Motivation is life-affirming, but it always comes with a dreadful question that lurks in the back of your mind: “When will this feeling end?”
To some degree, motivation will always rise and fall, but it should never end. Not when the objective is critical to shaping your ideal life.
In my previous article, I explained how to create a meaningful purpose that gives you a powerful reason to workout (known as your WHY). But even the blazing, fiery motivation created by your WHY can flicker out and lose impact – unless it is paired with another essential ingredient.
Wait! Don’t click away!
I know, I know. I mentioned an ugly word. In fact, “goals” has to be one of the most unsexy, dreary words imaginable, right? I might as well have said “corporate bylaws” or “excel spreadsheets” to fire you up.
But here me out.
They are critical for creating and sustaining motivation. Two big reasons:
First, goals spotlight the next step in your journey, serving as an ever-present force that ignites and demands your motivation.
Second, goals prevent your motivation from quickly fizzling out. After you create your WHY, your brain will soon ask “Yeah, but how will I achieve that dream?” Your motivation will dissipate quickly if you cannot answer this question. Setting up and knocking down goals on a regular basis ensures that never happens.
For these reasons, goals are the hidden linchpin towards sustaining motivation.
But a word of caution: poorly designed goals can have the opposite effect. Yes, done wrong, they can actually kill your motivation. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.
The key word her is monthly. Why? Because most people never attach a deadline to a goal. Yet monthly goals have the deadline built right in: the 30th or 31st. Further, this version has you setting up new goals as a way life each month, rather than stagnating in that infamous New Year’s Resolution that went nowhere. Bonus tip: on the last day of each month, always create next month’s goal. Make this a habit for life and you will experience a dramatic boost in motivation levels.
A common mistake is to tackle more than two goals each month. You might disagree and reply “Nope. I never even had one goal for a month, who does three or more?” Many do, but often without realizing it.
It can look as simple as this “This month I’ll add hot yoga, run a mile further on the treadmill each time, and add more days to my workout routine.” This crowded field of goals minimizes what you can accomplish, and will leave you burned out, getting fewer results, or both. All of which, by the way, depletes your motivation.
The secret to achievement is to narrow your focus. Limit your fitness goals to one or two each month.
If you are new to working out regularly, or have been out of the game for a while, master this habit first: consistency. Nothing – and I mean nothing – could be more important. Here’s the plan: train three times a week, twenty minutes each time. No more, no less. And do it with a 90% success rate before adding any other goals.
If you’re already training regularly, you can have two fitness goals in a month, but cap the focus of each to 50% of your training time. Do not spike the intensity or time of your workouts simply because you have two goals.
My final strategy on goal setting is probably the most important, given the fitness culture in America…
Look, I want you to aim for the stars in your long-term goals. And you should definitely dream big when creating your WHY.
But your monthly goals?
Keep those modest. It should stretch you, not exhaust you. Your monthly goal should not demand ass-kicking workouts that leave you waddling around with sore legs, nor dreading the next session.
Commit this rule to memory: consistency beats intensity. Always.
Focus on becoming 1% better each time you hit the gym floor. Commit to never missing a workout. Track your progress. Always learn more. Do that, and you will never have to kill yourself in your training or create unrealistic goals.
Here are some warning signs that you’ve created goals that are far too difficult:
– You can’t keep up with the program because of fatigue or exhaustion
– You expect more than 5% to 8% improvement in a given month
– You experience muscle soreness regularly
– You need to train five to six days a week to achieve the goal
– You need to train more than one hour in most of your workouts
– You can describe almost every workout as “brutal”
And what do all of these red flags yield? Yep – lowered motivation. This is why proper goal setting is so important.
Follow these three basic guidelines, and you will no longer be anxiously wondering when your motivation will fade into the clouds.
It will always be with you