Think Big, Set Goals, Live Longer!

"Use Goals to live longer. No medicine in the world- and your physician will bear this out- i as powerful in bringing about long life as is the desire to do something" The Power of Thinking Big (Page 315)

The text book instruction of how to set goals use the acronym SMARTER to help set 'good' goals. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timed. This is not another one of those articles, although the SMART acronym is probably not a bad place to start when it comes to understanding how to set a goal for yourself. At ACLAÍ, setting goals is a very important step in the process in making big progress with training and nutrition for our personal training members, and there is always more to it than simply being SMART when it comes to making real progress. I have been reading 'The Magic of Thinking Big' by David Schwartz recently, and the section on goal setting pretty much summed up that extra something that makes goal setting a really effective tool that goes a step further than simply making them SMART. Here are a few quotes from the book, followed by some of my own thoughts about the relevance of the quote.

'Goals cure boredom. Goals may even cure chronic ailments' (page 310)

From a personal perspective, I can relate to this. Generally my most unproductive or slower progress periods are always AFTER I finish up a project or training program. I get so focused on finishing something out, that I forget to plan anything for after that current project is completed. This highlights both sides of the coin for me, in that when I have a goal or project to complete, I am in the zone, engaged, and satisfied that I am working towards my objective. On the other hand, when I don't have anything specific to work on, or find myself with excess time and stuck between one thing or another, I get bored, and feel that I'm more likely to get run down. The opposite of not having a goal is trying to do everything at once, and the mental and physical stress of this can take a big toll on the body, not to mention that this strategy is extremely ineffective at producing results. Pick one target, and start working towards it.

"You receive the 'automatic instrumentation' needed to keep you going straight to your objective" (Page 310)

One of the most important things that you need to do if you are serious about changing how your body looks or feels is building new habits, and getting them to the 'autopilot stage', where there is minimal effort involved in maintaining the habit, with a massive accumulated payoff the longer you keep it going. This is by far the most difficult thing that weight-loss, and 'transformation' people face, and is also the main reason why crash diets, extreme routines, and approaches that are not based on building the right habits for the long term are so ineffective outside of an initial steep curve of weight loss. As soon as you stop the extreme approach, which is 100% inevitable, you have not built any HABITS that are sustainable to fall back on. Motivation to get started is a great thing, and can be a very energising tool, but use to get started on the right approach, and avoid the pitfalls of the quick fix. Use that spark of motivation to dumb junk food, get a great coach on your side, start building nutrition habits that will support you, and work towards building movement skills that will keep you busy and engaged for years to come ensuring a lifetime of enjoyable physical activity.

"Surrender to that goal. Really surrender" (Page 312)

Lets face it, there are a lot of bull-shitters out there. Out to make a quick buck from your desire to be healthy and in better shape once and for all. These BS'ers are to be found in the health food isle, gyms, infomercials, online, in magazines, in news papers, on billboards, and on social media. If you have tried to lose weight and get in shape in the past, then the chances are very high that you have been taken in by some for of new diet or training fad, and come out the other side either the same or in a worse position than you were in before you started. Of course, its better to have tried and failed than to not have tried at all, and you can always regroup, refocus, and take another run at it. However, in my own experience, the biggest damage done by frantic efforts, failure, and regrouping is not physical, its mental. The hardest thing can be allowing yourself to believe that you CAN achieve the goal on the next pass. It can be easy to set the bar very low for yourself when considering what you can achieve, or just give up altogether and say to yourself that you have 'tried everything' and it didn't work.

What you really need to do is put the past behind you, go straight to the top in terms of who you are taking your advice from, and follow it to the letter of the law. If the advice is good, it should be sustainable, and somewhat enjoyable once you get it to the autopilot stage. Falling for marketing over science and practicality is an expensive mistake to make, and with each failure, your resolve and self-belief can become diminished. Start right now by surrendering to your big best-case-scenario goal, and get to work on putting the structures in place that are going to make it happen. The MOST IMPORTANT factor in all this is believing that you can achieve your ultimate goal.

Use the 'principle of the next mile' (Page 315)

A worthwhile goal is always going to involve a journey. You need to have the vison to see the result long before it has materialised. This is even more critical when you are trying to change your body shape, or get out of a chronic injury, due to the fact that things have been that way for a long time, and it can take a real leap of faith to allow yourself to believe that you can do it. Once you have done this, your focus should turn to the processes that will get you there. Set your big goal, then start working on smaller goals that help you along the road. For example, you could say any one of the things below to yourself right now.:

  • Today I am going to drink 3 litres of water today
  • I am going to write in my journal tomorrow morning
  • Right now I am going to spend ten minutes taking nice big deep breaths
  • I am going to have the best day of healthy food of my life today.

Work minute to minute, hour to hour, and day to day. The benefits wont be long accumulating, and soon you will look back in disbelief at the strides that you have made. Don't waste your time trying to work shortcuts or quick fixes. Building the routines and habits that will last a lifetime, getting quality coaching and support, and consistently pushing forward and getting back on the horse IS THE SHORTCUT! If there is one thing that you can do right now is get a piece of paper, write down your big goals and your smaller goals, and stick them up on the wall some place visible to remind yourself of what you want to achieve evenry day, and keep you on track!

This article is by Ainle Ó Cairealláin MSc CSCS.

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