I had a conversation this weekend with someone who is starting the Weight Watchers online program today. They’ve been on a long and successful weight-loss journey and are hoping to use WW as a means of jump-starting that last 20-30 pounds before the finish line. Having been on that lengthy road myself and spending the last few years really studying all of the old school weight-loss programs and most of the new kids on the block, people often approach me for opinions and tips. I have to assume it comes from the “if this idiot can do it” perspective, but I’m more than happy to share my two cents on what worked for me – which is truly my only area of expertise.
While I never did Weight Watchers myself, I do know a lot of people who have been very successful with it not only for weight-loss, but for long-term maintenance. Weight Watchers, for me, does the best job of teaching people that it’s really not what you eat that is the problem, it’s how much you eat.
In my conversation this weekend, as is the case when anyone solicits advice from me, there has become a clear #1 tip that I give and really stand by from my experience. It’s something that programs like Weight Watchers do a pretty job with, but, to me, never get the attention that they deserve. I’m not reinventing the wheel. I’ve not obtained a direct link to the weight-loss Gods who have shared a great secret of the universe with me. In fact, it’s almost embarrassing in its simplicity. If you want to be successful on your weight-loss journey, you’ve got to set goals.
Nothing baby-making (sorry… I was on a roll).
Simply setting clear and tangible goals is the best route to success.
Have you ever heard someone say, “Yeah, I think what really held me back was that I set those very specific and reachable goals. I think having that destination really screwed it up for me.”
No! Of course you haven’t. It doesn’t happen.
But, all too often, people, quite frankly, screw it up. They either miss the goal-setting step completely or, as is more often the case, they don’t do it right. While the concept of goal-setting is simple, in my experience, we all too often doom ourselves to failure by over complicating it. They make them too big. They make them too broad. Some people even make them so difficult that they guarantee failure and an excuse to stop trying.
It’s as simple or as complicated as you make it. That’s why I personally use a three-pronged approach to goal setting and execution that I would love to share with you.
#1 – BE SPECIFIC — Goals aren’t meant to be vague. Leaving a goal open-ended almost guarantees failure and frustration. “I want to lose some weight” doesn’t work. “I want to lose 20 pounds” doesn’t work. “I want to lose 20 pounds by July 1st” is a real tangible goal. Don’t say “I want to exercise more”, say “I want to go to the gym three times this week” or “I want to log 30 miles on the treadmill by May 1st”.
When you’re at work, your boss doesn’t say “I want you to write a report” or “I want you to give that patient some medicine”, they tell you what do and when to do it – at least the good bosses do… but that’s a blog for another day.
Clear and specific direction is how we get things done.
If you go into Google Maps and put in your friend’s address, what if it just returned “North”? Is that going to get you to the destination? You need to know more than the general direction.
Author Napolean Hill once said, “A goal is a dream with a deadline.”
Life is specific. Your goals should be too.
Don’t build in extra opportunities to fail.
#2 – WRITE IT DOWN AND PUT IT UP — I love Evernote. I can honestly say I’d be lost without my phone, but, that’s not where I put my goals. Goals need to written down by hand and displayed. There’s something about actually taking the time to physically write it down that only becomes more real when you take the additional step of hanging them up. Whether it’s on the calendar, in your office or on the fridge, there is no perceived accountability to having a goal tucked away in the inner recesses of your iPhone. Put it out in the universe.
When I run a 5K, I always get a burst of energy when I physically see the finish line. There’s always balloons and people cheering as you come down the homestretch. That’s physical. That’s a tangible goal. Would you get that same burst if just ran down the road for 3.1 miles till someone eventually told you “OK, that’s far enough”?
#3 – RECOGNIZE AND CELEBRATE — That’s not to say that every time you scratch something off the list you should throw a blowout party ala Billy Madison passing each successive grade. Goals have an intended end-point. “I want to live a healthier lifestyle” is not a goal. That is unless you perceive the end-point as death which, at that point, it’d be really difficult to assess you accomplishment. In weight-loss alone, so many people quit because they’ve set the goal so far away that they never get those little victories to keep them moving.
I lost 226 pounds in just over four years. If my goal on Day 1 had been “Lose 226 pounds”, I would have never gotten there. If I had to wait 50+ months to feel like I accomplished something, I would have never seen it through. But, like the old “how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” bit (awkward analogy in my circumstance I know), I set my goals in little chunks and celebrated along the way.
“Lose 20 pounds in the first month”
“Weigh under 400 pounds by September”
“50 pounds lost by Christmas”
The list went on and on, but each time I crossed one off the list, I celebrated. Not a party. Not a public proclamation. Maybe it was nothing more than a little “atta boy” for myself. Knocking it off the list and setting the next goal was a celebration in itself. And, with each celebration, came momentum. It’s that momentum that moves us towards the finish line.
As is always the case with the advice around here, I can only share with you what I’ve learned and what worked (and continues to work) for me. I fall away from the things that I want to accomplish in my life, when I stop setting goals. This isn’t a weight-loss thing – this is a life thing.
Chasing your dreams.
Fighting your demons.
There’s nothing in your life that wouldn’t benefit from setting goals.
So, what do you want to get done? Be specific. Be accountable. Be ready to celebrate.