This is usually the number one reason people fail in their goals. Their goals are so badly defined that achieving them is nearly impossible. Then they fail and feel terrible about themselves and feel like they can never do it. You might be wondering what to do about this. Generally, making the goal specific, measurable, and giving it a deadline will take your goal from some vague dream to a thing that can manifest in real life. Let’s have a look at what each of those things mean and good and bad examples of them. On top of that, you’re even going to set your own goal right now, so go get a paper and pen. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. You’re back? Great, let’s start.
First, what’s your goal? This is the first question I ask my new clients and most of the time they actually don’t know. Their response is often something like “I want to get fit” or “I want to lose weight.” Fit for what? Joining the Navy SEALs? Running a marathon? Being a stripper? You want to lose weight? Go amputate both legs. I guarantee you’ll weigh less. Hopefully, you see the problem with nebulous goals like those. The goal needs to be specific. “I want to be fit” can be changed to “I want to complete a marathon.” “I want to lose weight” can be changed to “I want to lose body fat.”
After you’ve thought of the “what,” write down why you are doing it. Yes, this step is mandatory. In his wonderful and heart-wrenching book, Man’s Search for Meaning, a psychologist named Viktor Frankl was sent to the Nazi concentration camps. He and others were reduced to starvation, beaten and abused by their guards, forced to work in the freezing cold wearing rags, and often all of this while they were very sick. Surprisingly, a lot of them died. However, one of the biggest killers of prisoners in the camps wasn’t the cold or the lack of food or the disease or the physical abuse; it was the man giving up on life. They thought they’d lost everything and saw no reason to live, so they died. Frankl observed that the ones who had a reason to live, a why to their lives, were able to survive unbelievable hardship. You say you want to be healthy. Why? You want to get big and strong. Why? Write it down now.
Next come the when and where. Answering when and where you will do the work to achieve the goal helps take it from this weird, amorphous dream-stuff and turn it into something concrete that you can actually do. “I want to run a marathon because I want to have my first athletic achievement” becomes “I want to run the marathon in Bangkok in October because I want to have my first athletic achievement.” Your turn. Write it.
So, you’ve decided you want to lose body fat by going to the gym down the street three times per week because you want to fit into that dress you love but haven’t been able to wear since Obama was president. Great! Then I ask a question, “How much body fat?” Often, they’ll answer with “a lot” or “some.” If they do, I tell them that “a lot” and “some” aren’t numbers. There’s a very simple reason having a number is important; it lets you know if you succeeded or not. If you say you want to lose “a lot” of body fat and you lost 5kg, did you succeed? Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on if you think 5kg is “a lot.” However, if your goal is to lose 5kg of body fat and you lost 5kg, then there’s no denying that you succeeded.
So, what’s the number for your goal? Sometimes this takes a little math. You weigh 70kg now and when you wore the dress you were 55kg. So that means 15kg of body fat have to go so you can get the dress on.
Last, but certainly important is time. You absolutely need to have an end date for the goal. If you say you’re going to run the marathon “someday,” that will most likely turn into “never.” Pick an end date and stick to it. If it’s some sort of competition, then register and pay the fee. Put it in your calendar. Go ahead, do it now.
Now you’ve got your goal all set out. It’s specific, you can measure how close you are to success, and you’ve got a definite time you finish by. This is the start of a tough but rewarding journey. The next part of the process is a matter of figuring out how you’ll get there. Don’t worry, it’s nowhere near as complicated as you think. I’ll cover this in depth in the next article.