The summer is drawing to a close (sorry, somebody had to say it) and as the schedules return to normal after all that travel and partying in the sunshine and you all return to your normal gym routines I thought it might be a good time to talk about goal setting. We see each other in the gym all the time, some of us upwards of 5 times a week, yet how many of us know EXACTLY why we are there and what we are working towards? There is this ambiguous idea out there that we are all aiming to be “fit” or that we are all gunning for that awesome CrossFit term of “general physical preparedness”. That is great, and personally I love to see you in the gym suffering next to me, but I hope this article sets you on a path to picking some specific areas of your life (CrossFit related or not) and set some goals for yourself. So how do we go about doing that? Here are some tips first about how to pick your goals and then a few on how to set about achieving them.
Step 1 to successful goal setting is making sure you are setting the CORRECT goal for yourself.
“Okay Coach Jaime, you’re right and I’m ready to set some goals for myself. Where do I start?
You know you are on the right track in goal setting if you stick to setting SMART goals for yourself.
The more detailed you can be with your goal the better. For the sake of this exercise let’s use CrossFit as an example, though SMART goals can be used in any area of your life. Saying “I want to get fit” is a generality. Saying “I want to do 10 strict pull ups” or “I want 12% body fat” is specific.
If you’ve been with CrossFit for any time at all you know that we are all about measurable results. That’s why the clock is running literally all the time and why we do things like 1RM lifts and benchmark workouts. Your goal needs to be measurable. In our examples above both of our hypothetical goals are easily measured. Ideally you should be able to measure progress towards your goal as well, not just the end result.
Let me just say that I truly believe that any goal is attainable as long as you are prepared to set yourself up for success. Attainability of your goal sometimes rests on getting help from others. Are there systems you need to put in place to ensure your success? Again referring to our example, maybe you need a coaches guidance, or some private lessons to get you started towards your goal. Maybe you need to prepare your friends and family for changes in your usual schedule or habits. Do you have the resources in place to go to if you feel that you are not progressing? Attainability of the goal often depends on our ability to prepare and plan.
This is probably the most important aspect of a SMART goal. If the goal is not relevant to you (does it REALLY matter?) then you will not put the systems in place to reach it. Your goals are about YOU and what you want for yourself and your life. You cannot sets goals for others nor can others set goals for you. It is important that you really understand the WHY of your goal in order for it to matter enough to you to see it through.
There MUST be a time-frame for your goal in order for it to be effective. Again this might be an aspect where you will need some help in deciding a reasonable and realistic time frame based on what exactly your goal is. In our above examples you can see how 10 strict pull-ups and 12% body fat as goals could have drastically different time-frames associated with them.
Now that you know how to set a goal that is worth seeing through to the end, how do we go about making sure you are successful?
Step 2 through…well…as many as it takes to be successful.
Write down your goals.
Without getting too technical about how our brains work I’ll just tell you that writing things down is important and it helps tell our brain what we think is important. I know people who write down the goals they are working on every single day in a journal (even if they are the SAME goals) just to reinforce the things that are most important.
Make an Action Plan.
We’ve all heard that quote “failing to plan is planning to fail” and while I kind of detest simplifications like that, this one is sort of true. We cannot expect our willpower or determination to constantly win the day for us, so we have to have a specific plan to help us achieve our goals. It is important that you stay focused on your desired outcome, but not so much that you forget the process. Again using CrossFit as our orientation, a successful action plan for our first example of 10 strict pull ups would be some program in which you are working on pull-ups or accessory movements several times a week outside of your normal training. A successful action plan for the 12% body fat would potentially be more complex, involving eating plans, workout plans, recovery etc. These things don’t happen by accident. Without a plan, goals don’t get achieved, it’s just that simple.
Stick to your plan!
This is where 90% of goals fail. All the planning in the world will not help if you don’t stick to the plan. A good way to help you stick to your plan is to involve others. Our members are good at doing that. How many posts have you read in the members group where someone is asking for help in sticking to an eating plan, or making their goals public in order to be accountable to the group? This is a fantastic strategy to increase your chance of success. TELL PEOPLE about your goals, involve your friends and your family. Try to have safeguards in place to buffer you against potentially diverging from the path you’ve set.
We live in a world of instant gratification. The truth is that the things we really want or need take time and work, and that’s why it is so satisfying to finally reach a goal. If you’ve done all the goal setting and planning correctly and are following your action plan, be PATIENT and give it time to start working. This is especially true in our CrossFit environment. Change takes time and dedication to a set plan. Avoid the temptation to start messing with your plan if you don’t see results right away. Our bodies and minds need time to adjust to new habits, schedules, demands etc. and the more you mess with the plan, the LESS measurable your process becomes. If after some time you are concerned that you are not making the progress needed to meet your goal, there is always room for adjustment, but constant adjustment is not the answer.
ASK FOR HELP (all along the way).
This is huge and I’ve mentioned it already in a couple of sections. Ask for help in setting a realistic goal, ask for help in creating your action plan, ask for help in sticking to your action plan, ask for help when you’re feeling defeated, ask for a congrats when you’re feeling successful, ask, ask, ask. Let people help you along the way. The secret is that in the process of asking someone for help you are probably motivating them as well!
Accept failure (temporarily).
Resiliency is a skill we all need to learn. We’ve all failed at something in life and we are all still here to talk about it, so obviously failure is not fatal. Failure is a form of learning, where we get to find out what does not work, which can be valuable in-and-of itself. Failure, however does NOT mean that you walk away from that goal. You accept that maybe the timeframe was too short, or the action plan needs adjusting, but failure is just a TEMPORARY state while you figure out what you need to adjust to move on.
Achieving even a small goal you have set for yourself is a BIG deal. You should celebrate and you should let others celebrate with you. Too often we are tempted to just move on to the next thing without taking the time to appreciate what we’ve accomplished. Share with the community what you’re working on and what you’ve achieved. Let the community celebrate you and celebrate WITH you when you accomplish a goal. We all know how much we like to party…right?
I’ll finish up by saying that I’m in no way an expert on goal setting, but as a Martial Arts Instructor and Coach I’ve had the privilege of helping a lot of people reach their goals and I believe that most of us are capable of so much more than we believe ourselves to be. For this article I drew from some great online resources including www.mindtools.com and www.crossfitinvictus.com. There is SO much information to be found on goal setting, I’ve just begun to scratch the surface here, so if this topic interests you there is a lot more info out there for you!
We at CFC want to help you set and reach your goals. Look for a new community “Goal Board” coming soon where you can make your goals public and get the support of the community behind you! If you would like some help setting some SMART goals for yourself or need some help creating an action plan to reach a goal you’ve set, come talk to a coach, we would love to help!
“What you GET by achieving your goals is not as important as what you BECOME by achieving your goals” –Zig Ziglar
“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.” Michelangelo