“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Nothing you’ll read in this blog post may be new, flashy or unique. I know…not a great sell. So I’ll keep it short and try to assure you that, much like Kettlebell training, the beauty lies in the basics.
It’s difficult to preach the merits of goal setting without a microphone-equipped headset and the sickly sweet smell emitted by a ‘TV life coach’. That being said, there’s no way to deny the importance of goal setting, just as there‘s no way to deny the importance of light when groping around a dark room.
Distinct, coherent and, most importantly, achievable goals offer a definitive conduit for efficiently harnessing our efforts. Ask any successful entrepreneur, athlete, writer about their mindset prior to success and they are unlikely to answer with a detailed account of their meandering, unenthusiastic life and how it turned into an accidental spot on the New York Times best-seller list, Super Bowl championship, etc. The story may begin in such a way, but typically leads to an inciting moment, where their passions became pursuits.
So, first step: find a goal. Buy a house, lose weight, get stronger, get a raise. For the context of the blog, I will use getting stronger as the example from here on out and allow you to translate this to your own needs.
Second step: be specific. I want to be stronger. How much stronger and when? The clearer the goal, the higher your success rate will be. Say you want to deadlift 100 pounds more in 6 months. Excellent, now we have a destination.
Next step: calm down there, tough guy. Remember that part up top about achievable goals? I even put it in italics to make it stand out. I may want to deadlift 100 pounds in a month, but I won’t be dead-lifting anything if I’m in a full body cast watching daytime TV and wishing I hadn’t thrown every plate I could find on the bar for my first rep back in the gym. In essence, Rome wasn’t built in a day, something about a stream of water forming the Grand Canyon, and any other worn out proverb used to highlight perseverance through great undertakings bring us to the next point:
Make your timeline realistic. I’m not always, exactly, sure who I was six months ago, but I have a good idea of who I was yesterday. Five year, one year, six month goals are great for keeping a general focus, a determined mindset, but blueprints don’t build bridges. Laying a few stones every day is what gets the job done. So when pursuing your six month goal you need to break it down even further. What can I do this week? Maybe add another dead-lift day into the regiment. What can I do tomorrow? If I’ve lifted already, maybe I practice the movements, find supporting exercises, stretch and recover for the next training day. What can I do, right now? The “right nows” are the best duration for goal setting because they can be achieved instantly, allowing for all the self-praise and back-patting to commence! No barbell on your laptop, right now? That’s fine, grab a pen, paper, tablet. Start researching, writing and programming for the week ahead. Adding 5 pounds on that bar each week is a hell of a lot easier than adding a hundred after 6 months of lingering on that overall goal.
The last step, the most important step, is to terminate the negative stigma around failure. Fearing failure will suffocate your goals before they even reach the front of your mind. If you’re not failing, in some aspect of your life, at some point in your life, you are not living a full life. The key is to allocate that failure where it is minimally destructive and maximally efficient. Failures are opportunities to observe, adapt and adjust; a natural vetting process by which to filter out the effective from the ineffective. I will go more into failure, the good and the bad, in the next blog post, but the take away is: failures will happen, be the one who profits not the one who perishes.
Simply put, without goals and without purpose, our actions, though sometimes effective, are ultimately a random series of events, leaving us to wonder why we continue to repeat our bad habits. If you still need a goal, you can use my life goal: be happy and live well a long time. Now you get to figure out the ten year, five year, six month, one week, and right now goals to get you there. And seriously, I really mean right now.