If you think that your training plan is lacking a little purpose, read on to discover the secret to setting, and achieving, goals.
By Emma Lewis (Photography: Getty Images)
More often than not at this time of year, it’s cold, dark and damp outside. This can make it so much easier to head for the sofa than the gym. So how on earth do you motivate yourself to get moving?
If you’re struggling to stick with a fitness routine or get the body results you want, you need to dig deep, tap into your purpose and understand the real reason ‘why’ you’re trying to achieve these things, say the experts.
This, in turn, will give you more focus and drive, meaning you get your money’s worth out of that gym membership. Plus, you’ll also end up with a huge sense of achievement to boot.
Understanding the purpose behind your fitness goals
It’s easy to set goals, as we know all too well, but achieving them is a whole different story. This is where the ‘why’ comes in, but what is it?
‘Your “why” is sometimes defined as your purpose or mission,’ says Eloise Skinner, entrepreneur, author and existential therapist. ‘“Purpose” is broader and usually implies a longer timeline, whereas “mission” is more action focused and short term.’
Your ‘why’ is your unique, intrinsic motivation, helping you to create authentic, positive goals that are driven by you, really matter to you and will have a positive effect on you, says Emma Jefferys, accredited coach at Action Woman, who runs Goal Digger workshops.
‘This means that even on the toughest of days when all of the external factors are working against you, you will still show up, because it matters at your core.’
A really powerful ‘why’ is the best kind to help you achieve your goals, adds behavioural expert Joanna Howes. ‘Knowing “why” you want to achieve your goal is vital, so you can take charge of your inner voice when it wants you to sit on the sofa or order a takeaway,’ she says.
‘This kind of “why” is normally bigger than you, which makes it harder to give up, and it helps you focus on your goal.’ Howes uses the examples of losing weight so you can play with your children in the park, or running a charity 5K to raise money for a cause that’s connected to someone you love.
How to find your ‘why’ when it comes to fitness goals
Skinner has a useful technique to help you dig that bit deeper to understand the real reason behind your goal and turbocharge your chances of success. ‘Try the Five Whys method, which is an explorative technique to get to the heart of an issue,’ she says.
‘Firstly, ask yourself “Why is this goal really important to me?”, then challenge that answer by asking “Why?”. Repeat this for a total of five times and you’ll find yourself closer to your foundational goals and ambitions.’
Jefferys suggests you then ask yourself how achieving that goal will make you feel, what circumstances in your life make this goal important to you now and not next year, and how motivated you are now to achieve this goal out of 10. If the answer’s less than eight, it’s probably not the goal for you, she concludes.
Making use of your ‘why’
Now you understand why you want your goal, and why you want it now, you’ll find it easier to focus and go the ‘extra mile’ to achieve your aims, says Jefferys. You also need to believe in yourself.
‘One of the most powerful tools for achieving your goals is the belief that you are truly capable of making it happen,’ says Tashina Webster, MA, behaviour change coach at Noom.
‘Once you’ve set your goal, visualise yourself achieving it and reflect on what behaviours and actions are needed to achieve that goal.’ Then you need to get started, but start small and be patient, says Webster.
Little changes make a big impact and allow you to build momentum. Create smaller goals along the way to help you achieve your big goal. Make sure you use your ‘why’ to remind yourself of your mission and help keep up your motivation as you go, say the experts.
‘If you practise meditation or journaling, for example, you can set your “why” as an intention or focus for your practice,’ says Skinner. ‘If you’re more of a visual learner, you can set a lock screen for your phone that reminds you of your “why”, or write it down and display it somewhere.’
Whatever method you use, just make sure you look at it regularly. You also need to celebrate your wins along the way, says Webster. ‘Reflect often on how you’re feeling about your progress and what actions you’ve taken. Are you satisfied with your efforts? If so, celebrate your victories, big and small!’
Create smaller goals along the way to help you achieve your big goal.
Change isn’t easy, and recognising your hard work will keep you moving in the right direction. Struggling to see any victories? Think ‘progress over perfection’ for a more accurate and rewarding measure of progress, says Skinner.
Instead of looking to outside sources as a measure of accomplishment, you compare where you are today with yesterday, a month ago or before you decided to make a change. Remember, obstacles are bound to arise as you try to reach your goal, but the power of your ‘why’ can help with this, too. ‘It stops you quitting and gets you back on track,’ says Howes.
Whether the obstacle is due to an external factor, such as a hectic working week or an unexpected social obligation; or internal, such as self-limiting beliefs or all-or-nothing thinking, remind yourself of your ‘why’ and spur yourself on.
‘Learn from setbacks, too’ says Webster. ‘Think about what obstacles arose and see if you can plan for them next time as you work to get back on track.’ And just think, once you achieve this goal, it will increase your confidence to go for the next goal. Who knows what you can achieve. Good luck!
Common fitness goal pitfalls
Emma Jefferys warns of three common ways people sabotage their goals…
Avoid negative requests
‘People often struggle with weight loss goals, for example, as they’re a negative request (you have to lose something in order to achieve them).
You’re focusing on what you don’t want, rather than on what you do want. Change the language into a positive goal, for example, “to be able to keep up with my children”.’
Steer clear of ego goals
‘An ego goal might be to get to a certain dress size because you see everyone looking that way on Insta. And so you exercise with that goal in mind. But unless you really care about that, authentically, you may struggle to see it through.’
Don’t internalise your goal
‘Accountability is key. It can be being accountable to yourself (write your goals down and you’re 42 per cent more likely to achieve them) or sharing your goal with someone else (you are 78 per cent more likely to make it happen).’