Goal setting is probably the most important, yet least perfected aspect in the training paradigm. People talk about goals all the time. People dream about goals daily. Then people talk about goals that they dream about daily.
Then of course, many times, they are still talking and dreaming about those same goals in a year, and the year after that.
Some people do eventually find their way to dream land because they are so determined to make shit happen that eventually, it does. I do believe very strongly in telling yourself in a consistent basis that you are capable of doing something extraordinary. I mean, if you don't believe you can, you won't. The factor of self belief is paramount in regards to seeing your goals come to fruition. Because no matter how much someone else tells you that you are able, and capable, until YOU believe it, you will constantly come up short.
So what are some of the things that the defeatist does to self sabotage his or her goals?
1. Tell everyone -
As I said, self belief is of utmost importance if you want your goals to manifest themselves from your effort. However, at some point you have to shut the fuck up telling everyone about all the shit you're going to do, and you know...actually DO IT.
In 1933, W. Mahler found that if a person announced the solution to a problem, and was acknowledged by others, it was now in the brain as a "social reality", even if the solution hadn't actually been achieved.
NYU psychology professor Peter Gollwitzer has been studying this since his 1982 book "Symbolic Self-Completion" - and recently published results of new tests in a research article, "When Intentions Go Public: Does Social Reality Widen the Intention-Behavior Gap?"
Four different tests of 63 people found that those who kept their intentions private were more likely to achieve them than those who made them public and were acknowledged by others.
Once you've told people of your intentions, it gives you a "premature sense of completeness."
You have "identity symbols" in your brain that make your self-image. Since both actions and talk create symbols in your brain, talking satisfies the brain enough that it "neglects the pursuit of further symbols."
Change is hard. It's harder when you tell everyone just how awesome you're going to be in a few months. I get it. It feels good to talk about your goals, and that's the problem. As studies have shown, that "feel good" feeling we have from doing so often short circuits our own efforts to actually see things through.
If you have goals, shut up about them, and just get it done.
2. Not being specific enough -
This is another big one.
"I want to lose weight."
"I want to get stronger."
"I want to get jacked."
None of these things are clearly defined enough to set a REAL GOAL.
You want to lose weight? How much? What is the time frame? What will your diet look like in that time? Do you have time to do cardio?
You want to get stronger? On what lift? In what time frame? What will your training program look like to accomplish this?
You want to get jacked? What in the hell does that mean to you? Bigger arms? How much bigger? How much weight do you need to gain? If you're fat right now, are you aware that you will need to get lean FIRST, to really get jacked? Otherwise, you're just fatter.....
When you set a goal, ask yourself is there a follow up question you can ask about that goal, that helps to more clearly define it. And keep asking questions like this, until you run out of questions.
The more questions you ask yourself, the more answers you can supply. And the more answers you can supply, means more than likely, the more correct answers you can supply.
There are two factors that play a very important part here.
1. Asking yourself the right questions
2. Giving yourself the right answers
If you make a blanket statement like "I want to lose weight", then ask "can I eat doughnuts while I do this?" that's a fucked up question. So one of the possible answers to that question is "yes". Make sure when you ask questions that they don't leave room for improper or incorrect answers.
3. Refusing to get/accept/seek professional advice -
Without a doubt, almost anything you set out to achieve has been achieved by others before you. And they usually have advice or knowledge that can make achieving your goals easier. So how come so many people fail to seek out others who can help?
Generally speaking; pride.
As Marcellus Wallace said, "Pride only hurts, it never helps."
There is nothing wrong with accepting help or advice from others if it helps you see your goals and aspirations come to fruition. If someone came to you, seeking advice on how to achieve something you had done, would you look down on them for doing so? Probably not. Unless you're an asshole.
Most people are more than happy to help others find their way to a goal they themselves have achieved. Because of association, they will often understand how much it means to you, and will gladly open up their vault of wisdom on how they made this happen.
Just make sure that if you do decide to seek advice or help, that you do so from the right people. Because the net is saturated with "wisdom", you can easily find yourself getting bad advice from people in spite of the fact that they accomplished something you desire as well.
For example, there are tons of online trainers now. But I don't know how many of them are really qualified to give advice, regardless of what they have accomplished. Would you take financial advice from a guy that is a day trader, but has no real bank roll to show for his exploits?
On the flip side, would you take financial advice from a guy with 100 million dollars who simply inherited it?
So be wise in choosing who you do decide to accept or get advice from.
4. Set unrealistic goals -
This one has become all too prevalent in powerlifting lately, but it's not new to any sport or endeavor.
Some guy deadlifts 700 for the first time, and proclaims he's "on the road to 800."
Some guy wins his first major national show in bodybuilding and he starts talking about winning the Mr. Olympia.
I hate that fucking motto "shoot for the stars, because even if you fail you will land on the moon."
Hey jackass, how about just getting on the Space Shuttle first? Seems like that's a good start.
I'm all for self belief. In fact, it is a major component in conquering goals and getting past roadblocks. However you need to throw in a dash of basic realism when you decide to set goals as well.
This means setting a realistic goal and a realistic timeframe to accomplish those things. Most goals consist of small steps in order to get to the top of the proverbial mountain. If all you focus on is the top of the mountain, and not the small foothold in front of you, then you can slip, and fall, and have to start all over again. Metaphorically speaking.
Lots of people become so overzealous in their goal setting that they end up incurring setbacks that ultimately challenge their confidence cause them to rearrange their plans all together.
If you desire to set a long term goal, then do so with all of the short term and medium term goals that have to fall in order for the long term goal to happen.
More than likely, your "6 week plan" is more than like a 12 or 24 week plan. And your 6 month plan is more than likely a year long or 18 month plan. There's nothing wrong with taking longer to assure a greater amount of success. More times than that, this will give you a far better chance of achieving a goal, with fewer setbacks, than if you set unrealistic goals with unrealistic timeframes. This is a very hard concept to grasp for people who either have enormous egos or don't understand that, as you get closer to the pinnacle of the mountain, the harder the climb becomes.
Anything worth achieving is worth doing correctly. And sometimes correctly means it will take longer than you actually wish it did. Learn to be ok with that.
This is sort of the grandaddy of failure. It generally encompasses all the above points as to why we usually fail.
Now I've written before, there is a difference between reasons, and excuses.
If you were late to work because you stayed out partying the night before, and kept hitting snooze on the alarm clock, that's an excuse.
If you were late to work because you got a flat tire on the way there, that's a reason.
Sometimes differentiating between reasons and excuses can be hard. So let's make this clear.
A reason is something that impacts your life that you have no control over.
An excuse is something that impacts your life that you did have control over.
If you perform poorly because you had the flu, that's a reason. If you got injured while performing that's a reason.
If you didn't take your training, diet, recovery, etc seriously during preparation and show up shitty, that's an excuse. The key point here, really, is to just be honest with yourself.
Sometimes people use reasons when the fact is, they are just excuses. For example, I rarely read where a guy says of missing an attempt in a meet "I just wasn't strong enough."
"I blew my wad on my previous attempt."
"Platform was wobbly."
Maybe some of these things are true, and maybe it's just as simple as, you weren't strong enough for that lift.
But reasons and excuses play a role in every facet of our life. If something goes unaccomplished because of things you couldn't control, then you regroup, and take a run at it again. If something goes unaccomplished because of your poor efforts and undisciplined actions, then you need to take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself just how important your goals really are.
One of the things I often ask people in regards to what they say they want to accomplish is, "what are you willing to give up in order to make this happen?"
This often puts people in a position where they are forced to reassess what's really important to them, and what matters most. I know from working with some people that sacrificing their health, isn't worth winning a trophy over. And there's nothing wrong with that. For others, they are fine with it. I don't know that there is any right or wrong here, because everyone gets to decide what is important to them, and it is their life to live. So regardless of either of those things, you have to decide what you will be willing to give up to find yourself at the top of your own personal mountain. Just remember, that everything in life that gives you something, will take something away. Decide what it is you're will to lose in order to gain something, and if it's really worth it.
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