Learn to love the PROCESS

There are two views we can take on our goals. One is a process orientation, and the other is an outcome orientation. Naturally most of us tend use the latter, but the former is a much more productive view.

We spend so much of our lives focused on a future outcome that we are unable to enjoy the moments that go by until we get there. This is true of any aspiration you may have in your life whether it be fitness, financial, relationship, or any other type of goal. The first problem with this is; what a waste of part of your life! However long it takes you to lose that 10 pounds or make that six-figure income is time spent so focused on a future achievement that the present moment is wasted.

The other major issue with an outcome focus is that the accomplishment of the goal often does not bring the satisfaction we were hoping for. Our goals are always a moving target. Once we make 50k we want 100k, once we hit that we want 200k. There is nothing wrong with continually striving for more, except that if you will “only be happy when” you get to a certain outcome you will never be happy. Staking our happiness on the destination is setting us up for a pretty disappointing life.

Instead learn to love the process. Enjoy every minute of work put into the goal. Be proud of yourself for the effort you exert every day. Appreciate the continual growth you see in yourself as you chase your dream. Fall in love with the daily grind. When you take this outlook you will enjoy the days, months and years leading up to the goal. And, more importantly, it won’t really matter whether you get there.

I have huge, daunting goals I have set for myself in fitness, career, and life. These goals are going to take YEARS of work to get anywhere near accomplishing. If I hated what I was doing each day, and was waiting to be happy for this end result, I would waste years of my life exhausted and miserable. And potentially never even getting to that illusive “happy place.” Instead I use these goals as a motivator and a guide for my daily pursuits, but I enjoy all of the blood sweat and tears I put in along the way.

This means you have a couple options. You either learn to love what you’re doing, or change it. If you hate the job you’re doing, but it will lead to a comfortable retirement, is it really worth the decades you spend miserable? If you hate dieting and cardio do you really want to be a bodybuilder? Sometimes we learn to love things as we spend more time with them, but we also need to realize when this just won’t be the case. If something makes you miserable leave it behind!

So no more “I’ll be happy whens”. Don’t wait for retirement to enjoy this life. Love it every day.

 

Perfectionism

A perfectionist mindset is a debilitating disease when it comes to training and nutrition, yet it is one that most of us have. We tend to see our new lifestyle as an all or nothing venture, where we receive a pass or fail grade. We believe that we have to be 100% adherent to the plan or we have failed miserably. We eat one cookie or miss one workout and think the game is over, and we will try again next week, month, or year. We then proceed to finish off the box of cookies or miss the next 5 workouts.

This way of thinking is setting you up for failure. We are all human beings and WILL make mistakes. Not might. We will. And that’s ok! Eating one cookie or missing one workout does not ruin your progress. It will actually have little to no effect at all. What derails your effort is giving up after one negligible slip-up.

This is something I have struggled with a lot in my life. I had a hard time enjoying life because I was so worried about sabotaging my progress. I would never let myself slip, and this caused more stress than it was worth. Now I realize that this is not a pass/fail class, and it’s ok not to be perfect all of the time. When I am really tired or we are on vacation I let myself take a day off from the gym. When I am really craving something sweet I’ll have some vegan ice cream. And from this I have found that my progress is actually better! Probably because I am not as stressed out over every detail.

It is irrational to believe that we have failed our entire journey after one slip up. Stop exaggerating the negative consequences of the situation. One mistake probably has minimal consequence, but because we put so much weight on our mistakes we allow them to disrupt the rest of our journey. We pick out that single negative event and dwell on it, ignoring all of the positive experiences leading up to that point. Instead try to focus on all of the things you have done well and the strides you have taken toward your goal.

The most effective mindset is one that is focused in the present. Once you have made the mistake, it is in the past and no longer worth worrying about. You should focus on what you can do in the moment to move you toward your goals. You ate a cookie. That event already happened, but what can you do now to not make it worse? Not eat the rest of the cookies. Maybe you skipped your workout today. So now your focus becomes making sure you make it to the gym tomorrow, and not letting a whole week slip by.

In other words: Learn from your mistakes. If you use them in a positive way, to help you do better in the future, then they aren’t mistakes at all.

A mistake is not the end of your journey, and definitely not the end of the world, so don’t treat it that way. You do not have to be perfect to be fit or healthy. Progress comes with just being better. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself to be 100% all the time. You can do a good job without being flawless.

Why You Need a Plan

Many of us are somewhere on our fitness journey, but are unfortunately headed nowhere fast. This often isn’t due to a lack of effort or even inconsistency but just a lack of planning. You need a plan because it’s the only way to ensure you get where you are trying to go.

For years I went to the gym every day with no plan at all or just a body part in mind. I would get there and start picking random exercises. Some days I would have an awesome workout, and others it was, “well at least I went, right?” And I made progress. I definitely got a little fitter and built some muscle. But I didn’t make nearly as much progress as I could have made with a plan. Now I write my programs weeks or months in advance.

When you go into the gym knowing what you’re going to do you will tend to get a lot more accomplished. You’ll spend less time debating what exercise you want to do next and more time getting the work done. Even on days you’re not feeling it, when you would normally do a couple exercises and leave, you get in there and check everything off your list. Planning ahead keeps you accountable every day.

Just as importantly, when you put a training plan in place everything within each workout is there for a specific reason, and each workout contributes to the bigger picture. When your workouts are strategically created to work together in a specific way, you will yield the best results. If you do not plan ahead, it is easy to leave important things out, or overuse certain muscle groups. Having a plan directs your adaptations to accomplish your specific goals.

Now let’s look at nutrition.

When you ask most people how their nutrition is they say it’s pretty good. But what does that mean? Do you think that you “eat pretty healthy,” but have no idea what you’re actually eating? This is the case for most people. And it could possibly work for some, but that based on lucky guessing. The issue is, if you have specific fitness goals nutrition plays a large role, and “eating pretty good” probably won’t cut it.

The main determinant of whether you’re gaining or losing weight is total calories consumed. If you have no idea how many calories you’re taking in, and it varies greatly from day to day, how do you expect to lose or gain the weight that you want? It becomes a game of luck. If instead, you track your food, and eat the same quantity each day, it becomes extremely simple to alter your plan to get the results you want.

Macronutrients also play a large role in both body composition and athletic performance. Not planning and tracking your macros can lead to undesired outcomes. Most often we tend to eat a lot more fat than we realize, and for most people, keeping fat pretty low is the optimal diet. If you want the best results you have to feed your body the proper way to get there.

 

If you take a road trip, you are going to reach your destination a lot faster if you have a route mapped out to get there, rather than driving around aimlessly. When we have no plan in place we are relying heavily on luck to achieve our goals. I think it is a better option to set a plan that will take you exactly where you want to be.

Ready to start a plan? Join the Herb Herd

Goal Setting

I am a goal junkie. I am completely obsessed with goal setting. I set goals every day for every aspect of life. While I may take it a bit overboard, I do believe that goal setting is a very beneficial technique for accomplishing anything in life.

Most of us have been taught to use the SMART (specific, measurable, adjustable, realistic, time-bound) acronym for goal setting. I think this is definitely an important step, as it helps to create optimal goals. Because this is a commonly covered subject, I am going to skip it and instead talk about a couple crucial parts of goal setting that I find are often ignored or forgotten.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Goals

I’d loosely define a long-term goal as one that takes 6 months or more to accomplish, and a short-term goal as anything shorter than that. Where we go wrong here is using one without the other. Having both short and long term goals is so important. A long-term goal is the destination, and a short-term goal is the map to get there. If we are missing either one of these we will end up lost.

First, set your big exciting long-term goal (make sure it’s S.M.A.R.T.). Once you have that, fill in the time it will take to get there with smaller short-term goals. There are two techniques I use to fill in short-term goals. One is to divide your goal by the months you have to get there. For example, if you want to lose 100 pounds in a year you would divide 100 by 12 months. Your short-term goals would then be to lose 8.33 pounds each month. The other is to work backwards from your goal date and set milestones. For example, my goal is to lift a 900 pound total at USAPL nationals. My current total is 766. I found a qualifying meet that gave me 6 months before nationals, so I set my goal for that meet at 830 pounds, or about half way between my current total and goal total.

Long-term goals are important so we know where we are going, but short-term goals provide the necessary steps and keep us on track to get there.

Process vs. Performance Goals

The other distinction we often fail to make is between process and performance goals. Process goals are focused on the specific practices you will engage in, and do not take outcome into account. Examples would be things like “I will lift weights 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes,” or “I will run 3 times a week for at least 1 mile.” It is important to include process goals in your plan, because it will enforce the behaviors necessary to accomplish your long-term goal.

Performance goals, on the other hand, are focused on improving your performance in a certain area. “Improve my mile time by 5 seconds,” and “do 5 more pushups,” would be examples of performance goals. The benefit of this type of goal is that it pushes you to be better. It is important, though, that these goals be focused on improving your own performance, and are not a comparison to anyone else.

I highly recommend including both process and performance goals in your plan. I think it is more common to use performance goals, but process goals are often forgotten. Process goals will ensure that you are creating the habits and building the consistency needed to accomplish bigger goals. Performance goals will motivate you to work hard during the process rather than just go through the motions.

 

Goal-setting is much more than coming up with a SMART goal. Ultimately, you should have daily process goals that get you to your short-term performance goals, which are stepping-stones to your big long-term goal. These are all pieces to the puzzle, and without all the pieces the picture won’t come together as planned.

 

Staying motivated for the long-haul

We all get initial jolts of motivation when we are excited to start a new project or goal, but for some reason rarely stay motivated to successfully see it through to the finish. The world of health and fitness is probably the most notorious for this inconsistent motivation. Being a fit and/or healthy individual is a never-ending project that you must continuously work toward your whole life. This is why so many of us work out consistently for a year before quitting for two. I have somehow managed to keep my streak going strong for many years now, so maybe some of my tricks will help you do the same.

Goal setting is a pretty well known motivation tactic. Where I think most people go wrong is failing to set short-term goals along the way to the big long-term goal. People set big goals, like lose 100 pounds or squat 300 pounds, but those goals will take a long time to accomplish. When the finish line is so far away it’s easy to get distracted and lose interest. If you set shorter- monthly, weekly, or even daily goals- it will keep you more excited and motivated during that time period.

Another way to keep yourself motivated over the long-haul is to switch up your training. One way to do this is completely change the type of training- like my continuous switching between sports. It could also just mean changing between phases of training, such as a bulking vs. a cutting phase. Switching up training helps to avoid the staleness that can come with years of training.

These tactics can be extremely helpful for keeping motivation up, but I honestly don’t think it’s possible to keep yourself motivated all the time. Even when you love training, and you do all the tricks out there, there will be days or even weeks that you just aren’t feeling it.

Knowing that slumps will happen at some point, the best defense is having a plan. I used to go into the gym and make up my workout as I went. This worked fine for me most days, but on my unmotivated days it turned into a useless workout. Now I have a structured training plan. On days I really don’t feel like going to the gym I don’t have to think, I just go get the work done. I may not put as much effort in as my best days, but at least I complete the task at hand. I highly recommend having a training plan as I think it can make all the difference when it comes to staying on track during the bad days.

Motivation will inevitably come and go, the real key to success is finding consistency throughout.

 

*Future blogs on how to successfully implement each of these coming soon*