Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How to set great goals that increase your chances of success.

The chances of you succeeding in your health and fitness endeavors are affected with the first utterance of the words "I want to lose weight". These words, always the first step towards building a healthy and fit lifestyle, are your goal. This is the outcome you want to achieve after all is said and done. 

The chances of you achieving your goal/s, may be significantly improved if you take the time to sit down and properly plan and develop your goals. Why? Well, studies have shown, that those who sit and plan and write down their goals, are more likely to follow the process through. That's because properly developed goals play a role in your motivation and willpower. When you're motivated and your willpower and levels of desire run high, you're more likely to achieve success. The great thing about success, is that success breeds more success. Therefore, as you progress and achieve more and more success, your desire, motivation and levels of willpower will improve more and more. Once the success cascade has started, it's difficult to stop it. Setting goals and writing them down is so effective, it has been shown that those who write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them!

Furthermore, clear, concise goals make it easy to measure and stack up on planned performance against actual performance. This makes it easy to identify where you're making mistakes and where you need to make adjustments. Corrections and adjustments may therefore be made immediately and not some time afterwards when it is already too late.

Wouldn't you want to improve your chances to reach your goals? Wouldn't you want to make it more likely that you'll lose all the fat and build tons of muscle? You can get all the great benefits as described above from your goals if you take the time to make them proper S.M.A.R.T goals.

What are S.M.A.R.T goals? S.M.A.R.T is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound which is exactly what your goal/s should be. Setting goals that conform to the criteria above dramatically improves your chances of achieving success and victory.


Let’s look at two examples of goals: 1. Lose weight and 2. Lose 8 kg in 10 weeks by eating healthy balanced meals, drinking enough water and exercising at the gym every second day.

Goal #1, is vague, not time bound and therefore no good. It looks like New Year’s resolutions for most of us. And, honestly, do we ever reach those goals? No, most of the times we don't. Did you know, that only 8% of those who make new years resolutions actually achieve them. Why is this? One of the reasons is definitely weak, unclear goals. Those poor devils who never achieved their New Year’s resolutions were, in truth, doomed from the start because they did not spend any time developing solid goals. Vague goals ensure mediocre adherence, and this has been shown and proved in many studies as well as in my own personal experience. 

Now Goal # 2, on the other hand, conforms to all of the S.M.A.R.T criteria. It is an example of a good, clear goal.

Specific – lose 8 kg in 10 weeks by eating healthy, balanced meals and exercising every second day at the gym (this goal may be made even more specific if you plan and note all your meals and exercises well in advance; I’ll show you how in sections to come). Very specific in terms of what is planned. The actions and endpoints are clear and specific.

Measurable – because your goal is to lose 8 kg in 10 weeks, you may track your weight loss as well as the time elapsed. Progress may thus be measured by daily or weekly tracking. Just like we discussed at the beginning of this post, accurate measurement of your progress makes it very quick and easy to see where you've come, how far you have to go and if you need to make any adjustments. Another great thing about measuring your progress is the boosts to your motivation and willpower when you see the pounds dropping day after day, week after week. This is what I call the success cascade. As soon as you achieve one small victory, the elation and euphoria motivates you to achieve even more.

Attainable – losing 8 kg is not unattainable if you weigh 90 kg or more and have 8 kg of fat waiting to be lost. It may therefore be an attainable goal. Adjust your goal according to your needs, body and circumstances to make it attainable. If your goal is to lose 50 to 100 pounds (assuming you have 50 to 100 lb to lose), break your goals up into smaller chunks, say 10 pounds at a time and try your best to achieve these smaller S.M.A.R.T goals. This will eventually lead you to your 50 lb overall goal.

Realistic – it is indeed possible to lose 8 kg in 10 weeks. To make this goal a reality a loss of 0.8 kg per day is required, which is indeed very realistic and attainable. In perspective, by cutting out one 340ml (11 oz) can of soda per day, we may lose up to 1 pound in a week! Imagine that, one whole pound just by cutting out one soft drink and replacing it with water! Just think how easy it really is to lose fat then. Many lb’s may be lost by replacing only some sodas with water and some sweets and snacks with healthy foods, and all of this even before stepping into a gym or doing one exercise! (here is a great post on how you can lose lots of lb's before going on a diet or even stepping one foot in the gym)

Time-bound – losing the 8 kg in 10 weeks certainly makes this goal time bound. A period of 10 weeks have been allocated for this plan. The time allotted for the process also signifies an end to the journey. This brings an all-important point of closure and a sense of accomplishment. At the end you can revel in your achievements and look back over the entire journey. Reflection will help you to discover your strengths and weaknesses and to identify what did not work well and how you can go about to make it better. Remember that this program is not a one-time affair, this is a process to follow every day from now on until the end. Reflection will help you to refine it and make it better.

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If you're unsure of how to set S.M.A.R.T goals, or if you don’t know what goals to set for yourself or how to do it, the following tips will help you to set great, solid goals. If your goal/s can answer these questions below, then you know that you've got some great S.M.A.R.T goals and that your chances of achieving them will be significantly improved.

What is it that you specifically want to achieve?

Are you looking to simply lose fat or do you want to build muscle as well? How much fat do you specifically want to lose? 5 kg, 10kg? How much muscle do you want to build? Do you want to improve your health so that you need not depend on expensive medication anymore? Which medication and for which disease? Do you want to be able to wear size 6 jeans, or size 12? Do you want to lose 4 inches around your waist and thighs? Do you want to see your abs? Or do you want to fit in a particular itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny-yellow-polka-dot-bikini?

These are the types of questions you must ask and answer. It’s really important that you be very, very specific when deciding what it is that you want to achieve. You must write down the specifics, whether it is a number or a specific event. A number can be 5 kg’s, or 2 cm’s from the waist, or to drop 2 clothes sizes, or even to increase you bench press by 10 kg’s (22 lb). An event may be that moment when you’re not dependent on medication anymore, for instance. In a case like that, another specific number then becomes 0 pills or something similar. Try to be very specific, the more specific you can be, the easier it becomes to measure your progress, to know exactly where you stand and to know where you have to go. Remember the light at the end of the tunnel? You must know what your light is.

If you’re uncertain about how much you should weigh, consider some healthy advice I once heard from a gynecologist: Take your height in centimeters, then subtract 100 from that and the number you’re left with, will be your ideal weight. So, if you’re 1.74 meters tall for instance, your ideal weight should be 74 kg’s (163 lb). (That’s 1.74m x 100cm per m = 174cm, then 174 – 100 = 74, therefore ideal weight to be 74 kg) Use this ballpark calculator to set up a great, specific goal for yourself.

By when do you want to achieve it?

Here you must give yourself a time limit. For fat loss, a good time limit may be selected if you work with about half a kilo of fat loss per week. To lose 5 kg therefore, should take you about 10 weeks then. Half a kilo of fat loss per week is quite safe and not very hard to do, but you can bump up that fat loss to about 1 kg, even 2 kg per week if you work hard and keep your diet clean. The time horizon may then be shortened to 5 weeks, or even 2. The point is that you must have a time value connected to your goal, so that you know by when you can expect achievement and bring closure to the journey. A time limit also enables you to calculate what your progress ought to be. If you want to lose 5 kg in 10 weeks for instance, you know that a fat loss rate of half a kilo per week will get you there. Whenever you take follow up measurements you’ll be able to see whether you’re on track or not.

How are you going to measure your progress?

It is important that you be able to measure your progress in a concrete, realistic manner. For fat loss, a scale reading may be used. If you want to fit into a pair of jeans, then a tape measurement of your waist and hips may be used. If you want to build muscle and strength, then the amount of weight you use in your workouts may be used. All of these give you a concrete number, a real thing that may be used to compare with follow up numbers. This allows you to see your progress, side by side. You simply cannot measure your progress by just looking in the mirror every day. Your judgement may be biased and you’ll never notice whether you’re making real progress or not. There are just too many influences that skews your judgement. Take care to ensure that your measurements are free of bias and unfair judgement. It’s hard to unfairly judge follow up numbers when they show clear progress.

Is this goal of yours realistic and attainable?

You must actually be able to achieve your goal. It does not help if you set a goal that you’ll literally never be able to achieve. Your goals must be realistic and doable. An unrealistic goal is for someone who weighs 50 kg with a body fat % of 7 to lose 10 kg. This goal is unrealistic and impossible, except if you want to become anorexic. Set goals that you know you’ll be able to achieve. If your subconscious mind knows that you've set a goal for yourself that you’ll never achieve, it’s going to sabotage your efforts right from the start. This means you’re definitely going to throw in the towel at some point. If your subconscious knows you can achieve a specific goal, it’s going to help you to find ways of staying on track without you even noticing it. Get your subconscious on your side by setting attainable, realistic goals.

Finally, to put the cherry on the cake so to speak, it’ll be extremely advantageous to physically write down your goals. Studies have shown that when we write down our goals, we are 42% more likely to achieve them. I can attest to that personally from instances in my past. I focus more on the outcome when I write down my goals and it seems somewhat easier to achieve them as well. In the same vein, writing down your goals by hand seems more real than typing them out on a computer or other device. That makes the probability of achieving them even higher. When you physically write down a goal by hand you send a message straight to the subconscious mind of your intention. It’s almost as if there is a link between the subconscious and the ink on the paper, via you physical body. This process recruits more of the subconscious to help you think of ways to achieve your goals and for boosts in motivation and willpower.

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Take some time right now to write down your own S.M.A.R.T goals, in large, bold letters, and then stick them on your fridge door. Take some time to add some decorations and inspirational messages, make it real. Stick your goals up in all places where you know you cannot miss them. A goal that is always in your face will leave its imprint on your mind and keep you on track during every moment of this program. Remember to make them S.M.A.R.T goals by making sure they answer the questions above. Goals like this increase our chances of achievement and helps us to conserve willpower and boost motivation.

I hope this post will help you to help yourself with your health and fitness endeavors. Remember that it all starts with goals. And your can significantly improve your chances of reaching your goals, if you take the time to develop them properly.

Until next time friends, STAY TRUE AND TRAIN HARD!



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