How do you go about skinning a cat? You wouldn’t, that’d be mean. Just because you don’t like pets doesn’t mean you have to be violent toward them. And what’s with you and your animosity towards animals anyway?
If you asked how to skin or peel a clove of garlic, that I can help you with. But as the saying goes, there’s more than one way: use a paring knife, use a garlic roller, use a chef’s knife to smash if first, and so on.
The same goes for the “how” in how we set goals. In How to Set Goals When You Want to Get Fit – Part I, we only looked at the “what” and the “why” in the goal-setting process. The “what” needs to be specific and quantifiable. And I believe the “why” often goes unexamined and is really an essential part of the equation when we want to establish life-changing habits and reach our personal goals, be it fitness or otherwise. But without the “how”, the whole process is pointless. But as you’ll soon see, they’re all entwined. So let’s get to it.
First, let’s take Part I’s first “what” goal, a quite common one: I want to get fit. When we broke that down, we learned that part of getting fit in this was losing 20 pounds of fat. That’s our “what”, lose 20 pounds of fat. Now how do we set goals for that? Follow these three rules:
Rule 1: A focused goal is an achievable goal. If you’re anything like me (and I hope for your sake you’re not), I have a lot I’d like to accomplish. Every year, I vow to read more, play my guitar more, cook more, and so on. Problem is, every year I don’t do more of any of those things it seems. And part of the reason is that I’m not focused enough. There are too many things on my list. What if this year I just picked one thing for my list: I will read more. Forget guitar this year. Forget cooking this year. Just focus on reading this year. Seems doable.
Back to losing fat: our goal is to lose 20 pounds of fat. We’re not concerned with building a ton of muscle. We’re not concerned about running a marathon. We’re not concerned about eating 100% organic. Just focused on losing fat.
Rule 2: Think small when thinking big. Losing 20 pounds of fat is no small feat. In fact, it could be quite overwhelming for people. So while you should have big end goals in mind, remember, we need to break them down into bite-sizeable chunks. So our first goal is to lose five pounds of fat.
Rule 3: Post your goal. Post it multiple places. Bathroom mirror. Car dashboard. Office computer. On your cat… wait, you don’t have a cat… on your TV. This constant reminder will serve to ingrain your goal into your mind. No excuses on forgetting it.
So, that’s how I would suggest you set a goal. Make it small and focused and post it everywhere.
How does this look? Back to my reading example: I said I wanted to read more. Guitar and cooking will have to wait. I’m focused on reading.
I need to then break it down to something more specific: I want to read a book a month. So far so good. And to make that focused goal bite-sizeable, let’s say I will read 10 pages a day. Now this is certainly achievable cause I’m thinking small.
Lastly, I’m going to put that goal everywhere, including on the TV remote, where distraction could easily occur, as well as on the nightstand next to my bed, where I’ll be doing my reading.
No excuses on forgetting. No excuses that it’s too much to do with guitar and cooking too. No excuses that reading 10 pages is too much to ask.
How does this look fitness wise? Our initial goal was to lose 20 pounds of fat. Marathons will have to go on the back burner, as will building a ton of muscle, eating organic and so on. These things may happen inadvertently as a part of the process, but they are not our primary goal.
Next, we’re going to be small-minded (yes, I want you to be small-minded for a change) and start by losing five pounds of fat. That’s our first goal, five pounds. We will worry about pounds 6 – 20 later. In fact, we’ll be happy to worry about those when the time comes because that means we will have already lost five pounds!
Finally we’re going to put the goal everywhere, including on and in the fridge and pantry, on the grocery list, and in your wallet where you reach for your money when you buy your food. Keep this singular goal in focus, make it achievable, and make it unforgettable.
So we’ve now gone from building muscle, losing 20 pounds of fat, running a marathon, eating 100% organic… to simply losing five pounds of fat with reminders everywhere. Far less daunting wouldn’t you say?
That’s how we set goals, which for fitness, isn’t the same as saying how we achieve goals. But setting goals is part of the achieving process.
And speaking of that, I want to introduce a concept that can help you achieve your goals and abides by the three rules in how to set goals when you want to get fit. Introducing AIM: Action Item of the Month. I know, I’m a dork… yet another acronym to go along with GO! (www.GymOptional.com), Facebook group called FAN (Fitness Accountability Network), and a decision filter called HALT, but things are just easier to remember this way. So deal with it.
The idea of AIM is to focus on one fitness (Fitness = Nutrition + Exercise) related goal that you will work on for a month. These can be as varied as you want. Here are a few examples:
- No dairy
- Exercise in the morning
- Drink 100 ounces of water daily
- No meat
- Do Yoga
- No caffeine
- No soda
- No wheat
- No artificial sweeteners
- No eating 2-3 hours before going to bed
And as in our goal-setting process, in order to be focused, you can only pick one. You’ve probably heard it said that it takes 30 days to form a habit. That’s one reason I selected that time frame. The other is that we want to keep our lifestyle change ambitions bite-size. If I said I’m giving up caffeine for a year, that just seems insurmountable. But surely I could give it up for a month.
And here’s another thing about AIM: you aren’t necessarily attempting to do this because you want it to be a permanent lifestyle change, though you’re certainly welcome to take that approach. But maybe you want to do it and see if you notice any changes. For instance, I want to go a month without dairy sometime just to see how my body responds, how hard it is, how my energy levels are, how much my menus are affected and so on. I currently have no intentions of going permanently diary-free, but depending on how it goes, it may influence me to cut back (or who knows, even increase). It’s almost like an experiment with the option to renew.
So to recap, AIM is picking one thing you will do for just 30 days that relates to your overall fitness goal. So for the person wanting to lose that five pounds of fat, rather than saying they’re going to give up all sugar, white carbs, eat 1200 calories a day, workout 6 days a week, go vegan, and so on, I would suggest a different approach. I would suggest tracking calories, select the right workout plan (which means tracking your progress), and taking AIM at soda. With so many empty calories in soda, this would certainly help in their goal and they’re not necessarily having to deprive themselves of everything under the sun. They can still have a treat and some caffeine and whatnot (assuming it fits in their calorie allotment). But let’s take soda off the table for a month and just see how it helps, if they don’t feel healthier, and if they don’t like life better without it.
So that’s how you set goals to get fit. First figure out the “what” and “why” (do NOT skip the “why”… it could reveal something unexpected). From there, you can apply the three rules to back into the “how”. As you can see, fitness goal setting isn’t rocket science, so don’t overcomplicate it. But don’t gloss over it either. Each month take AIM … and fire.
You’ve been challenged… now GO!