The Importance of Planning: Goal Setting for Success
It's Saturday night and while the majority of the world is enjoying the Olympics on the TV, I'm stuck in the kitchen.
That's right, it's meal prep night. That twice weekly ritual of preparing lunches, dinners and snacks for the days and weeks ahead that I actually believe is the cornerstone of my success. I'm sure we'd all love to be Dwayne, The Rock, Johnson and have someone freshly prepare the day's meals and deliver them to your desk at work. Sadly, the reality for most of us is very different and many of you reading this blog will no doubt be in the same boat as me. Whether it's grilling chicken, steaming broccoli, or creating a fabulously nutritious meal for the days ahead, we all have one thing in common.
And that's what I want to cover in this article.
I want to share with you the importance of goal setting and planning, and how you can make changes to your daily habits that will put you on the right path to success. Whether you're a fitness beginner or an advanced bodybuilder, there are always improvements that can be made, and this blog will contain some actionable information that you can put into practice, right now.
Let's get started...
For me, planning and goal setting is a key aspect of achieving success. I'm not just talking about fitness here. Work goals, lifestyle goals, and fitness goals all require a level of thought, preparation, and planning in order to be achieved. When I first start working with clients, I make sure that setting clear goals is right at the top of the agenda and the first thing I work on defining. Without a clear goal, both as coach and a client, we are just doing things (that may be good in isolation), but are aimless, not thought through, or specific enough to use as an individual. In some cases, you might stumble across some progress here and there, but nothing that's guaranteed and consistent.
My focus with all my clients is efficiency. I want you to achieve your goals in the shortest possible timeframe with the most positive impact on your overall wellbeing and lifestyle. Without a clear goal, this simply can't be done.
Can you ever imagine deciding to go on holiday without knowing where you were headed? Let's just think about that for a moment...
You pack your bags, leave the house, get in the car and just start driving. Eventually, after hours of aimless riding around, you see an airport in the distance and head for that. You buy a ticket for the first available flight and off you go. You land in some distant country, it's snowing and -5 degrees Celsius. But hang on, you've packed flip flops and swim shorts. You were expecting sun, sea, sand.
You feel dejected and miserable that you didn't enjoy your holiday.
Sounds crazy right?
I agree 100%.
It seems inconceivable not to plan something like a holiday that, in reality, will only last a couple of weeks. Yet, something as important as your health, which is a fundamental part of your life and overall happiness, often gets neglected and is the very last thing you think about planning. If there's one reason that I've found impacts someone achieving their goals in fitness, it's the fact they never had truly clear goals in the first place.
Let's start addressing that, right now.
So how do you set good goals?
Many people, probably some of you reading this blog, have the common ambition of 'losing weight' or 'looking better'. These are all 100% valid ambitions, but it's my job as a coach to turn those generic ambitions into a more clearly defined goal that you can work towards on a daily basis.
For example, when someone says they want to lose weight or build muscle, they often have a vision in their mind of what they want their body to look like. This might be anything from a fitness magazine cover model to a professional rugby player. Now. Just visualise these two physiques. They're very different right?
Not only are they different but the process to achieve either look requires a different approach. For example, the rugby player is unlikely to be cutting body fat to 6-7%, but that is exactly what the fitness model will be doing.
To set a clear goal in fitness you first have to be honest with yourself about what you really want to achieve and more importantly why. Grab a pen and paper right now and just start scribbling down some ideas and thoughts about your fitness goals.
Do you want to be strong? Do you want washboard abs? Do you want to have the cardiovascular system of an endurance athlete? Whatever your thoughts might be, get them down on paper. As you're doing that, visualise someone that you want to emulate or look like, stood in front of you. Create a clear mental picture of the person in your minds eye. If that's how you want to look, write down on your piece of paper what it is about the physique you like.
Done that? Now let's start to shape those thoughts into an achievable goal.
Let's continue to use the example of the fitness cover model from before. This is close to my heart, as this was always my visual goal. If you were busy scribbling down ideas related to this type of physique, I would guess that words such as 'abs', 'lean', and 'muscular', all appear on your piece of paper, which is all good and logical. What you now need to do is write down a specific objective related to 3-5 of the most important ideas on your piece of paper. When you write your objectives, use language that reflects the goal has already been achieved.
For example, my high level objectives include:
- I have completed another year of hard training and dieting and now have under 8% body fat
- I have increased strength across all of my core compound lifts by a minimum of 10%
- My chest, bicep, and quad measurements have all increased
These are all goals that I can measure and quantify as I progress throughout the year. They can also be broken down into smaller goals that can be focused on daily.
As with my own personal goals, most fitness goals boil down to variations in body composition. And it's body composition targets that enable not only clearer goals to be formulated, but they also allow you to make daily, weekly, and monthly plans, and give you the ability to quantify progress.
Weight, body fat, and muscle measurements can all be clearly tracked so that you know you're making progress. The scales alone might show you losing weight, but when you look in the mirror you can still have that feeling of disappointment. Just losing weight is actually a fairly straight forward concept, but with no focus on body composition you still may not achieve the body you want. You can lose 5kg in weight, but if that's 80% muscle and 20% fat, you will have achieved you objective of losing weight, but visually you are unlikely to be happy with your body.
Think body composition and not simply body weight.
It might be the case that you need some help and support in refining your goals. Not everybody will know how to narrow down their thoughts into a specific goal. But don't worry, Iron Paradise Fitness is here to help with that. Please get in touch if you need some support. Drop me an email or add your question in the comment section below.
Now that your ultimate goals are set. You should feel super motivated and energised. But before you rush out to hit the gym, you need to spend a little more time on the next step, PLANNING.
With your goal set, the proper plan can be put in place to get you there. The critical success factor of good planning is breaking down your goal into smaller, Achievable Daily Targets.
Think about professional sport for a second.
The Denver Broncos set out with a goal of winning Super Bowl 50 in 2016. That's a very clear objective, but the process to achieve that objective would've been many months in the planning. The players and coaches can't simply have an objective and no plan to get there. The task would've been dissected into the different areas of responsibility within the team and back room staff, then broken down further to an individual level. To achieve something like Super Bowl 50, individuals have to everything within their control to succeed. They have to do their job.
This will be from training correctly, eating right, getting enough sleep, studying plays, and so on. All are small goals that can be achieved on a daily basis and all combine together to achieve the higher objective, through consistency over time.
And that's what you need to do for yourself.
Start thinking about how you can breakdown your own goal into something that you can do and achieve every day to progress towards your target.
Think of the old adage, 'How do you eat an elephant?' The answer? One piece at a time of course. And this is what daily targets do for you. They take what can be a fairly daunting, seemingly un-achievable goal, and split it into much more manageable tasks.
To help give you even more of an idea of what I mean, let's use the more real world example of me and my goal of body fat reduction. Achieving body fat reduction is largely about diet and the management of your food intake. Therefore, I have a simple daily target of sticking to my meal plan on a daily basis. I track this on a calendar in my kitchen. The process of putting a tick or a cross in the box on a daily basis, is both a satisfying sense of achievement and a way of keeping me accountable.
You will notice from the picture that not only is it an awesome calendar (you can't not love Star Wars), but it has both ticks and crosses. It's important for me to know where I faltered and why. We're all human, not robots, and the process of change is not simply linear. It has ups and downs, ebs and flows. The key to success is about recognising and managing these peaks and troughs.
In my example, I purposely plan in a cheat meal during the week, which registers as a cross on the calendar, but by doing this, I have taken control of the potential failure and turned it to my advantage. What could spiral into an out of control cheat day is now a controlled and planned increase in calories that re-energises me and gives me more motivation for the week ahead.
To make sure I get the ticks in the boxes and hit that simple daily target, I think about how I can remove my obstacles to success. Planning my meals out for the week, is the best way I've found for adhering to my meal plan. It removes temptation, removes the stress, and let's me hit my calorie targets without really thinking about it. Straight away I've set a smaller target that I can work towards easily, without thinking too much about the overall objective that lies several months down the road.
The beginners out there might find this all quite daunting and complex, but it need not be.
When you're starting out on your fitness journey, you should be more focused on changing habits as part of your daily targets. Here are a few common daily goals I would set for a typical beginner:
- Go to the gym and train at least 3 times a week
- Start every workout with a core compound lift
- Remove fast foods from your diet
These are all simple things that you should feel are easy for you to action. They will start to transform not only your body, but the way you perceive training and diet. This will ultimately help you progress to more specific daily targets, such as macro calculation and supplementation, as you proceed down the path to success.
In a nutshell - 8 Actionable Steps
- The cornerstones of success are realistic goal setting and proper planning.
- Take the time to really think about what you want to achieve and why.
- Get these thoughts down on paper as it helps make them more real.
- Once you have your targets, break them down into things you can do on a daily basis to progress yourself towards your end goal.
- Find a way that works for you to track your daily progress.
- Be honest with yourself and make yourself accountable.
- Think about your obstacles to success. How can you knock them down and smash through them.
- Plan your way forward and stick to it!
What results does goal setting and planning deliver?
By now you've read through my thoughts and ideas on the importance of goals and planning, but you might be asking yourself, 'will all this deliver results?' The answer to the that questions is an emphatic YES!
Whether it's my own training regime or my clients', this approach delivers guaranteed results when followed correctly. Take a look at these progress pics of me taken within the last 2 years.
The picture in the bottom right corner is the oldest picture, taken in October 2014. I'd had a 4 year lay off from weight training while I focused on competitive cycling.
In January 2015, I set myself a goal of increasing strength, muscle size, and decreasing body fat to below 8%, as I mentioned earlier. I knew this would be a 2-3 year process, so I planned it out in logical steps and achievable daily goals.
The bottom left picture was taken in September 2015 after my first bulk and cut cycle. I looked good, but knew this wasn't the end game and I wasn't yet satisfied.
The next part of the plan was to hit the next bulk cycle with everything I had. I knew I wouldn't be happy with the way I looked by the end of this process, but I had a plan. This was a necessary step to success. With the overall objective in mind, I gave it everything. The result is the top right picture, taken in May 2016.
Over the last 4 months, I've dialled in my diet and focused on achieving my daily targets to hit that body fat target. The top right picture was taken last week. Still 2 weeks out from my goal date, but evidence of the fact that setting a goal, planning for it, and executing is a sure fire way of achieving success.
How Iron Paradise Fitness can help you succeed?
Firstly, I hope you've found this article informative and I hope you've taken away some ideas you can start to put into practice. My experience tells me that many people will still feel a little unsure about where to start and need some direction and support. That's fine and absolutely normal. You are not alone. Iron Paradise Fitness can help you with goal setting, planning, meal plans, training plans, holistic coaching programmes and much much more.
If you feel inspired to take the first steps on your fitness journey or need help to finer tune what you're currently doing, then I urge you to get in touch and let's work together on achieving your goals. Click the button below to learn more about my products and services.MY PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
You can also check out my FREE eBook on how to build your own awesome nutrition plan. It's absolutely free, and will guide you through 7 actionable steps you can take to ensure your nutrition is supporting all your hard efforts in the gym. Hit the button below and so you can start making progress, TODAY.SEND ME THE FREE eBOOK
Also, if you like what you've read, then I'd really appreciate you sharing this blog and my website with your friends and social networks. Your comments and feedback inspire me to keep writing and share ideas. I want to reach and help as many people as possible with their fitness dreams, so your support is very much appreciated.
I'm off now to finish cooking this chicken. Who knows I might even get some time to watch Team GB win some medals!