you're on the right path if you have no way of measuring the results? It's easy with weight because you can simply jump on the scale. But the point here is that your goals must be measureable. Doing weekly or monthly weigh-ins ensures you stay on track with your short-term—and ultimately your long-term—goals.
Keep yourself accountable by utilizing these measureable goals to see how you are progressing. If you see you aren't on track to meet a short-term goal, then you know you'll need to make some adjustments to get back on track. It can be something as simple as taking a peek at your diet and making some minor changes, or maybe adding a little bit more cardio to your regimen to burn more calories.
Make Your Goals Attainable
Unrealistic goals set the stage for failure. You'll quickly get frustrated, and ultimately you'll derail from your long-term goal. Setting an aggressive long-term goal can be counterproductive; you'll have a better chance of success of actually reaching your target goal if you give yourself the time you need. You're not going to get there overnight, no matter how badly you want something. It takes patience and persistence, and that has to be your approach.
Follow Through With Specific Plans
Next you'll need to create an action plan for your short-term goals. Following with our example, put in place a workout and nutrition plan that allows you to lose 1-2 pounds per week. The plan should fit your schedule and allow you to work out a certain amount of days a week for a given period of time. Be specific about your training plans, detailing how many days and how much time you can commit to. In terms of your nutrition, start by referencing a few Bodybuilding.com articles on tips and meal plans for fat loss, or consult a nutritionist to help. By recording your calories and macros each day, you'll know if you're on track or not.
Find Intrinsic Motivation
Based on the criteria listed so far, some goals are more likely to be achieved than others. A big player in this is called intrinsic motivation. That is, is your long-term goal something you really want, or is it for someone else?
It turns out that if you're working toward a goal for any other reason than yourself, you're far less likely to succeed. It's that simple. Oftentimes you'll fall short because you don't have that fire in the belly. Don't set goals if your personal interests and heart aren't into it.
Reward Yourself And Have Fun
The process is a journey, and quite possibly a long one. If you drudge through every day miserable because you hate what you have to do and you see no light at the end of the tunnel, you're far less likely to ultimately succeed. Find activities you enjoy, and that will help you reach your short- and long-term goals.
If you despise running but enjoy playing basketball, then by all means use basketball as a source of cardio. If you can't stand the thought of broccoli in your diet but want to eat it because you know it's healthy, substitute it with a healthy option you do enjoy, such as green beans (or whatever healthy food you prefer). The point here is to have fun during this process.
Everyone hits those same plateaus and forks in the road where they have to overcome obstacles. You might feel as if you'll never surpass some of those challenges—but you can. Stick with it, stay consistent, and keep pushing onward.
It's also a great idea to reward yourself for achieving goals. This can be as simple as buying a new workout shirt or a pair of shoes. Enjoying the process of reaching your goals and looking back on what you have accomplished is one of the best feelings you can ever experience.
The time and effort you put into something you personally wanted to accomplish and the feeling you get when you achieve it is something no one can ever take away from you. So stand proud and know you did something for yourself to better your life. Make it happen, and never lose sight of your goals.