As we count down the hours to the new year, it’s now time to set our New Years Resolutions. But sadly, most us will break our resolutions within 6 months, and in fact, many of us won’t even last until Valentine’s Day. So what must you do to set goals and stick to them?
Although there are many plausible approaches, I’m going to share with you the strategy and methods that helped catapult me in 9 months from ~17% body fat to about 3.5% when I took pictures about 7 weeks ago (I will post the pics very soon). Believe me, it wasn’t easy… it took tremendous desire, planning, and creating the right environment to attain this goal, and I’d like to share what I did in this post so that you can take pieces from it for your own benefit.
1. Get Fired Up & Motivated
Before setting your goals, make sure you have the DESIRE and MOTIVATION to wholeheartedly pursue the goal(s) you set for yourself in 2013. Seriously, developing that burning motivation inside you is half the battle. So how do you get this drive? There are many ways to do this (you should get creative and get it in whatever way that you need to), but I will share a few.
- Create a Motto or Slogan that epitomizes your desires and post it all over the place to remind you. For me, my attitude is summed up in big, red text in my home office (inspired by Steve Jobs, founder of Apple): “I will die. I’ve got nothing to lose.“ A macabre slogan? Maybe, but for me, this means that I have no time to waste. It helps me to focus and maximize each day towards something that adds long-term value. It also means that I fear nothing (we all die, right?), and I will not let anyone or anything get in the way of accomplishing my goals. In a similar way, think about what drives you and your goals, and summarize that in one phrase. Then put it all over the place to remind and encourage you.
- Negative Reinforcement. Another effective method is negative reinforcement. For example, if you are overweight and don’t like the way you look (like me earlier this year), post an unflattering picture of yourself in places that are private enough but in plain site, such as your bedroom, your home office, kitchen, etc… yes, it’s going to be an eye-sore, but you hate looking like that and need to change, right? Exactly. By the way, Arnold Schwarzenegger did precisely this to develop his calves into watermelons… his calves were relatively scrawny compared to the rest of his body (people would snicker), so he would always expose his calves in the gym for all to see, and the embarrassment motivated him to make them huge.
- Postitive Reinforcement. Obviously, look to others who are successful in the area that you want to accel at, and imiate what they do. The closer you are to them and the more actual contact you have to them, the better because you can talk to them and get advice.
- Penalties and Rewards. Money is a factor that drives a lot of people’s behaviors. Try putting $1,000 (or $100) “in escrow” with a close friend, and each week that you hit your goals (e.g. run for 30+ minutes 3 times per week), get $20 back from him/her (of course, if you fail during the week, you lose the $20). Believe me, this provides good incentive for a lot of people to hit their weekly goals 🙂
2. Visualize your Success.
I’ve learned that the mind is a supremely powerful tool. Whenever I have a goal, I visualize accomplishing that goal every single day. I think about it in the morning, while I’m driving (while keeping my eyes on the road, of course), while working out, and at night before going to bed. If you believe something in your mind and envision it over and over again, it really is so much easier to attain. As I got myself into shape this year, I continuously visualized how I would look when I reached my goal of 5% body fat, and this really helped encourage and drive me forward and ultimately helped me reach even BEYOND my initial goal.
3. Create an Environment around you that is Hospitable to Success.
John Donne said “No man is an island.” He’s right… we are part of an inter-related ecosystem, and depending on who and what you surround yourself with, it either helps or hurts you in terms of accomplishing your goals. This is exactly why you have to PROACTIVELY MOLD the environment around you. If you’re trying to quit smoking, stop hanging out with people who smoke and stay away from settings that make you want to smoke. Instead, surround yourself with others who are trying to quit smoking and keep each other accountable. I’ve found that the following three things help create the right environment for success:
- Get an Accountability Partner(s) or a Peer Group to support you. Surrounding yourself with people who WANT to help you is one of the best ways to stay on the wagon. For example, get a workout partner who is also dedicated to working out with you 4 times per week, and keep each other accountable. Also, make some new friends at the gym who are motivated to work out or join a running group. Like-minded, motivated people can easily make the difference between success and failure.
- Identify the People and Settings that contribute to your failure, and cut those things loose. This is pretty straightforward. Recovering alcoholics should stay away from bars, right? If you find yourself feasting on a half gallon of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream each night after putting your kids to sleep, then purge your refrigerator of such things (and make yourself a fruit smoothie with yogurt instead). And if playing video games after work contributes to you not going to the gym, well then, put your X-box up on eBay. Life is full of distractions… cut out the ones that are keeping you from being your very best. For me, I had to reduce my late-night beer consumption that contributed to empty, excess calories… it was tough at first, but once I stopped regularly buying a case of Newcastle or Guiness on my weekly grocery runs, I noticed immediate results.
- Develop routines that help keep you motivated and on-track. Human beings are creatures of habit, so implement good habits. One positive habit I developed this year is journaling and recording everything that I eat in a spreadsheet. Now that I know exactly what I’m eating and how it contributes to the way I look and feel, I’m more educated AND it naturally keeps me from going too crazy on my vices, like alcohol and junk food. Also, I developed the habit of always having protein bars close by – whether it’s in the car, in my house, or at work – because it’s often difficult to get adequate protein in the environment that I’m in.
4. Use S.M.A.R.T. Goal-setting to set, measure, assess, and reassess your goals.
You’ve heard of the S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting technique, right (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMART_criteria)? There are many variations of this acronym, but usually it stands for the following:
- SPECIFIC: Your goal should not be a general, “pie-in-the-sky” goal, such as “I want to be physically fit!”; instead, it should be broken down into specific actions, such as “I will work out 3 times per week for at least 30 minutes per day” or “I will complete a half marathon this year by training 4 times per week for 40 minutes each session.”
- MEASURABLE: By making your goal specific, you can MEASURE it; for example, you can test whether or not you went to the gym or jogged for 30~40 minutes, 3~4 times per week.
- ATTAINABLE: Obviously, don’t make your goal something you cannot realistically attain. For example, if you are 500 pounds overweight, it will be much more realistic to target losing the weight in increments, rather than trying to lose all of that in six months (e.g. 20 pounds per week), which is unrealistic (and you will likely be discouraged).
- RELEVANT: This is used more in a work context, but your goal should actually be relevant to your role or responsibilities. Obviously, pick the most relevant goals for yourself based on your needs or desires.
- TIME-BOUND: Make sure your goals are bound by time. Don’t make them open-ended like, “I want to bench press 300 pounds” or “I want to weight 110 pounds.” Instead, say, “I want to bench press 300 pounds by 12/31 of next year, and I will work out 4 times per week to attain it” or “I will lose 12 pounds by June 30 by eating an 1,800 calorie diet and losing 2 pounds per month.”
Remember to constantly measure your progress and assess/reassess. For example, as I slimmed down this year from ~17% body fat, my target was to get down to 5% body fat by the end of October, but I realized that I was well ahead of my pace and wanted to look even more ripped, so I decided to shoot below that when I reassessed myself a few weeks before my target date.
Finally, remember that we all have setbacks sometimes or we need to reset our goals to something more practical. That’s totally okay, and it’s actually part of growing and becoming successful. The important thing here is to be DISAPPOINTED but not DEJECTED. The difference is that if you feel dejected and hopeless, you’re likely to give up and lose motivation, but if you are disappointed, you can use it as a positive catalyst for renewing or strengthening your desire to succeed.
My Goals for this Year:
I’ll finish off by sharing my two goals for the first half of this year (one is personal and the other is professional):
- Personal: I want to Bench Press 405 pounds and squat 505 pounds again by June 30, 2013. I will accomplish this by using a mass and strength conditioning program and working out at least 4 times per week. In addition, I will continue to keep up my endurance by playing soccer or basketball at least 2 times per week (probably on Tuesdays and Sundays).
- Professional: I want to launch my new company before March 31, 2013. I will accomplish this by satisfactorily completing all remaining internal development & testing by January 31, completing User /Outside testing by February 15, and getting all required approvals and marketing partnerships completed by February 28.
Good luck to all of you in setting your goals. Happy New Year, and may this year bring huge success and happiness for you!