How to Set Goals for Fitness and Life

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Someone recently e-mailed me about goal setting and I thought I’d take the time to go a little more in depth about how to set goals and if you even should set goals.

This post gets a little personal, but goals are a part of who I am so that’s the only way to show you how I do it.

First and foremost,

Goals are not always necessary.

If you’re happy with your life, keep living it. There are a million different paths to a happy life, and for some people working hard and living in the moment is what fulfills them.

Most of the time on this site, I’m talking to the people who are unhappy and want to change their lives, their health, their mentality, or something else, and need that guidance to get there.

I wasn’t always a “goals” person. It wasn’t until I hit the age of 19 where I started to articulate the things I wanted out of life and the goals I needed to achieve in order to live that life. I was always ambitious, but I didn’t know how to map them out until I came across the book Wishcraft by Barbara Sher.

Actually, to be honest sometimes I deeply admire people who are perfectly content with their lives in every aspect. Goals are a double edged sword: Accomplishing them is one of the best feelings in the world, but having that gnawing in your stomach because you want to conquer them so bad takes away from so much of the present moment.

However, if you decide to set goals, need some new goals, or want to adjust the ones you already have, here’s how I set them.

What goals to pursue?

There is no one size fits all goal out there.

Goals are individual and no one should ever set them for you.

Of course, there are millions of ideas to pull from in the world as inspiration for your own list, but that doesn’t mean you have to do them.

One source I scroll through every now and then is on Nerd Fitness: here. (Also, note the comments as well. It’s fascinating how many people come to help you when you openly declare what you want.)

The biggest thing I’ve learned about pursuing goals is that sometimes you just have to start on a path to a goal to find your real goal.

We have all been inundated by the world on the things we “should” want, and the only way you can remove these from your mind is to pursue it and see how it makes you feel.

For example, you might think that you want abs (the most common goal I hear), but on your journey you fall in love with powerlifting and instead decide to pursue competitions instead of the abs, but you wouldn’t have ever known that unless you started.

Taking action is the fastest way to find clarity in any single goal.

What do you want out of life?

This is a deep question that requires a bit of self-reflection. Many experts start you out with imagining your funeral and what you want people to say at your funeral and work backward from there.

That doesn’t work for me, even though I’ve tried it a bunch of times, but I have a clearer vision on where I want to be in 10 years. Anything past that is a blur.

If you can only think to the end of the month, that’s fine too. That was always how my brain was during college: surviving through finals. Developing a vision for your life can already be clear or it can take time.

I’m in love with feeling alive, and the thing that makes me feel alive is to fill my body with fear every once in awhile. This is why I pursue and set goals that make me wildly uncomfortable.

Another note on goal setting: They don’t have to be fulfilling and meaningful. Feel free to set completely shallow goals because sometimes you need to get them out of your system.

Some personal examples:

  • I felt academically dumb for a long, long time. I never gave school 100% and barely squeaked out of high school with a decent GPA. So, in college for one semester I gave it my all, got a 3.9, laughed, and went back to scraping by. I needed to get that great GPA out of my system to prove I could do it so I could move on.
  • I want an Aston Martin. I’m not materialistic by any measure, but that car is a sexy ass car and I want it. Will I be fine if I don’t buy that car? Absolutely. However, thinking about driving it along the California coast on a gorgeous day makes my brain emotional, so it’s on the list. It brings no deep meaning to my life, but not all goals have to be life-altering.

If you want to buy fancy cars, date a supermodel, and have a six-pack all year., why not? Pursue what makes you happy.

I personally find joy in the balance of both service goals and selfish goals, but do what works for you.

There is no right or wrong way to pursue things in your life, no matter what anyone says.

Abandoning and adjusting goals

This is the biggest thing I want to discuss: It’s perfectly okay to abandon goals once you’re positive they’re not for you.

Here the #1 thing to know about goals: They should work for you and your life instead of you always working for them.

Don’t become a slave to your goals. I’ve fallen many times into the trap of continuing to pursue a goal that no longer brings meaning to my life. That is the quickest way to burn out and become exhausted.

You have to analyze if you’re abandoning a goal because you’re scared of achieving it (fear of success is real), or if it’s really not something you want. I have no answers for you on how to decide between the two, that takes quiet meditation on your end, but listen to your body because the fear will come up immediately if you’re afraid of it. Otherwise, you’ll think about the goal and have zero emotion about pursuing or abandoning it.

The biggest obstacle

I wrote a whole post on this topic when it comes to running your own business (here), but the bottom line is that the biggest things that will get in the way of any goal are the people around you and your own mental resistance.

With my birthday at the end of this month, a few friends have already invited me out for drinks and it’s hard to explain to people that I’m currently in a summer shredding competition and I can’t really have any cheat meals much less drink for eight weeks.

It’s up to you whether you share your goals publicly or not. I don’t often share mine on Facebook or to people who don’t get it.

It’s hard to explain why I wake up at the crack of dawn, work out, have a bland diet, write for five hours a day, and party very little these days.

Mapping out your plan

I wrote a huge post on goal setting and mapping: here. I stand by that as my total way to take a goal and break it down to the actions you need to perform today.

That’s all the advice I have for deciding what goals are right for you, but I thought I’d write this out since I know there are a ton of people who want to change the direction of their lives. I’m also going through this myself to decide on a new direction for my life. (See? Abandoning old goals can be great.)

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