In our last couple blog posts, we talked a lot about some different physical aspects of fitness. This time, we’re going to talk a bit more about some mental and emotional aspects of fitness—specifically the deceptively complicated principle of goal-setting.
This is especially prudent now that we're in prime New Year's Resolution planning season.
Before you rush to make a laundry list of next year's goals, though, let's consider what having a goal really means.
Setting a Non-Goal
There are a lot of reasons why we decide to start (or continue) working out. A lot of this has to do with having certain “goals” in mind. Maybe you want to lose some inches around your waist. Or you want to lift heavier weights. It’s possible you want to PR in that race you have coming up next month.
We throw the word “goal” around a lot, so much so, that having a goal can be a bit intimidating and pretty scary. Your goal of losing weight for that special event soon becomes a looming “X” on your calendar, so you decide you’ll skip that snack you wanted even though you were hungry. You follow all of the curated feeds of Instagram models flaunting the body you want. You compulsively Google quick weight-loss tips and programs.
We call all of these things “goals”, when really these are just results. And when we obsess over these results, we not only make ourselves unhappier, but it takes the joy out of fitness and the journey it takes to get there (more on that later).
There's no "Why" in Goal
Well, actually there is, but we love a good opportunity for a pun.
Setting an effective personal goal is a lot more than just constantly chasing the results that you want. Fitness shouldn’t feel like a constant rat race of result after result after result.
When you consider your goal, don’t think in the framework of an end result, rather, think about it first as your “Why”. Your Why is something that you set. It’s not something anyone, besides you, can determine. It isn’t dictated by your social media followers, or by your family, or even the doctor who may be telling you to change your lifestyle for health reasons.
To find your why, it takes soul searching.
The Two Types of Goals
Your "Why" won’t be the same as anyone else’s and sets you apart from all others. What’s your purpose?
Trust us, it’s not simple. We’ve conditioned ourselves to think about goals—especially in the world of fitness—as just numbers, figures, times, increases, decreases. It’ll take some time and introspection to really figure out what your Why is. Part of the reason why your Why is so important to understand about yourself is that it should apply to your personal, professional, and fitness aspects of your life.
Once you’ve landed on your Why, that’s when you can truly set actionable goals that align and help you move forward in your Why and your purpose.
These goals fall into two handy buckets:
1. Outcome Goals
Are what we generally think of as the results we mentioned above. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to change your body composition, but keep in mind that these goals aren’t necessarily actionable and may be in direct conflict of your why.
2. Process Goals
These goals focus on the journey and require a challenging rewiring of how you think about goals traditionally. Process goals focus on your journey and what you do in the name of your purpose and your why. Ultimately, so many variables come into play that may affect your Outcome Goals.
You may train super hard for your goal of PRing in an upcoming half marathon, but you get sidelined by an injury the week before. Or maybe the weather is terrible and slows you down. Maybe you get lost on the course.
As hard as you might try, you can’t control outcomes, but you can control your behaviors. Instead of putting an emphasis on the end result, focus in on the effort itself. Bridge together what you’re doing and why you’re doing it and you’ll only be more successful in accomplishing what you set out to do. You’ll feel more fulfilled with the results because they’re more deeply a representation of what you cherish and what is impactful upon your life.
Sure, getting that PR in the half marathon would have been awesome, but you stuck to that training plan, you changed your diet to fuel your body correctly, and finished the race. All of that is a victory and a goal accomplishment in itself.
It’s important to have goals in your life but using your Why as a compass will make your goals feel so much more valuable.
Remember, as you think about the new year, your goals are your goals—you determine them, and we’re just here to be part of the journey—a part of the process to help you get there.