With more people having gym memberships than ever before, it's still surprising to see the number of people who don't actually use them. Various studies have shown between 50-80% of people stop going to the gym within 5-8 months of signing up. When we then consider the most common reasons people give up on their fitness goals though, the dropout rate makes more sense.
Three of those four reasons all relate to people's goals/expectations.
- No accountability or consequences for quitting means people do not believe in the positives of their goals and their goals don't have any true meaning to them.
- Unrealistic expectations mean the goals have not been broken down into smaller stages, with various "rewards" identified at each stage.
- A feeling that the workouts are not enjoyable shows an incongruency between what the person say they want and the goal they truly want.
The key to continued motivation and on-going results is setting the right goal to begin with. This requires going beyond the SMART goal formula (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) and investigating one's true desires and motivation.
Step 1: Think
The first and easiest step is to think of a goal itself. Apply the SMART formula and make sure by definition, it is a well-defined goal.
Step 2: Question
Ask yourself why you want to achieve that goal. Then ask yourself why again. Then ask yourself why again. The goal you set must mean something to you and therefore, when you ask why the answer should result in a positive emotional response i.e. you should feel good when you imagine yourself achieving it. If you feel nothing, then there is no reason for you to commit to it, and in reality, you won't.
For example, one of the most common fitness related goals is to lose weight. In this case, you would ask yourself, "Why do I want to lose weight"? It may be because the doctor told you to. When you then think of the doctor seeing you've lost weight, do you experience a positive emotional response, or is there nothing? If nothing, then losing weight doesn't really mean that much to you and you won't commit to the process.
That doesn't mean however, the goal isn't for you, it just means you've not found a reason to achieve it. So, ask yourself why again. Keep asking yourself why you would want to achieve a specific goal until you find the reason which makes you have a feeling of "YES, that's why I want to do this"!
Step 3: Feel
Now that you've identified the reason why, remember that feeling and remind yourself of it as often as you can. Reinforcing the positive emotional response helps maintain the motivation required to achieving success.
There are many different ways this can be done including:
- Meditate on it. Or, if the term meditation is not for you, simply take time every morning and every night to imagine yourself achieving it. Cultivate that feeling you get when you see yourself achieving it and then just sit quietly in that feeling for as long as you can.
- Placing images that relate to that feeling in areas you see often helps to remind you of your goal. Placing images on the fridge, for example, is a technique which has been suggested by many over the years, and it's a good one. So, give it a go. Have images around your computer screen, possibly something as your computer desktop background. The more you can recreate that feeling of achieving your goal the more focused on the goal you become and the more it becomes a part of you.
- Take a few seconds before and after your workout to think of achieving your goal and once again, remember how it feels. It only has to be 10-30 seconds, but is quite a powerful motivator and helps keep you on track.
Step 4: Acknowledge
Acknowledge that it's going to take time to achieve.
Acknowledge the progress you make, no matter how small or large.
Acknowledge there will be progress, and there will also be setbacks.
Simple acknowledgment of these facts help prevent any derailing of your progress. If you acknowledge it's going to take time, then you'll be more patient. Acknowledging the small wins reminds you it's a process and that it'll take time. Acknowledging there will be setbacks means you won't throw in the towel when they happen. You're more likely to immediately re-focus on the feeling of success.
Step 5: Believe
Believe you can achieve. If you don't, you won't!
This is where you need to dive into your deepest, sometimes darkest thoughts and ask yourself, "Do I really believe I can achieve this goal"? If you struggle with step 3, then it's a clear indication you don't actually believe you can. This doesn't mean you won't achieve it, it just means you need to investigate the reasons why you don't believe you can.
Goal setting creates a clear plan to achieving what we want. To be successful though, you have to really WANT to get that end result and know how it would feel to achieve it. Following these steps will supercharge your goal setting strategy and get you achieving not just your fitness related goals, but your life goals as well.
Image courtesy of TRAINFITNESS.