People (usually the overweight ones hitting the gym for the first time) often set themselves a goal that goes like,
I need to lose 5 kilos in the next month.
Instead, how about setting a goal such as:
I am going to hit the gym 20 times in the next month.
Isn't setting an effort-based-goal (the number of times to hit the gym) better than an end-result-goal (the targeted weight loss)? I think so, and here's why:
- Control: Your achievement of the goal is pretty much under your control. You know what you need to do in order to hit the gym 5 times this week (reduce the time you spend at office, cancel that dinner, etc.), but you can never really control all the variables it takes to hit your weight loss target, which for all you know, may be completely unrealistic.
- Testing your commitment: We've all heard stories of people who take up a fitness program only to give up within a few short weeks (months if they're lucky) simply because they were unable to meet their "target". The usual suspect for such a discontinuation is their lack of commitment to their fitness program. Setting a goal around the effort one is willing to put in helps you test how committed you really are.
- Course-Correction: You'll know early enough if you're taking any short-cuts and can take corrective action. If you find that all of your gym sessions are lasting less than 15 mins, you know you're not being true to your objective. But with the weight loss goal, it gets more complicated. Just because you lose 1kg in one week does not mean you're on-track to meeting your weight loss objective.
- Sustainability: The goals around effort are more sustainable. It's realistic and sustainable (but probably not easy) to extend the goal to say, I'll hit the gym 20 times per month for the next 12 months. Try doing that with the weight loss goal.
- Fine-tuning: It's also easier to fine-tune the goal statement around your effort:
I will hit the gym 20 times in the next month to have 15 weight training and 5 cardio sessions.
But it's almost funny to hear someone say,
I will lose 5 kgs, of which 4 kgs should be body fat, 0.5 kg water, and 0.5 kg lean muscle.
Perhaps expert body builders can set themselves goal statements like this, but then the keyword is "expert".
I believe that the goals around weight loss / fat loss / body tone should be set up after one has set up a sustainable fitness program. So before you set yourself goals around end-results, do set up realistic goals that will help you enjoy and stay committed to your fitness program. Without that, achieving your end-results will simply not feel rewarding enough, and definitely not fun!
Would love to hear what others have to say.