It’s happening already.
If you go to a gym or fitness facility, you know this to be true: there’s that sudden influx of new faces in the new year.
With the turn of the calendar often comes a desire to turn over a new leaf, and fitness goals feature prominently.
Some of the regulars at the gym may see this as a problem. There’s more competition for the limited number of machines, classes, and floor space.
Last week I had trouble getting an open lane at the pool. And in the middle of my solitary stationary bike workout I was suddenly surrounded by an unexpected spin class that seemed to spontaneously appear.
But I don’t see this influx as a bad thing. I’m glad to see the new arrivals. After all, these are the people who not only say they want to make a difference, they are actually doing something about it.
I say more power to them. I’m happy to share and adjust so we can all tone up, drop some weight, or get a good cardio high going.
Here’s to the doers.
The problem is this: that influx is already fading.
We’re only in the third week of the new year, and already, parking isn’t as hard to find, the new faces are disappearing, and yesterday I had the whole pool to myself. Where’d everybody go?
I have to believe it has something to do with hitting goal flameout.
In a jet engine, the fire dies when it doesn’t get a sufficient mix of fuel and air, or something damages the combustion chamber. When that happens, you lose power and the pilot has to make a sudden, involuntary landing.
It can work the same way for us in our attempts to fly after our goals, whatever they are. We may have plenty of spark, but without a sound combustion chamber and a good mix of fuel and air, the fire is going to die.
Here are a few ways to help keep the fire alive.
Preventing Goal Flameout
Have a clear destination. Just as a plane doesn’t take off before knowing where and when it plans to land, having clearly defined goals is essential too. Using (1) the SMART approach to goal setting is one good way.
Then (2) write it down, (3) sign it, and (4) put it where you can see it. Putting that goal in ink makes it more real. Signing it is like making a contract with yourself. If we’re not willing to sign up for our own goal, maybe it’s the wrong one.
Build the engine. Structure is essential if we want to keep the fire lit. One good way is to (5) break that goal into smaller weekly and even daily tasks so we know exactly what we have to do today to be successful.
Another is to block off time to chase that goal – (6) put it on the calendar, and (7) assign all goal tasks a bright highlight color. Blocking the time helps us focus our efforts, allocate our energies, and prevent conflicts.
Next, defend that time. Treat it (8) as if it were an important appointment. We wouldn’t skip out of a job interview, or medical appointment – we promised others we’d be there. In the same way we should keep our promises to us, too.
Add fuel. Jet engines require high quality, refined fuels to function well. So do we if we want our goal-engines to develop thrust.
One way is to (9) surround ourselves with other people on a similar journey. In this way we can tap into the power of teamwork and camaraderie. It also helps since instead of resistence, they can offer encouragement.
Joining with others on the journey also (10) adds a level of accountability. They are expecting to see us; we can’t let them down.
Do the work. Of course there is effort required, so when the time comes, focus on the task at hand. Move (11) to a quiet place, (12) remove or turn off distractors, think about that one thing you have to do to meet your goal for the day, and then do it. Don’t stop until it’s done.
No one said it would be easy; in fact, (13) it’s better to expect the opposite:
Light the fire. There are plenty of ways to keep that motivational spark lit. Memorizing (14) inspirational quotes is one (here are 18 related to commitment.)
Imagery can be powerful, too. Post (15) pictures that represent what you’re aiming for in places you’ll see them to keep that goal uppermost in mind.
Other ideas: (16) read books about others who have achieved, (17) watch motivational videos, and (18) surround yourself with people who are equally committed to making a change.
And importantly, (19) stay focused on your “why.” When we remind ourselves about the greater purpose behind the effort it can help us keep moving forward.
Track progress. Air traffic control knows exactly where every plane is and where it’s heading. The same should apply to us, and that’s why its so helpful for our goal to be measurable.
A way to make this even more powerful is to (20) chart our accomplishments. There’s a certain satisfaction that comes every time we mark off that we’ve taken another step on the journey.
Then (21) it helps to post the chart where we can see it, and challenge ourselves to not skip out on the next round. The more we can see we have invested, and the more progress we have made, the more likely we are to stick with our goal for the long haul.
Give it some oxygen. If we dump nothing but fuel on the flame, we risk putting it out – there has to be room for air to get in – it has to breathe. In the same way, we can’t start off at a dead sprint and expect to make it to the end; we’ll end up breathless and exhausted. We have to pace ourselves.
Building in a rest plan is a good start. Just as in fitness there are hard days and rest days, we should (22) be serious about our rest days, too. Look for places and times where we can intentionally back off a little so we’ll be ready to go hard when it counts.
And don’t forget to celebrate. Why wait for the big day in three months or three years when we finally reach that goal? Where’s the fun in that?
It’s a lot more fun to (23) celebrate and reward ourselves in little ways as we keep those daily commitments we’ve made. It might be a tasty post-workout shake, some free time, or even a simple verbal pat on the back. We’ve earned it!
Stick With Your Goals – The Takeaway
Setting goals is a great way to better ourselves, but it takes more than a good idea and hope to help us get where we are trying to go.
With a little deliberate effort at the front end, we can significantly increase the likelihood of actually reaching the goal we have set, whatever it is.
If you are interested in learning more about goal-setting techniques and putting concrete systems in place to help you stay on track with your goal, even when flameout threatens, (24) consider my online course on goal mastery. It’s loaded with short, impactful videos that give you effective, practical tools and a workbook to help you customize your own plan that will help you stick with your goals.
Check out the Goal Mastery Course and watch the introductory video to learn more.
One of my big goals this year has to do with fitness. If it is for you too, I hope to see you at the gym today.
And this summer, if that’s what it takes.
Even if that means sharing a lane in the pool.