The last goal setting guide you’ll ever need*
*One note to be made up front:
My goal setting ideas will be slanted towards physics endeavors, most specifically competing in the sport of Crossfit. The language will resonate more with my audience. Having said that, the principles within my concepts can be utilized within any medium.
The beginning of a new year opens the floodgates to goal setting, resolutions, and the alike. The beautiful side of this is getting people to pause, if for a moment, to think about something they want to change about the status quo. This is a very challenging thing to do; humans prefer the status quo. The ugly side of this is the reminder that the large majority of people don’t see that goal, or change, to completion. “Motivation” is always high for January and February (visit your local globo gym mid-December, then come back during the first week of January and you will see what I mean) until one’s “will power” dissolves and the forced habits flicker away like a burnt out light bulb. Back to the status quo. However, this doesn’t have to be the reality. We can utilize the new chapter of a new year as an opportunity to set attainable, well thought out goals to help direct us on a productive path forward for our forthcoming trip around the sun.
In this post, I’m going to list 3 reasons why you aren’t achieving your goals, followed by 3 ways to fix those failed attempts. I’m confident that the recognition of why you are failing to achieve goals, followed by a plan on how to set better ones, will help you better understand how to set goals and see them to completion.
3 reasons why you aren’t achieving your goals
1. You haven’t clearly defined your starting position
Everyone has an idea of where they want to go. That could be qualifying for the Crossfit Games, qualifying for a sanctional event, qualifying for a local competition, competing in the Open Rx, running a marathon, etc. It’s easy for us to identify a destination we want to reach. We have a gift, that can also be a curse, of being able to forecast and dream of a future that is far different from the present. The problem lies in the fact that we are not as equipped at figuring out where we are starting from relative to that destination. If we haven’t clearly defined our starting position, how can we choose the appropriate route to arrive at our destination? It can’t happen. We need to always consult our reference point, where our feet are at, to construct a sound plan aimed at our destination.
- We need to clearly identify the goal we want to achieve. For example, “I want to finish in the top 1,000th in the Open.”
- We need to clearly identify where you currently sit relative to the goal measured across the same tests/dimensions. To use one example, the beautiful aspect of the annual Crossfit Open is how many people participate in it which creates a strong pool of data while being able to compare performance measures to see where someone sits. In our above example, we need to compare last year’s Open placing with the 1,000th place finisher to see where we sit. IF you haven’t completed those events, it would be worth discussing, with your coach, to plug in the Open events for the next 5 weeks so you both have an unbiased perspective on where you sit relative to the 1,000th place finisher from the previous year.
- With your coach, I would review the events and find the limitations in your current abilities relative to your goal which can then become the skeleton for your training plan.
- I would further breakdown your limitations and create indirect tests that you can perform every 4-8 weeks (client dependent) to ensure you are moving in the right direction. Doing the open every 2 months would not be a wise way of assessing progress.
The 1,000th place male in the 2019 Crossfit Open had the following results across the 5-week competition:
Week 1 - 6260th (323 reps)
Week 2 - 1723rd (342 reps)
Week 3 - 881st (162 reps)
Week 4 - 250th (9:35)
Week 4 - 848th (11:02)
(Average placing - 1992nd)
And, let’s say you finished 2,000th place in the 2019 Crossfit Open, which gave you the following results:
Week 1 - 3020th (338 reps)
Week 2 - 5008th (262 reps)
Week 3 - 1830th (152 reps
Week 4 - 5259th (11:50)
Week 5 - 3558th (13:36)
(Average placing - 3735th)
If we look at these results the discrepancy between the first 3 weeks between the 2 competitors was not too far off. There was a gap in average placing but the gap was much tighter after 3 weeks compared to the final gap after 5 weeks:
Through 3 weeks:
1,000th place average finish - 2,954th
2,000th place average finish - 3,286th
Without going into too much detail, we could look at these events and the finishes to highlight some areas that need focus in the coming year. An additional piece to note, which is why I added in the difference in placing through 3 weeks, is the potential lack of recovery for the final 2 weeks by the 2,000th place individual compared to the 1,000th place individual. One’s ability to compete and give it their all, then repeat it for 4 more weeks will place a large demand on one’s aerobic system, and the training volume they have or haven’t built over the past year, to recover fast enough to repeat the effort each week. Seeing a drop in performance, and maybe a subjective drop as well, could give us insight into the need for a bigger training base of aerobic work along with better lifestyle pieces to help further improve that system.
2. You aren’t realistic on the timeline to achieve your goal
“Get abs in 30 days!”
That’s our problem. Our culture has distorted our understanding of what it takes to accomplish something that will require more work than most have been exposed to in their lives. This distortion adjusts our reference point to a markedly further along position than our “actual” reference point reinforcing the belief that the goal is close and within grasp. As a result, we inevitably set ourselves up for disappointment in the result and a lack of ownership for the outcome. Disappointment due to false hopes reinforced by the market and others around us strengthening the belief that “this is possible in 6 months.” A lack of ownership for the outcome due to poor discernment in creating a legitimate reference point whereby the result can be blamed on: “the training program wasn’t good enough, my muscle ups weren’t as good as they used to be, my ‘engine’ wasn’t ready for the competition”, etc.
- Inside view: Ask yourself why do you think your “personal” reference point is where it is? What evidence do you have to show that will validate that starting point?
- Outside view: Consult with an unbiased person to help you make a better judgment on where your current reference point lies in relation to the goal
- Reflective/Comparison Drill: I like to use this drill when consulting with new clients who’s timeline for their goal is not realistic. I ask them to reflect on something they’ve accomplished in their past, preferably a physical endeavor if we are currently setting a physical based goal, and recall:
-How long did it take to accomplish that?
-What did the time commitment look like?
-How much work went into that pursuit?
This introspective drill allows you to pause and to think critically about a previous endeavor you took on which can improve your ability to formulate a more realistic perspective of the timeline for this new endeavor (It won’t be apples to apples, but it can help move your awareness in the right direction regarding the level of commitment and time required). If you don’t have previous experience to draw from, I would then ask a relative or friend who’s been through a physical pursuit that took a long time, required a lot of dedication, and a reorienting of one’s life in order for it to happen. It’s prudent to understand as best you can what this journey might entail. By doing so, you can bring to the table the level of respect and patience that is required. Once you can present a realistic timeline for your goal, I (the coach/outside view) can come in and add my two cents to the discussion based on my experience and the numbers set before me. This is where having a clear starting position is crucial. Only then can we make a sound judgment on how long this goal will take to complete.
3. You aren’t structuring your day to maximize your progress towards the goal
We each have a finite amount of energy we can expel each day. When training “hard” is a portion of our day it will take up a large portion of our daily energy reserve. Most people understand this, but they fail to take stock of pieces outside the gym to ensure they have adequate energy reserves for their training. For those will lofty aspirations in the Sport of Crossfit you will probably spend anywhere from 12-20 hours per week in the gym. There are 168 hours in each week meaning 148-156 hours will be spent outside the gym which can positively or negatively impact your performance and adaptation inside the gym. However, nobody likes to post on instagram their wind down routine before bed, or their weekly soft tissue work, or their bi-weekly food prep. Those don't get as many likes or followers. The Thruster/Burpee workout they did on Tuesday gets more likes and more followers. The “fun” part of a physical endeavor is the training and work that must go into that goal; the “hard” part of that endeavor is having the discipline and awareness to maximize all other variables to give yourself the best opportunity to succeed. And maybe, the hardest part is doing that for yourself, to find your maximum potential, not for instagram. Something for you to chew on.
My big three:
-Sleep - 8+ hours, dark and cold room, consistent sleep and wake time, winding down before bed, 2+ hours of no food before bed
-Food - consistent feeding times, mindful chewing, creating a plan that works for you, your goals, and your schedule
-Stress - taking time to reflect on work/life balance and relationships to ensure there aren’t hidden anchors holding you down. You can’t go at this alone. It will take support. Ensure your support structure is onboard and aligned with your goals as well.
I like having people dial in these pieces first as they create a skeleton for their day. Sleep is the starting point, then feeding times, then work (or potentially training if that is your “work”), then training (or “work”). By doing so, we start to optimize our day by ensuring our foundational pieces are set in place and can be consistently executed.
2021 is a new year with a new opportunity to set proper goals with a proper timeline and with optimal organization of your schedule to ensure the best possible outcome. With all things, start small and slowly add more as you show ownership. Don’t be like the influx of people the first week of January at globo gyms: unaware, unrealistic, impatient.