How to Set Goals and Achieve Them 100% of the Time

Let’s say that for hypothetical purposes, you told me you wanted to lose 10 or 15 pounds in he next few months because, you know, bikini season is coming up and you wanted to look good on the beach.

When asked which beach you said none in particular, but you know, there’s a chance you might eventually walk along a beach somewhere, so you wanted to look good for whenever that time came about.

Now let’s say Person #2 comes in and wants to lose 10-15 pounds in the next few months because they just got back from your doctor and they were told if they didn’t lose the weight they would develop adult-onset diabetes, which would mean injections, blood tests, potential blindness, amputations, and the chance they would die early. Essentially, they came in to lose weight because they want to be able to see their little girl graduate high school and be able to dance with her at her wedding.

So who do you think is going to be more successful in their attempt to lose weight? I’m guessing you would all say person #2 would give it more of an effort. Why? Because they have some sort of emotional attachment to their goal, which will speak volumes about their effort to achieve that goal.

I’m gonna be brutally honest here:

All failed goals have absolutely everything to do with the person setting them.

I’ve recently had a few clients come in to begin training who said they want to run a marathon. When I ask them why they chose that as a goal, they say because they think it will help them lose weight. So they focus on the end result of running a marathon versus focusing on the main goal of losing weight. Now to dig deeper, I commonly ask everyone what they want to accomplish by achieving their goal. This will commonly have some sort of emotional component to it, based in part on desire to conquer, esteem attainment, fear avoidance, and guilt. We could also break these down into other categories: sex (looking hot for the other hotties out there), competition (athletes work out to stay on a team, weekend warrior work out to play better on the weekend), avoiding the undesirable (diabetes), and feeling obligated (overweight, so they have to work out to stay healthy). 

Let’s set the record straight here: Marathon running is the slowest way to lose weight, and the fastest way to give a stimulus package to physiotherapists because of overuse injuries. Don’t believe me? Ask a runner if they’re injured, and you’ll get a littany of thoughts from “Well, it stops hurting once I warm up,” to “only if I think about it,” and my favorite “Oh I just run through the pain cuz that’s what they tell us to do.” Plain and simple, marathon running is long and slow, which means efficient, which means no fat burning. People who lose weight running marathons tend to also have a restrictive diet, so they’re going to lose weight regardless. To lose weight faster, try sprinting, as I documented HERE.
Couple the limited weight loss of marathon running with its’ rediculously high injury rate, and you have a recipe for disaster for anyone looking to run distance events to lose weight. No progress will decrease motivation and increase hopelessness, which means changing the desired behaviour to make results happen and to increase the emotional buy-in to a program.

Essentially, we can tell who will stick with their goals and who will drop off the face of the earth once we figure out what their emotional attachment is to their goal. If they’re doing it to simply look hot, but there’s no anchoring emotion behind it, they’ll never hit it. Advertisers know that emotion sells a lot better than reason, which is why crap like Axe body spray sells so much for such a high cost, considering it’s a pretty useless product in the grand scheme of health, wellness, productivity, and value.

 Why do you think people buy $100,000 cars, or why commercials have scantily clad ladies hocking their wares, or why charities get all weepy and needy when they want you to donate money? Because stats don’t attach a meaning to a problem, they only present logic.

Let’s put it another way: The only real difference between Japan’s recent earthquake and Haiti’s earthquake from 2010 is that we may know more people directly affected by Japan’s, which would make us more likely to assist them instead of Haiti. From an economic perspective, Haiti is on the brink of collapse, whereas Japan will be able to recover over time. 

Freud said there were three components to our psyche: the Id, the Ego, and the Superego. The Id represents our primal urges, and basically wants to have sex with everything, fight everything, and satisfy every desire we may have for carnality. The Superego represents restraint, thought, rationalization, ethics, and essentially what is required to exist in a society with others. The Egos job is to keep the place together and keep the Id and Superego happy with a decision. Wanna go club that sexy barista over the head and drag her back to your place to have a fun evening? Superego will have something to say about that, and suggest a more polite method of courtship. Wanna lose 20 pounds of body fat to get healthier and avoid having a heart attack? Id won’t go along for the ride unless he sees something at the end of the road that can be fun and exciting.

What this means is that even if you KNOW something is going to be good for you, odds are it won’t actually happen unless you convince your own personal Id to go along with it and that there is a fun, sexy and exciting payoff at the end of the road for them. All goals have to have an emotional backing to make the person want to achieve their goals, or else all the logic in the world won’t convince them to start it up.

Let’s face it, pretty much everyone knows that eating right and exercising is a healthy thing to do, but less than half the population gets 30 minutes of walking in a day. WALKING!!! This means that even if Joe Bubba Hugeness wears a shirt in size SUV, he’s not gonna put down the KFC and get off the couch unless he has a DAMN good reason, and only if it’s a reason he personally feels effects him directly.

Let’s try this out: Resistance training will allow an individual to increase their bone strength, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures in old age. It will allow for an increase in functional capacity, reduction in body fat, reduced rate of perceived exertion during activities of daily living, improved regulation of sex hormones, increased libido and performance, and reduce the likelihood of injuries and pain throughout the lifespan. This was the rational descriptor.

Now let’s try the emotional descriptor out for size.

And if that wasn’t enough:

I’ve never wanted to take a step class so badly in all my life!!!

Let’s face it, we’ve all made decisions that defied logic. Some worked out in our favor, and some didn’t. We’ll make dumb decisions again and again, because we will always have to satisfy that little voice in the back of our heads that wants to have fun, party, and get it on with as many hot people as we can. So figuring out what your deeper motivation is will increase your chances of performing a desired activity in order to achieve a desired outcome. If you’ve ever really “gotten after it” in the gym, meaning working with an intensity that would make gym owners double-check their insurance policies, you know what having an emotional backing to a goal will do for you.

Find that emotional background for your goals and you’ll never have to worry about setting a goal that never gets achieved. Take me for example. I want to deadlift 405, the number in itself isn’t really that impressive or important to anyone else. To me, after suffering a decade of back pain, it would mean the world to be able to pull that kind of weight, because after spending more than my fair share of days unable to even bend forward and lift anything, pulling 8 plates off the ground would be a personal victory in my battle against an old standing injury, and would show me that I have control over it, not the other way around.

About deansomerset

Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Post-Rehab Specialist, personal trainer and probably the coolest guy my mom knows, I try to impart a little knowledge with a sense of humor to keep people reading. I've always thought if it's something that can grab your attention, you're gonna remember it tomorrow!!
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6 Responses to How to Set Goals and Achieve Them 100% of the Time

  1. Mike Groth says:

    Solid post Dean! well thought out, and well put together. You know what would be awesome? A Part 2 follow up post to this talking about specific questions you can ask a prospective client when you have the initial consult, specifically covering information that will either directly or indirectly lead them to telling you what they’re emotional drive is to get in shape…

  2. R Smith says:

    Thanks, Dean (note the sarcasm)!
    Now I gotta go figure the reason why I’m trying to get lean(er) by May 30 (official beach season in Florida).
    Seriously, though, this is a hard-hitting post.

  3. Jim says:

    Two words. I agree!

    Awesome article Dean.

  4. Danny says:

    Awesome! This is what I tell my clients all the time! Unfortunately, inspiration doesn’t sell. The things that sell the most are the things that work the least. Afterall, the sketchers shoes tell you to drop the trainer! It’s ironic how shoes can have such an impact on people’s emotions yet we don’t give ourselves enough credit and underestimate how strong we can really be!

  5. That does it- no more weights, I’m going to aerobics classes from now on!

  6. Donovan says:

    Is that….is that a…..dude, you’ve got me tearing up! WTF!?

    This post probably has to be among the best I’ve read so far this year; it had everything, I laughed (powerthirst…nice), I got angry (don’t even know why) and got a little hungry (mmm fried chicken).Having a sociology background, I can’t agree more. So much so I had to give props on this one. This is a book-marker for sure, mostly because I don’t feel like going back into your archive when I want to reference this again.

    *Begin slow clap*

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