Part of my new client form asks clients what their goals are and what is most important to them. As an online form, the responses are usually pretty brief and to the point. Lose 15 pounds. Move better. Feel more comfortable in my skin and clothes.
These are all very legitimate, mostly measurable goals, but it isn’t until we start talking that we really usually uncover the true motivation and their why. It usually sounds more like: My whole family has diabetes, and I don’t want that future for myself. I try to play with my kids, but I get so winded I can’t keep up. I’ve been training super hard, and I know I could go faster if I understood what I needed to eat.
Ah ha! These are the goals and motivators that get people to start thinking about major lifestyle changes. These are the reasons why it’s worth saying no to a dessert and yes to vegetables. A better scale number is a good benchmark for what you need to do and a sign of progress, but achieving it alone won’t be life changing. It’s a cold number to tie yourself to that’s rarely very motivating or rewarding. Getting to the underlying why is much, much more important to anchor on as the goal you’re trying to achieve.
Beyond that ultimate goal, we also work to identify key incremental process goals to tackle along the way. The process goals are more like habits that support health and lifestyle changes, but actually working to consistently execute them is a win and in turn can keep them on a course to achieving their larger outcome goals. The process goals are important for a number of reasons:
- Changing routines matters. You have to change behaviors if you want to achieve a new outcome. Identifying key behaviors to focus on shifting really helps hone what you’re trying to do to keep you on course.
- Celebrating incremental success begets more success. Process goals are frequently more incremental and can give you something to celebrate once accomplished instead of having to wait for each major milestone that can be months and years apart from each other. This alone is more motivating and engaging, making it more likely that you’ll reach your ultimate goal.
- Keeping the big picture in mind. There’s a lot in our life we can’t control including some outcome goals, that we may not know until we try. This is a slightly extreme example, but let’s run with it. If your goal is to have abs as defined as a body builders, but you flat don’t have the body build that will ever shred abs, you may not know that until you dropped your body fat below 15 percent. Does that mean that you failed? If that was your only goal and focus for a long stretch, you could argue yes. However, if we’ve built in goals along the way to help drive healthy behaviors and attached that physical goal to a better understanding of why that mattered, it would be a lot more palatable to accept that single failure. Further, through the process and exploration of why that was even your goal, you may have discovered that really the outcome that mattered most to you was still achievable without shredded abs.
When I think about process goals focused on driving a healthy lifestyle and frequently weight loss, they typically focus on something that a person is struggling with to better support their overarching goal of being a healthy person, with a better relationship with food. Note that they also have some sort of time element to help make it clear what success looks like. Examples include:
- Going to bed at a consistent time for six nights of the week.
- Drinking 120 ounces of water a day.
- Eating all the protein I need in a day, every day for two weeks.
- Logging my food in MyFitnessPal every day for a month.
- Working out 3x a week for a month.
- Taking care of my emotional health, by doing at least one fulfilling thing just for me each week.
That’s a lot of examples, but I strongly encourage an incremental approach. Take 2-3 items and focus on nailing them before you add to the list. This is a marathon and not a sprint. Success means building as you go and not trying to do so much at once that you don’t do anything well at all.
Hopefully this will help you think about what your ultimate goals are, why they matter and what you need to go do to actually start making some changes in your daily life.