Let's talk about setting health and fitness goals. I bet right now, most of you have set results-based goals. When I talk about results-based goals, I'm referring to the goals that are based on what you expect to achieve rather than what you are going to be doing.
The most common results-based goal I see is weight loss. "I will lose 30lb by this day next year" for example. We think this is a great goal, because it's specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and has a deadline (timed). So it's SMART right? Wrong.
Here are three problems with results-based goals and why you need to be setting action-based goals instead.
Problem 1: Result-based goals will not sustain motivation
How many of you have been setting goals based on how much weight you need to lose? *raises hand* I did this for a full year! It worked... in the short-term. You see the trouble is, as soon as I hit my weight goal, I felt relaxed about my health. You know as well as I do when you're relaxed about your health, your habits start to slide. You tell yourself that you've got this nailed, you know exactly what you're doing and you're losing weight predictably and steadily each week.
It reminds me of that cocky kid we've all had in our class back in college, who thought they were so smart they didn't need to worry about revising for their exams. Spoiler alert: they goofed off for all of the spring term thinking they already had the grades in the bag. They didn't maintain the same level of work they'd previously been putting in and as a consequence, their grades started sliding and they ended up in clearing for a university place. All because they got complacent, and focused on their grades rather than the work they needed to keep putting in.
Once you hit your goal weight, your motivation instantly vanishes. You've achieved what you wanted, so that's it right? You don't have to try so hard at the gym or worry too much about ordering pizza. You slowly start sliding back to old habits. That's exactly why diets don't work for the long-term. The mindset we have when we start a diet is all wrong: we think we just need to follow the plan long enough to get to the result we want, and then we can sit back and relax once we get there.
Problem 2: Result-based goals set us up for disappointment
Goals based on the results we hope to get from the work we put in, are entirely based on our expectations of what will happen. The trouble is, the end result is not something we can control. You'll know this if you've ever stuck to a workout and healthy eating plan for the full duration and followed it to the letter, only to feel so disappointed and utterly crushed when you haven't achieved the results you expected (or were promised by dodgy strap lines like "lose 30lbs in 6 weeks").
Real talk time: Our bodies don't give a shit about our goals.
I'll say that again:
Our bodies don't give a shit about our goals.
Our bodies cannot be bribed:
"I've given you 6 weeks of salads and intense workouts, please shed 30lbs!"
They work in unpredictable ways. Ladies, you know this, think about when you're on your period, you bloat, retain water, scale weight may increase, your hormones are everywhere so your moods and appetite fluctuate, even your skin plays up. It doesn't matter if you eat really well and exercise consistently throughout your period (although this will help with the symptoms, but only if you feel up to it!), you'll probably still have your expected results skewed by something totally out of your control.
Hormones, life stress, lack of sleep, ageing, illness, metabolic changes - all of these can impact our weight loss, health and fitness. Often these are out of our control, which means our result-based goals are also out of our control. So when we don't meet our goals, despite all the work we may have put in, we just feel disappointed. When we feel disappointed that things didn't go our way, we then get stuck trying to figure it out what went wrong, instead of moving forward.
Problem 3: Result based goals mean we miss all of our other achievements (like NSVs) along the way
Focusing on a particular result can blindside us. We could be so fixed on losing 30lbs that we miss the NSVs along the way. You may not have lost 4lbs in a month since you started a new workout plan, but you may have had a lower resting heart rate, lower blood pressure, more energy, and a new personal best. Maybe your jeans fit a little better.
You're likely to be pleased with all of these results, but if your goal had been set based on losing weight, you wouldn't have noticed these achievements and instead would have felt disappointed because you didn't hit your weight loss goal. You may then quit all of your good habits in favour of a crash diet, or give up entirely.
Solution: Set action-based goals instead & have open expectations
Goals based on our actions, rather than our results, can be controlled. By action-goals, I mean setting goals on how many times you'll workout in a week, how many meals you'll cook from scratch in a week, how many weeks you'll try a new workout plan for, how many days of the week you'll stick to a set bedtime (yes, adults need bedtimes too!).
Then once we've set goals based on our actions, we need to be open to the results we'll get from them.
As it says in the small print on the back of fitness DVDs:
The results may vary.
You could do the same thing each week and get a different result each time, and it may not always be what you wanted, but if you're open to what could happen, you'll be surprised rather than disappointed. If you've been taking consistent action, then something will happen, even if it's not what you would have set as a results-based goal. You just need to look around at all the progress you've already made and will continue to make for as long as you set action-based goals.