8. Setting the right fitness and nutrition goals

Uncategorized Feb 27, 2020

What are your fitness and nutrition goals? 

This question is asked by coaches all over the world. It seems like an easy one to answer. 

"I want to lose 30 pounds.....

Fit into my college jeans

Drop my cholesterol 

Bench press 300 pounds."

The options are endless. 

These types of goals can be referred to as 'outcome goals' and they can be harmful to your progress because they are mostly out of your control. They depend on a vast array of complex interactions you and I have little influence over. That's the case with the human body and it suggests we should ignore complex outcomes we have little control over and instead focus on what we can control: our behaviors. 

There are two shifts you can make to your fitness and nutrition goal setting to move them from bad to good. 

The first is to turn outcome goals into behavior goals. 

Outcome goals are things you want to have happen like losing a certain amount of weight or improving your deadlift amount. There is nothing wrong with wanting certain outcomes but they are affected by dozens of processes we can't control.

A behavior goal is something you DO or practice to move closer to that outcome. Like tracking your macros or training your leg and back muscles a few times a week. Behavior goals allow you to focus on and practice what you can control: actions, not results. 

Here's how that might look in practice.

Say I want to lose twenty pounds. To do so I will have to exercise often, control my calories, manage my stress, and sleep. I will turn those actions into goals instead of focusing on my end results of twenty pounds down. 

For the first two weeks I will aim to exercise five times each week. 

Once I have done that for a couple weeks I will add food logging with an app for another couple weeks. 

When that is completed I will add a new before bed routine that helps calm me down for a restful night of sleep. 

See how the goals are now actions, not outcomes? 

This small shift is powerful beyond words. It takes control away from the unknown and places it firmly in your hands.

Secondly, change performance goals to mastery goals. 

Performance goals are similar to outcome goals but they're usually associated with external validation. You want to win a competition or best a record. In shooting for that specific performance you will likely get praise, kudos, applause, and something sweet to post on social media if you reach it. Performance goals are limited in that they are also dependent on several factors outside your control. Like weather or feeling crappy on competition day. These goals are often used to push people to their absolute best and are useful to do so but can also be demotivating if you don't achieve what you set out to. 

Mastery goals are about developing skills, learning, and intrinsic value you get from becoming excellent at something or understanding it deeply. Mastery is about the process of continual skill development. This almost always leads to better performances if those are involved. Mastery also allows you to focus on the joy of learning and practicing which feels good no matter what anyone else or the performance indicates. This is what is meant by "It's about the journey, not the destination." 

In practice it might look like this. 

Say I want to set a deadlift personal record. That is both an outcome and a performance goal. To turn it into a behavior goal I will schedule two deadlift sessions weekly where I analyze my form with the help of video recording. In transitioning to mastery I might read up on mental imaging and start practicing a meditation where I rehearse lifting the most weight I've ever done right before a workout. 

It's OK to start with performance and outcome goals. But don't stop there. List all the skills needed to reach your objective and turn them into a series of behaviors you can practice over and over on your way to mastery. 

This makes the goal about progress, not perfection. 

Behavior and mastery goals are better options for your fitness and nutrition than performance and outcome goals. 

They allow you to enjoy yourself throughout, not just momentarily at the conclusion. 


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