What, exactly, are the health and fitness goals you’re shooting for?
Any effort to “get in shape” starts with this question.
It seems like an easy question to answer.
Just rattle off how many Kgs. you want to lose, what pant size you want to wear, how much weight you want to deadlift, or the date you need to look photo-ready… and you’re on your way.
Of course, that’s how most people set their fitness goals. But are they doing it right?
Proper goal setting is a plan for getting things done. When you do goals right, you feel ready, willing, and able to make your dream happen.
When you don’t know how to set goals, you get lost. Confused. Overwhelmed. Crushed by “shoulds”. Confused, wondering and worrying, or distracted by irrelevant details. If you succeed with poor or unclear goals, it’s probably by accident.
Turn “outcome goals” into “behaviour goals”: Generally, when someone asks about their fitness goals, most people start with the outcome(s) they want:
- I want to lose 20 Kgs.
- I want that thin-skinned, ripped look.
- I want to binge less often.
- I want to deadlift double my bodyweight.
Outcome goals describe how we want things to be at the end of the process.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting things. Or talking about what you want. Or starting with the end in mind. But we can’t stop there.
Wanting things isn’t enough. Even if you really, really, really want them. Because: We often can’t control outcomes.
Outcomes are affected by many external factors like:
- Your job gets crazy busy.
- Your kid gets sick.
- Your gym closes because of Covid Lockdown.
- Someone unwell at home needs your help.
- Your kids have exams
And they’re influenced by physical limitations. Like:
- You get sick.
- You’re traveling a lot.
- You’re having problems sleeping.
You get the idea what I mean?
But you can control what you do. That’s why behaviour goals are so important: They focus on the things we do have control over. Behaviour goals represent your commitment to practice a particular set of actions or tasks every day, as consistently and regularly as possible. eg. You want to lose weight. Write that down as an outcome you want. Now let’s think about all the little steps we can take to move toward that outcome, and which ones should come first. A simple but very effective tool to lose weight is Eating Slow. Eating slow will not shed your weight immediately. But in fact, eating slowly helps you pay more attention to what you’re eating and how. That means over time, you make better food choices easily and effortlessly. Eating slowly helps you eat a bit less, but still feel satisfied. It helps decrease bloating because now you’re chewing and digesting your food better, which is another plus for losing weight.
Since eating slowly helps you eat less, and eating less most often leads to fat loss (not to mention the benefits of better food choices and better digestion), this approach helps turn an outcome (uncontrollable) into a behaviour (controllable).
Some more examples to make you understand the concept clearly:
1) Outcome – Sleep more. Behaviour – Create a calming pre-sleep routine and start it 60 minutes before bedtime.
2) Outcome – Squat more weight. Behaviour – Squat thrice a week with different intensity.
3) Outcome – Have better relationship with partner. Behaviour – Have a weekly date night.
Notice how both outcome and behavior goals are trackable. However, behaviour goals are usually more effective because they give you something to do (and track) each day. Bringing small habits in your life.
So how can you set powerful behaviour goals today?
- Write down one outcome you want. Don’t overthink it. Just name the desire you want the most right now.
- Write down some of the skills you think you’ll need to get that outcome. If you’re just starting out, focus on foundational skills. What are the basics that make everything else possible? (For instance, if you want to manage your time, you need to learn to use a calendar.)
- Related to each skill, write down a behaviour or two you can do today that’ll help build those skills. This can be really easy, like even packing your gym bag for the following morning.
- Do the behavior today, and tomorrow, and so on. And, keep in mind, if you don’t follow through on a given day, don’t let it derail you. Each day is a clean slate.
- Get a coach or subject matter expert who can help you with these small behaviour changes that will take you towards your outcome goal
Turn “avoid goals” into “approach goals”. Stop drinking soda. Stop eating junk food. Stop smoking. “Avoid” goals like these are nice and straightforward. What’s simpler or easier to understand than “don’t”? Yet “avoid” goals are psychologically counterproductive. Because telling yourself to stop doing something almost guarantees you’ll keep doing it. As you might imagine, nobody likes being told what to do or what not to do. This is called resistance, and it’s completely normal. Turn “avoid” goals into “approach” goals.
“Approach” goals pull you toward something desirable (and quietly pull you away from something you’re trying to avoid). Some examples:
1) Avoid: Stop snacking on “junk food”. Approach : Snack on cut fruits and veggies prepared in advance.
2) Avoid: Stop feeling so fatigued and sleep deprived all the time. Approach: Develop a relaxing sleep ritual and 9 pm bedtime.
So how can you set powerful “approach” goals today?
- Write down a “bad” habit you want to avoid. This is pretty easy.
- Write down a “good” habit or two you can use to replace the habit you want to quit. Try to make the “good” habits relevant to the context. If you usually take a smoke break at work, take a tea break instead, for example.
- Write down an “approach” goal you can do today to support the new “good” habit. Start as small as you want.
- Identify how this “approach” goal will benefit you.
- Find what works, and repeat. You can try a bunch of different “approach” goals to find out what feels easiest for you. When you find one that works for your life, practice it every day.
Turn “performance goals” into “mastery goals”. Performance goals are a lot like outcome goals. But they’re usually associated with external validation such as wanting to get good grades from a teacher, win a competition, or race against a standardized time.
Just like outcome goals, performance goals are often limited by factors outside your control: It could be rainy and windy on the day of a marathon. That’s out of your control, yet influences your time.
Of course, performance goals can be fun for a while. They can push you to achieve your best. But it’s incredibly demotivating if they don’t work out.
Mastery is different.
- Mastery emphasizes the process of getting a little bit better each day at a particular skill.
- Mastery focuses on the joy of learning and the value in intrinsic (inside-yourself) process. External validation becomes irrelevant when you’re focused on the pleasure of doing the activity itself.
- Mastery is gratifying because no matter what others think or do — whether you’re judged poorly or you outperform — you can still feel good about your own personal progression. Truly, mastery is motivating no matter what else is going on.
1) Performance Goal – Beat a personal record in the half marathon. Mastery – Work on running elegantly, efficiently, and smoothly. Watch video of self running and identify technique elements to improve, then incorporate these into training plan.
2) Performance Goal -Drop body fat to 8% for an upcoming competition. Mastery – Build your ability to consistently prepare and execute a well-designed meal plan.
So how can you set powerful “mastery goals” today?
- Write down a desired outcome that’s a performance goal.
- Write down some ideas for turning inward with that goal. If you take the external validation out of the equation, what does success look like?
- Write down an action you can take every day for the next two weeks to build those skills.
- Track your progression toward mastery. Make your practices a permanent part of your daily or weekly routine.
What to do next
1. Take an honest look at your goals. Most people have health and fitness goals. Think about yours. Write them down if you like.
2. Consider the skills you need to do what you want. New outcomes need new skills. If there’s something you want to do, and you haven’t done it, you probably haven’t developed the skills you need.
3. Turn outcomes into behaviours. Once you know which skills will help you reach your goals, break them down into behaviours/actions you can practice with purpose, every day.
4. Focus on what to do, rather than on what not to do. “Don’t do X” is not an action plan. But “Do more Y” is.
5. Enjoy the journey. Choose behaviors you’ll enjoy. Experience the daily zen of doing a thing for its own sake. Refine, improve, and become a master.
This article has been compiled from my lessons over the last two years with Precision Nutrition. I did my Level 1 coaching to start with and then went on to do certification on Sleep, Recover and Stress Management. Right now I am doing my Level 2 certification on Deep Health with them. If you are interested to know more about them, visit their website. They have great online courses which you can do for your knowledge or if you ever want to take coaching as profession.
A union of like-minded individuals to connect on mental & spiritual level.
A union to share ideas, thoughts and beliefs for individual growth.
A platform for social learning through experiences.
A place to unlearn and relearn.
In recent years, my efforts have been significantly focused towards helping people grow, by sharing my experiences, learnings, failures, ideas, and questions, whether through social media, newsletter, Space sessions, public speaking engagements or one to one coaching. All these efforts have helped me grow in many ways and I have realised that each one of us has the potential to help others grow, by sharing experiences, learnings and insights. And if more of us come forward to help others grow, not limiting ourselves by any boundaries and inhibitions, the world can undoubtedly be a better place.
This has given birth to the idea of Communion – a community of those who believe in the culture of ‘helping each other grow’. The idea is to together build unique and harmonious space which gives each one of us a unique advantage, rising above the limitations and boundaries.
The idea of COMMUNION is born with the vision to create a platform where like minded people come together to share & seek, ideate & brainstorm, inspire & guide one another and those striving for personal growth. I will gradually unfold different ways you can be connected to COMMUNION and make it a part of your own growth journey.
To begin with, COMMUNION is hosting its first event, a 3-day residential retreat at Rishikesh, exclusively for my mentees, I have had the pleasure to help over the months. The Retreat aspires to be a game-changer in our respective, ongoing journey of personal growth.
Focused on multi-discipline personal growth, the retreat will have unique formats of interactive sessions with domain experts in entrepreneurship, work-life balance, digital communication, mental health, wellness & nutrition, the art of giving, networking, and more; clubbed with wholesome rejuvenation with yoga, meditation, music, recreation, and more – elements that will make a big difference in the way we live our life.
To know more about the speakers and participants at The Retreat in Rishikesh, visit www.sandeepmall.com
The logo of COMMUNION is designed by my dear friend, Rohit Varma’s team at Narrative Asia, a brand strategy and design firm based in Bangalore.
The logotype uses ‘Acumin Variable’, a type that is heavy and suggests an exclusive group and bringing people together. There is focus on “U” as You are important and it is all about YOU. The ‘u’ in the logo is manipulated to create the connection between people. Orange is used to suggest energy, creativity and optimism.
Watch this space for regular updates on all the exciting developments under ‘COMMUNION’, a mental & spiritual platform for social learning through experiences and a place to learn, unlearn and relearn.