What’s your big goal?
- Be healthier?
- Lose weight?
- Do a pull up?
- Get off meds?
Think back to a time when you set a non-fitness related goal. A master’s degree is a good example because we’re usually an over-worked, busy adult when we take that on.
Always seems like a good idea at first and that’s when it’s motivating. But at some point, it’s just a ton of work.
I think I was able to grind through my degree program because each course had a finish line. I could buckle down and sprint (or crawl) across that finish line.
A goal to increase muscle and/or lose fat may feel like there’s a finish line, but you’ve learned the hard way that it’s not a date on the calendar. That goal is a passive one – a result of other things you do, but not something you can always control directly.
And when you get there, you’re not done. You need to maintain. I think that “open-end-ness” can be discouraging to a goal-orientated high-achiever.
What to do? Set SMART goals.
This goal setting strategy is popular in education and business. I used to use this all the time as a teacher, so I approached my own health transformation the same way. As a coach, I help my clients use SMART goals, too.
S: Specific… break it down into the when, where, what details.
M: Measureable… how much, how many times, count it.
A: Attainable… something you believe is possible in the time you’re giving youself to do it.
R: Relevant… the action will create the desired outcome.
T: Time-bound… set due dates in an action plan. (I like to break the year up into quarters and set goals for each quarter.)
Let’s drill down into this a little bit.
Setting a goal to “be healthier” is a great outcome, but it’s vague.
It can be broken down into more specific tasks…
- Lift 3 times a week before work.
- Eat vegetables every day.
- Drink a gallon of water every day.
- Get 8,000 steps at least 5 days each week.
Some of these could be broken down again into more detailed action plans.
For example, how can you get 8,000 steps in a day if you’re not doing that now? What can you do differently during your day to get more steps without having to do an extra cardio session?
“Lose 20 pounds” is more specific than “get healthier”, and it’s measureable, but fat-loss is a side-effect, not an action.
If you have a scale goal, you need to set up an action plan with detailed SMART tasks you can track.
Also, a simple scale weight goal can be motivating when you see progress, but it’s also a ginormous pit of demotivatation when you don’t. (And there will be times when what you are doing is working, but you can’t see it on the scale yet.)
I’ve set scale goals. I have one now as I end my “improvement season” and begin a fat-loss phase.
But my overall scale goal is not written on a calendar in pen.
It will happen when it happens. I’ll focus on what I DO each week/month/quarter and let my success come to me.
I like the idea of setting quarter goals because it’s similar to how we did school.
For the “time-bound” part of your SMART fitness goal, set up tasks with 30, 60, and 90 day due dates.
Or think of them as evaluation dates. If something you’ve done consistently for 90 days isn’t working or you aren’t enjoying it, change the plan.
A 30-day due date could be “workout 12 times by February 28th”. That reflects your goal of 3 workouts a week, but if you have a bad week, you could still stay on track for 12 workouts in February.
SMART goals broken down into actions centered around habits are key. I think that helps us grind when unmotivated because we can see a “finish line” at the end of 30, 60, or 90 days.
If you got a degree that way – a task list with due dates for each task – it will work for this, too.
And if it takes a couple years to finish up a master’s degree, it’s reasonable to think it might take a couple of years to change your health, body composition, and life.
You will keep setting up your path in front of you, quarter by quarter.
Since we are what we repeatedly do, you’ll “be healthier” as you follow that path. That goal sneaks up on you as you stick to your plan.
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Hi! I’m Tammy! I was a busy, stressed, and unhealthy teacher until I decided to take control of my health. I did not become an athlete until I was in my 50’s.
I earned personal training and fitness nutrition certifications, then retired from teaching to dedicate my work life to fitness education for other busy women over 40.
My results are obviously not typical because most people don’t train to compete as a bodybuilder.
But I believe everyone can make positive changes with healthy habits! Each of us has a unique combination of strengths and challenges that need to be considered to customize a program that will work for us. Science-based principles, flexibility, and consistency make all the difference.