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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The Case for Becoming A Superhero

After seeing Captain America: Civil War, my love for superheroes has grown even more.

(Side note: Just so we’re clear I’m Team Cap from now until forever. If you’re interested, you can read these blogs and determine your stance: Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man.)

It isn’t even a nerd thing, okay it’s a little bit of a nerd thing, but it’s also a realization about all the attributes our world so desperately needs: honor, commitment, hard work, dedication to a cause, putting everything on the line for what’s right, and everything else we love about superheroes.

More than ever before, we need superhero virtues.

And yes, fitness plays a huge part in all of this.

Look, I understand this isn’t a “sexy” thing to talk about.

It’s easier to get some half-naked pictures and sell you on some superficial “magical” secret to get the abs you’ve always wanted.

Abs are great.
But an empty life is not.

I’ve seen the people who chase the bullshit, and I’ve seen the people who chase the real fulfillment.

The real deal is what this blog is for and what I’m going to talk about from now until forever.

There are a lot of people out there who think that fitness is a superficial endeavor. There are also quite a few people who think that fitness isn’t “deep” and it’s simply just exercise and nothing else.

However, after you’ve worked as a trainer and seen the joy in someone’s face when they realize they can walk up the stairs on their own after not being able to for years, you realize that health is so much deeper than just how you look.

Fitness is simply a tool for a better life.

Superheroes know they need to stay in shape so they can complete all their missions.

Of course, most of us aren’t out there doing daring missions every single day, but continuing to stay in shape for anything life throws at you is one decision you will not regret.

Stop being passive

I’ve met too many real-life villains and people that fell into what Hannah Ardent called The Banality of Evil. Basically, it means being passive in the face of evil and continuing to go along with the program. Actually, that’s an incredibly simplified version of it but roll with it.

I’ll bet you’ve met similar people. The kind of people who don’t care about anything but their own selfish gain. They pay no mind to their communities, families, the businesses they give their money to, or anything else.

Too many people are more invested in the Game of Thrones than in their own lives.

If you truly care about something, act like it.

The world already has enough people who don’t care about anything at all or only care about things at a superficial level.

You know what you care about. You know what matters to you. Stop pretending like it doesn’t matter.

Get your health in order

Few superheroes are out of shape. Of course, they are mostly perfected and enhanced versions of what humans look like, but that doesn’t matter.

Losers sit around and debate which superhero actors did or did not take steroids, but smart people realize those debates don’t matter.

What matters is the inspiration to reach for more.
To do better.
To be a better person.
To serve the world in a positive, helpful way.

Get in the gym, get on a program, don’t eat your way into an early grave, and stretch once in awhile (something I’m constantly working on).

Do it so you have the energy and vitality to accomplish all the goals you want in your life.

Find something to fight for

Although this was mentioned above, there is something to be said for not only acknowledging what matters to you, but also acting on it every single day.

I recently took some time off of work to really sit and think about what mattered to me.

During that time, I realized that the career I was working so hard toward didn’t matter to me any longer and that I wanted other things out of life now.

Once you know what matters, it’s essential to not only acknowledge it, but to work toward what matters every single day.

Every single superhero has a cause they believe in so hard that they’re willing to die for it at any moment.

I’m not saying you need to sacrifice your life for something, but you need to ignite that passion inside of you again.

That’s what I realized I lost over the last few years: that burning desire to continue to fight for the things I want day in and day out. Especially once you’re crystal clear on what those things are.

Embrace failure

Every superhero fails. You’ll also fail on any journey, but it’s worth every single second of failure because if you are relentlessly persistent, you’ll win.

There will be times that will test you, where it will all seem ridiculous and you’ll debate quitting, turning back, and never attempting this goal again. That’s when it is even more important to get back on the horse and get back to work.

Failure is a part of the struggle, and the sooner you embrace that the greater the chance of winning.

You’ll miss gym days, you’ll binge too hard on food, you’ll fail that test, you’ll get injured, you’ll feel like quitting… Every single champion has those moments, too.

It’s cheesy, I know, but it’s truly the getting back up that separates the winners and the whiners.

Suit up and get it done.

Priority Shifts, No More Off Seasons, And Working Like The Rock

“When you don’t know what to do, get still. Get very still until you do know what to do.” – Oprah Winfrey

That quote has been the epitome of the past few years for me.

Also, to be noted, this post is more of me writing to flesh out all the ideas I currently have in my head. If you’re going through a career change or another big change this might be helpful. This one is less about fitness and more about life. Continuing on.

Recently, a huge work project wrapped up and I thought about moving on to hunt for a new one. Instead, I stepped back and took a week off from any work at all. At the end of that week, I realized I still didn’t want to get back into hunting mode.

Sometimes, priorities shift internally before your brain catches on. New goals start formulating in your mind, and when you’re working so much it’s hard to step back and realize the priorities you have and the things you want have completely shifted.

That’s why I love Oprah’s quote so much. I’ve stepped back since the start of 2016 from everything to see what I really want to continue with and how many of my goals were me “shoulding” all over myself (<– A highly recommended post to read, BTW.)

My dreams of waking up in the morning, writing all day, and working on copywriting projects was over. I lived it, it was fun for the time being, and now I want something else.

My dreams and goals have shifted, but it took a long time to admit. Sometimes abandoning a dream feels like a break up. You’ve loved something for so long, you worked hard at it, but it just doesn’t want to continue, and that’s tough.

When you know something is over, but you’re not sure of the next steps, it’s important to quiet your mind as much as possible from all the thoughts that don’t help.

Worries about failing, goals you “should” want, superficial things, that writing degree you paid tens of thousands of dollars for…. All those thoughts.

However, do not think about it too much. It’s easy to think too much about life and in turn make yourself stuck with analysis paralysis. As I’ve been trying to figure it out, I’ve been active with ideas and really testing them out to see how they feel.

I want to get back into the health and wellness industry, move out of Denver, get to Europe, work on incredibly creative projects, live well, 5% less body fat, and above all create way more superhero workouts for people to use. (Actually, can I just create superhero workouts all day every day? That is all I want to do at this point.)

The second step for me, in this giant brain-dump of a post, is to dedicate all resources to making these newfound goals come to life.

This is a quick video from Elliott Hulse to watch on the importance of this next step:

 

If you can’t watch videos right now, essentially he says it’s important to mull over a decision, play with ideas, and think about your next steps. However, once you’ve made your decision, THAT’S IT. The decision is made, now you must follow through.

Now that you’ve made your decision, you have to stand in that decision. You have to become the person who deserves to have the results of that decision.

I have only half-assed my own personal commitment to fitness. This really stemmed from a place of not deciding what I wanted, not only in the gym, but in my entire life.

wanted to be lean, but I wasn’t becoming the person who deserved a lean body. The person with a lean body works incredibly hard in the gym, fits in the extra cardio, refuses to be lazy on any day except rest day,

Look at your goal. Who is the person you need to become to achieve those goals?

That’s the question I have overlooked on this new life path. The person I need to become to achieve my new goals is different than the person I was before.

Note: I’m not saying you need to be inauthentic and change your personality, I’m saying the virtues in line with your new goal are different, and you need to develop them.

Only losers complain about the results they have from doing the same thing they’ve always done. I can say that because I’ve been there. I’ve wondered why I wasn’t getting results when I wasn’t making the sacrifices and building the character associated with achieving those goals.

The work needs to be done. The effort needs to be put in. Nothing short of 100% will do.

I already achieved so many of the goals I set for myself at 18, and now at 26 and with a whole new set of goals, I’m realizing I’m back at the bottom and have a long way to go.

That’s why I’m going to set much harder rules on myself for the next few months.

I am eliminating any cheat meals, “off” days, and extra sleep from my habits until my birthday in June. It’s extreme, but I prefer to go all-in instead of half-in.

Not to mention, these new goals are much tougher than any previous goals I’ve set for myself before, so it requires much harder work than ever before.

Lately, I’ve been looking around at people who are living a life I want. Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, is one of those people that has the work ethic that I admire.

I’ll write more about this in the future, especially after I try a few things out, but his work ethic in unparalleled.

That’s it for now. This post is not so important to most people, but everything to me and my life moving forward.

The Rock is also worth a follow on Instagram for morning inspiration like:

 

 

Funny how things come back full circle. When I was 14 me and family were evicted from our 1 bedroom efficiency and forced to leave the state of Hawaii. At that time I made a promise to myself to do everything I could to work extremely hard to make sure we never see another eviction notice again. The only action I could take as a 14yr old punk kid was go straight to the YMCA and hit the iron. At that time all my heroes were big strong dudes who were successful – Eastwood, Arnold, NFL players and Pro Wrestling icons. That's why it was so cool for me to go back to the YMCA this past week, train like an animal and remember where it all started for me. Funny thing I realized as I was training that I still wake up every morning at 4am to train with the mindset that "the wolf is always scratchin' at my door" and that f*cker is delivering another eviction notice. One day I'll get the proper psychiatric therapy I need ;), but until then let's always be hungry, humble and always be the hardest workers in the room. #WolfIsAlwaysScratchin #ButNotAt4am

A photo posted by therock (@therock) on Mar 20, 2016 at 5:31am PDT

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Stop Being A Spectator In Your Own Life

Social media has made us all spectators in our own lives.

“Is this share-worthy?”
“Will this get likes?”
“I need a picture of everything I ever do.”

Look, I totally understand taking pictures for memories but there is a line where it becomes obsessive.

This is why I love social media, but I’m horrible at documenting my own life. I don’t feel the need to whip out my camera during every single moment and capture every single thing. I know I need to work on this so I can put out more content that helps people, but I also need to work on reducing the amount of negative content that is out there.

This also happens at every single concert I’ve ever been to. People are so busy taking pictures and videos that they spend all their time looking at their phones instead of the band on the stage.

They will have pictures forever, but you probably won’t see that band more than once or twice their lives. Instead of looking at the band, we’re looking at our entire lives through our phones.

I see this with people on dates, with friends, with parents and children… We’ve all become mindless to the world around us.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet. It’s the best blessing to humanity in years. We are able to communicate ideas and thoughts, create communities, and establish relationships that were never possible before.

Some of the best things in my life have come from the internet, actually.

However, there’s another side where so many people are so busy with their phones, they’re ignoring their own lives.

Instead of working toward their goals every day, they’re too wrapped up in what’s happening in the world. Whether it’s celebrities fighting, politicians being politicians, internet drama (because everyone is always outraged about something), your friends’ new baby picture… whatever, it all takes away from winning in your own life.

After any week where I spend way too much time online or on my phone, I’ve noticed this insane amount of irritation with the people in my life, no ability to focus, and less progress toward my goals. None of those are acceptable.

Instead of actually enjoying life every single day, we seem to have become spectators to our own lives.

Instead of being in the arena and getting our hands dirty with winning, we’re consuming life through a little screen and comparing our lives to everyone else’s in the process.

In case you haven’t read the famous “in the arena quote”, you need to:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt

 

The point is, life is not a rehearsal.

There are no do-overs, we can’t go back in time, and we never know when it all ends. Maybe that’s too morbid for most people, but it’s a fact.

I have no hard conclusion for this post, just a reminder that life is short and we should actually have memories that doesn’t involve documentation or technology. Record what matters, help other people, and don’t worry about the other things.

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Getting in shape doesn’t just happen.

No one wakes up one day and realizes all of their fat dropped off, they’re incredibly strong, and their body added muscle in all the right places.

It takes serious work, dedication, and planning.

It takes a lot of effort to go to the gym day after day after day. However, most people who do aren’t actually following a plan. They show up, throw some weights around, and call it a day. (Or even worse, they go, get on a treadmill, and think that’s good enough.)

Every time I fuck around in the gym, I rarely see any results. Sure, it feels good. Sure, it reduces stress, but anyone who wants results needs some kind of plan.

I have people ask me all the time, “How do I get abs / bigger arms / bigger booty?!” And I ask them what plan they’re following. Then they come back with, “I don’t know, I just go and do a few moves I saw on Instagram a few times a week.”

Well, that’s not a plan.

Today is Tuesday and I would bet most people have already thrown in the towel for the week. Their Monday was busier than planned so they swear, “NEXT WEEK!”

(Pro tip: Monday is always busy as shit. Prepare for this.)

Here’s how I plan my weeks for domination even though life is a never-ending shit-storm most of the time:

1. Look at your whole week.

Scripting my week has been one of the fundamental habits that changed my results in both the gym and in life.

Every Sunday, I sit down and put in what Stephen Covey calls, the big rocks.

The big rocks are essentially the MOST important thing to your life, not the little things that get in the way of your goals.

You need to own a planner of some kind, period. I prefer paper planners instead of digital planners, but do what works for you. Even if you use something as simple as a sheet of blank paper for your planning, it’s better than nothing.

2. Plan out your exercise schedule for the week.

Write out what days and at what times you are going to go to the gym.

I used to write down that I wanted to work out four or five times the week. Except days would tick by and I still didn’t stay consistent.

When I put in dates and times I will be in the gym, I rarely ever miss. Commit to a time and put it in your planner. Treat it like a doctor’s appointment. SHOW UP.

If you have a workout buddy, agree on a set schedule or time. If not, pretend you did. Pretend someone important to you is waiting at the gym and you need to show up.

3. Plan out meals and supplements.

This was really the game changer for results. It’s easy to forget your diet, when you’re supposed to eat, when you’re supposed to take your supplements… but if you have dedicated time to each one, you need to put it down.

I have a cork board right behind my computer with my supplement schedule clearly written out for each week. It’s the only way I could manage it all.

4. Prepare as much as you can ahead of time.

Cook meals ahead of time. Clean your gym clothes. Leave your workout shoes in your car. Make sure you have an extra pair of headphones in your car.

People who want to win at life are always prepared ahead of time. They don’t mess around because they want results.

When you have a plan, you know you’ll need to skip those cookies in the middle of the day because you already brought yourself a much healthier snack.

Preparing in advance ruins any excuses for failure. People love failure, they love excuses, they love to blame everything else but themselves for their problems.

“Oops, I forgot my workout shoes! I guess I’ll work out next month instead.”

You’re going to be better than that.

Don’t fall into the blame game, take responsibility for your success.

The path to success isn’t sexy. It’s not glamorous. It’s hard fucking work day in and day out and day in and day out.

Preparing your life in advance gives you all the room in the world to make your goals come true. When you’re prepared, you’re going to win. You think all the athletes who just played in the Super Bowl just fell into that situation? Hell no. They prepared and trained for years. They do the hard work without thinking about it.

Planning in advance removes all the stressful thoughts about, “What do I do now?” Instead, do the thinking ahead of time so you can move into autopilot mode.

Studies show time and time again that we only have so much willpower in any given day, when you reduce decisions, you increase the amount of willpower you have.

What do YOU do to plan and dominate the week?