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Two Steps To Better Fitness Goals

Focusing on the outcome distracts us from the things we can actually control, the daily behaviors. If you want to achieve more, you need to set the right kinds of goals.

Let me explain. Suppose I ask you what your fitness or health goal is. Most of you would say something related to losing a certain number of pounds, or fitting into a certain pant size, achieving a desired blood sugar number, or completing a running race. All of these are worthy goals, but they are all outcome goals.

Outcome goals are ultimately things that are out of our control. When we focus solely on that goal, we lose sight of the things we do have control over, the things that can get us to our outcome goal, our behaviors. Setting the right kinds of goals, will exponentially increase your odds of succeeding. Below is a 2-step process to help you turn bad goals into good ones. And good goals equal great results!

Turn Outcome Goals into Behavior Goals

First let’s get more specific about the difference between an Outcome Goal and a Behavior Goal. An Outcome Goal is something you want to happen, such as losing a certain amount of weight. A Behavior Goal is something you would do to move toward the desired outcome, such as eating smaller portions of balanced meals, or exercising daily. There is nothing wrong with wanting an outcome like a lower body weight, but we often can’t control the outcome because so many factors can affect it. Behavior goals, however, allow us to focus on the things we can control…the actions, not the end results.

Here is an example of what turning an Outcome Goal into Behavior Goals might look like. Let’s say you want your outcome to be losing 20 pounds. In order to achieve this outcome, you will need to implement certain behaviors like regular exercise, controlling calorie intake, managing stress, and improving sleep. Turning these behaviors into goals might look like the following:

Behavior Goal #1 – add exercise into your daily routine four days each week

Behavior Goal #2 – add a protein source and fruit/vegetable to each meal

Behavior Goal #3 – add a 5-minute break each day for breathing exercises

Behavior Goal #4 – add a repeatable nightly wind down routine for bed

You may implement all the above Behavior Goals at once, or you can gradually add the behaviors in one at a time after you have mastered working each one into your routine. For example, you may spend two weeks on Behavior Goal #1 before adding in Behavior Goal #2. Then maybe you spend three weeks with a combination of the first two goals before adding in the third goal, and so on. Everyone is different, you don’t have to force yourself into a set plan. The important part is you feel successful and confident with each goal and you build upon these success to keep moving forward.

Turn Stop Goals into Do Goals

A Stop Goal is something you don’t want, something that pushes you away from your current pain. For instance, you would say something like “I don’t want to feel out of shape” or “I don’t want my knees to hurt”. A Do Goal is something you want, something that moves you towards a better more desired outcome. Here you would say something like “I want to feel confident and strong” or “I want to live without pain”.

So why are Do Goals better than Stop Goals? From a psychological perspective Stop Goals are counterproductive, because when you tell someone to stop something it almost guarantees they will want to keep doing it. Even if it is something you are telling yourself. Plus, whenever you are focused on a Stop Goal, it reinforces the feeling of failure when you slip up and do the thing you should be stopping. And when you feel like you failed, it makes it more challenging to stay the course and get back on track. A Do Goal on the other hand will give you something to focus on doing instead of the old habit you are trying to stop. And every time you stick to a Do Goal, you feel better, successful, and inspired to keep moving forward.

Implementing Do Goals instead of Stop Goals might look like “eating more cut up fruits and vegetables” instead of “no junk food”. Or instead of “no soda” focus on “drinking a glass of water with each meal”. Or instead of “no sitting and watching TV” try “I will take a walk after dinner”.

If you notice, you are suggesting basically the same thing, but you are being more specific about doing the positive. And you should absolutely pay attention to this. Every time you do something that moves you forward, you are making progress…no matter how small of a step you think it is. Continue to focus on the process, the behaviors. Celebrate each of these little wins that make up the process and the desired outcome will ultimately take care of itself.

As always, please feel free to reach out with questions or comments –

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