It’s Grandma’s Marathon. The Boston Marathon. Maybe even the IRONMAN. What do the these major events have in common? They are big, audacious goals that are achieved by putting one foot in front of the other. Many will never achieve them. Some have. Some will. While others will do so over and over again! What do these competitors say when they are asked how they accomplished the seemingly impossible? Focus on the present and set intermediate goals. Sports Psychology research leads us to the same reasoning. Setting intermediate or “process goals” are vastly superior to the big, audacious ones.
So why are fitness goals, especially these bold declarations, so common at the head of the New Year? Let’s face it! There is a euphoria we experience when we think of an accomplishment of a grand goal. Telling people your great intentions usually results in positive reinforcements from others through their “oooohs” and “aaaaahs” which are usually followed up with statements to further stroke your ego, stating how they could never imagine doing something of this level, let alone complete the training and the competition. We are naturally inclined to seek out these positive reinforcements. The more you talk about your BIG YEAR, the more positive feedback you receive, and who wants to throw that away?
Having declared 2016 (or any other year) to be your BIG YEAR, how are you going to actually achieve the goals to get this done? With a quarter of the year gone, where are you in your progress and achievement?
Setting process goals is simple and vital to your success. Process goals are effective well beyond health and fitness. At first, committing to the actual process (the steps required between) can be tricky and not easy for most people. We get distracted. We lose focus. We want to believe there is an absolute or perfect path to our big accomplishment. But perfection is a distraction in and of itself. All that matters is momentum. All that matters is putting one foot in front of the other, millions of times.
Here is what I like to use as guidance with clients embarking on health & fitness goals (of any nature). The path may change, but the courage it takes to keep moving forward will not.
1. Do not start with “what do I want to do,” but “who do you want to be?” Describe the kind of person you want to be at the end of this journey, not just what you want to achieve. Do you want to be more disciplined? Make better health choices? Be a better example for your children? Embrace a positive outlook overall? Dig deeper than a number on the scale or a mile marker in a race.
2. What does this person do every day? Take the description of the person you want to be and make a list of kinds of things they do every day. What are their habits? How do they see failure? How do they see success? It helps to engage with others who model the positive behaviors your wish to form. Surprisingly, you may find their concepts simple, effective, and replicable. Over-thinking, over-training, or any other over concentration can completely thwart and even freeze the best of intentions for progress.
3. Have the courage to pick ONE of these habits to start with. Just one. I can’t state this more plainly — ONE. I know it does not seem large and all-encompassing. However, it is easy to get distracted thinking about multiple changes. As a result, they become more distracting than beneficial in your progress to build momentum. Remember you are choosing healthier habits to form the person you want be. You are not radically changing who you are.
4. Ask yourself, “can I do this habit every day for two weeks with confidence?” If the answer is no, have the courage to make it smaller. Are you unsure you can go to the gym every day? How about waking up earlier? You just need to get started. All of these seemingly small things matter in order to build momentum.
5. Find a trigger. All habits need a trigger or we often forget about the progressive steps we need to complete to build our momentum for continued success. In general, life can get in the way. Make sure you have something in place to make to not ignore your intended path. Block your door with your running shoes. Set a recurring 6:00 A.M. alarm on your phone. Ask a friend to remind you. Join an online health/fitness group.
6. Do it. Complete the habit each and every day so it gets easier tomorrow. Every day you complete your one single habit is a day you are molding your behavior to be the person you described in your vision. Even if it’s a single step, put one foot in front of the other. All that matters is momentum.
7. Track your progress. Make a journal. Report your progress to a friend. Participate in an online health/fitness group and update them on your work. You need to see what you are doing and where you are going. Most importantly, you need to celebrate it.
8. Forgive your slips ups. It does not matter if you miss a day. It does not matter if you miss a week. All that matters is the momentum you have created. Have the courage to see your slip ups as progress. Move forward with the knowledge you gained. If you do not experience any barriers in your path, you are not changing anything. Every decision to change comes with its own set of barriers and obstacles for you to work through and around. All you have to do is keep moving forward and build your momentum.
Little by little, each of these steps will lead you to the top! Your big goal will be more manageable when you break it down into a process that is implemented day by day, week by week, month by month. Eventually, the momentum you have created will bring you across the finish line of success and accomplishment!
Photos by: Matthew Deery