Anyone can get to 30000 feet in a commercial jet. One man has jumped from the edge of space. What’s the difference? If you want to fly, you can just book a flight online. If you want to freefall for 24 miles you have to train, plan, and wait patiently for the opportunity to come. That means that if you want to achieve something exceptional, you have to do more than imagine it. But are you setting the right goals?

(c) Alexandre Inagaki

Set Realistic Goals

You’ve just started training, and you’ve decided you’re going to be Mr. Olympia in three years. That’s not going to happen. What’s more realistic? How about winning a regional show?

Don’t set modest goals, set ambitious goals that you can achieve with a lot of effort and dedication. You can have dreams, but remember that you have to wake up from them every day and make them happen.

Constrain Your Time and Resources

How much time are you willing to spend on your goals? How much money will you invest? Decide that before you start, because otherwise you’ll always convince yourself that you’ll be finished in a few days, weeks, months, years. And then you’ll find that you’re never finished. If this means that you don’t achieve your goal, it doesn’t matter. You can decide whether or not you need to set a new goal at this point, or adjust your criteria for success.

(c) Kate Ter Haar

Which would be better: spending 12 weeks dieting to 8% bodyfat, or dieting to 6% no matter how long it takes? You might realise after 12 weeks that you’re happy with the way that you look, and you’ll know that you could continue to diet to 6% if you wanted to. You’d have a better idea of how long it’d take, and how difficult it’d be at that point too.

And how much of your resources are you willing to pour into it? Do you have other important things in your life you need to spend money or time on? Which ones can you sacrifice, and which ones are essential?

Stacking the Deck

Structure your life to maximise your chance of success and minimise your chance of failure. If you’re dieting, don’t have food in the house that will ruin your progress. Or choose a flexible approach that allows you to eat what you want within reason. Or have a cheat meal, a cheat day. Whatever works best for you.

(c) Steven Depolo

Imagine you’re playing a strategy game, you want to give yourself as many winning moves as possible, and remove them from your opponent. Identify the most destructive habits and influences in your life, try to restrain them as much as possible. And give yourself as much freedom to do the right thing as you possibly can.

For example, suppose that you don’t have time for breakfast in the morning, and you’re struggling to fit it into your schedule. Why not just fast? Or if you have short, regular breaks at work, adopt a more traditional eating pattern.

Accountability and Reward

Don’t reward yourself for making goals. Everyone can resolve to change, but it is meaningless without actions. Define your success internally, but make yourself accountable externally. Make failure an uncomfortable option, as much as success is appealing.

“The secret to maintaining a lean body? Book a photoshoot at least twice a year.”

Brad Pilon


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6 responses to “How to Achieve Your Goals

  1. Nice article!
    Set Realistic Goals – I think this is really important and something I have experienced recently. I think most people when approaching a program/goals don’t know what “they” want. Questions I have asked myself recently (after attending my first PL comp):
    Do I want to be strong or atheistic? (Yes) [strength or hybrid program]
    Do I want to look like I am strong? (not fussed) [strength program]
    Am I strong right now for my PL class? (no)
    What stage am I at? (too trained for Starting Strength but not advanced for 5/3/1) [Pick Madcow, linear gains]
    With the information available on the internet people run around like headless chickens without truly understanding what they want. Seen recently in that awful BBC doc, the ex-bber knew he wanted to cut down where as the others, I felt, didn’t know what they wanted.
    Constrain Your Time and Resources – I guess this also limits what type of program you do, fitting Westside ME day into an hour would be impossible, due to rest etc. Also mentally partitioning your training session from the rest your day has been written about a lot!
    Stacking the Deck – completely agree, which is why I hide cake in my girlfriend’s food cupboard :P
    Accountability and Reward – I hate it when people are like: “Yeah I have dropped 5kgs” when aiming for 20kg or “Yeah got a PB of +1 rep/+5kg” in training. Progress is good but self/external reinforcement at every stage can make someone really depressed when they fail. My opinion is that success should be expected and real achievements are realised when a long term target is met.
    But I disagree with your attitude to failure, in that I believe it’s an opportunity for reflection (as is success) rather than something to wallowed in.

  2. Agree, but that along Ben’s line of argument that you shouldn’t reward yourself for them. Reward yourself on max or comp day.

  3. I disagree completely Fred. You have to fall in love with the process of achieving the goal, not just the result. Lets say you for whatever reason you decide not to compete – was all the training fruitless? No. You still added reps and weight. Humans work on a cycle of sacrifice and reward, assuming success depends primarily on consistency then you must structure the length of each phase to maximise consistency. For example – you nail your training, stick to a diet and add 3 reps to your max. You’d look at that as no big deal, I’d view it as a success – reward. I’m more likely to be consistent with training and diet going forward because I’ve reset and now I’m seeking the next reward from sacrifice. However you extend sacrifice all the way up to the competition, this may be several months into the future yet you’re planning to focus on this one moment for the rest of your training. What if 5 weeks out you start doubting you’ll hit your desired number in the comp? You may start to falter, doubt your training, doubt the diet. I however am focused on the small wins, looking no further forward than the next session. Simple maths defines that all variables aside the shorter periods between rewards will yield more weight and better results.

  4. Fred said:
    But I disagree with your attitude to failure, in that I believe it’s an opportunity for reflection (as is success) rather than something to wallowed in.

    I agree, and I don’t believe that failure is bad. Failure is often necessary for success. What I mean is that you shouldn’t be afraid of failure, but that you don’t accept it. You don’t give yourself ways of backing out. If your goal is to do something worthwhile, then you should be upset if you don’t achieve it, and you use that to drive you forward.

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