First, you must choose a goal before you can achieve it, and second, the more difficult and dangerous your goals is, the more effort you must put into achieving it. All achievement starts with goals, and Musashi emphasized that you should be ambitious in setting them. — Samurai Strategies
One must edge forward like the inchworm, bit by bit. The gods and Buddhas, too, first started with a vow. — Hagakure.
I figured in my introductory piece to Zen to Fitness, I would share with you the most important lesson I’ve learned in over ten years as a physique athlete and coach. Ready?
Nate Miyaki is the coolest dude on the planet. Nah, just kidding. To be completely honest, I know people who are way cooler than me.
The real lesson is this – those who set specific, short-term goals are the ones who get the most out of their health & fitness efforts. And I don’t care if that goal is as meaningful as improving biomarkers of health in order to save your life or as meaningless as getting a six-pack so you can stare at yourself in the mirror ten times a day (my personal favorite). Be honest with yourself, whatever truly motivates you at that time is what works. Don’t worry about how anyone else may perceive your personal goals.
Setting goals is a powerful tool that can be used in almost every aspect of our lives — self-improvement, career advancement, educational development, athletic achievement, communication, financial control, and of course most importantly for us — “looking good in the neighborhood”. Those who have never used goals for guidance or motivation tend to write them off as self-help nonsense. Those who have experienced their power set and monitor goals on a regular basis to maximize their true potential.
All achievement starts with goals. You have to know where you want to go first before you have a chance of reaching that destination. Setting goals helps us block out life’s distractions and narrow our focus to a specific task at hand. It helps us set priorities in our lives. It gives us the power to tap into our energies and abilities and use them to maximum effect.
Goals provide us with specific reasons for performing our daily actions. Without goals we often wonder from moment to moment, task to task without a purpose. We end up spinning our wheels, stuck in the same spot as years past, with no real accomplishments to show for it. Actively striving to achieve our goals propels us forward and up to new heights.
SPORT VS. HOBBY — THE DIFFERENCE
Although these days I am most interested in fat loss, physique development, natural bodybuilding, body composition transformations, cosmetic enhancement, or whatever else you want to call it, I come from a performance sports background. One of the major differences I see among these demographics is that most people interested in changing their physiques treat the process more like a hobby than a true athletic endeavor. And this is their downfall.
Real sport performance athletes and coaches understand the power of goal setting. In the off-season or at the start of the season, players and teams set specific goals for the upcoming year. They then set a specific plan of action to achieve those goals. They begin with the small immediate steps right in front of them, have those steps build upon each other, and then start making exponentially bigger and bigger strides until the ultimate goal is accomplished.
Football is a great example. The ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl, but that starts with a simple commitment to off-season workouts and conditioning programs. Then come productive training camps and preseason games. Then the goal is to win in week 1, and each successive week that follows. As the season progresses the stakes rise — its win the division, secure home field advantage, win the divisional round, win the conference championship, and finally, win the big dance.
Ambitious goals motivate athletes to work hard and push through the rigors of training. It helps them to work through the daily grind of the long, competitive season. It gives them a reason to make the sacrifices necessary to reach the top of the mountain. Physique enthusiasts need to borrow from this realm if they expect to finally achieve body composition transformations results in the real world.
You need a reason to NOT eat that chocolate chip cookie that is seductively staring you in the face, a reason to hit your workout even when you are feeling tired and unmotivated or when work is crazy, a reason to push out a few more reps even though it burns, etc. An immediate short-term goal provides you with that motivation. A vague, “I want to get in shape” idea or fantasy does not.
THE PRACTICAL PLAN
1. Set your goal so you can narrow your focus to a specific task at hand.
2. Write it down. That’s the first step in taking it out of the world of meaningless words and putting it into the world of meaningful action.
3. Place your goal somewhere you can see it every day. This will remind you what you are striving for. Unless your goal is to eat as many pints of ice cream as you can, put that crap back in the freezer for now.
4. Set a concrete timeline so you don’t keep putting things off or starting over again tomorrow. The Way of the Warrior is in immediacy.
5. Tell at least one other person about your goals so they can help hold you accountable.
Nate Miyaki has written for T-Nation, Bodybuilding.com and Musclemania.com so we are very pleased to have him contributing at Zen to Fitness. If you have Questions about the article for Nate shoot him a Tweet…