Goal Setting and Keeping Motivated

What drives you? It’s a question you should ask yourself and only you will know the answer.

The topic of goal setting and motivation goes far beyond fitness and it’s also why I decided to write on it. I know that not everyone who reads this has the goal to be a world class competitive athlete. If you are then great, but I intend to frame it in such a way that people will be able to take away something more and even apply to other areas of their lives outside of lifting.

Motivation itself is a process that initiates, guides and helps maintain goal driven behaviours. But to be motivated you have to have goals to work towards. Goal setting is an important part of life and can be essential in helping you have a vision to work towards. If you know where you are, and what you want, then a plan will get you there. But setting a plan can be challenging and scary at times so take your time and set milestones along the way. Biting off more than you can chew to start can be mentally exhausting and cause you to fall off track. If you think about dropping 25lbs fat in one go then the idea of that can seem challenging and out of reach. Even the idea of squatting 550lbs one day when you can barely do 315lbs is going to seem out of sight. But if you think about losing the first 10 pound as a milestone or plan few months of training to hit 365lbs on the squat, things seem easier to visualise for the long term and finally achievable.
A self assessment of yourself as to why you want to achieve your goals is also needed. Why do you want to lose 25lbs of fat or squat 550lbs? Now I’d stick to the examples but this can be relatable to even other aspects of life such career, education or relationship etc. Are you doing this because you think you will feel accepted on social media more or for health reasons? Is it to be competitive or to just feel like a superhero? You will know and if you don’t then it’s ok but you need to reassess yourself.
So you have established goals and decided to get started. Great! But are you going to have the same drive everyday to get off the bed, fulfil your day and find time to execute this plan exactly as you may want? Chances are you won’t. We are human and it should be understandable that life stresses happen, things get harder, emotions are involved and staying on track is sometimes harder for some people.
We could rely on inspiration but these are usually short burst emotions that relates to things we are passionate about and can temporarily fire us up or get us going. This can be watching a motivational video or quotes but it doesn’t last long. Discipline does become a factor in it all. This is the use of willpower to stick to a plan or behaviours consciously. Learning disciplined is great because it allows is to stay the course when motivation dips down lower. Even our willpower to stay discipline can also be come with a mental cost and be emotionally draining so we need to reach a point where we can keep going with less mental energy required.
As we know the base of most plans set will require adherence or commitment. To lose that fat you will need to adhere to the caloric deficit over time and to squat more you have to keep showing up to the gym. What can drive your ability to stay on track during your good and bad days are the development of proper habits. Long terms habit formation allows you to consistency execute your daily goals that can seem effortless because it becomes a part of your life. Forming healthy habits make sticking to the plan easier and increase your ability to reach the end goal. This can be as simple as adopting a meal prep regime or putting aside an a few hours a across the week to make it to the gym. Habit formation does take some time so it’s important to be done for the right reasons and at a pace you can handle. For example asking someone with no experience in lifting or proper nutrition to show up to the gym 7 days a week and start instantly tracking their macros is a recipe to burnout a newbie. This can cause a negative experience with reaching the goal or even scare them off. Mabe a better approach will be to start them with the minimum time required in gym and to make small changes towards healthier food options until they get into a rhythm they can keep up before changing more variables over time. Another thing that is helpful is finding positive support through a reliable coach, friends or family, who can keep you on track and accountable.

Motivation itself can be guided intrinsically to be personally rewarding or extrinsically if you are outcome focused. There are some differences in how we mentally process the goals based on motivation as well as some consequences to being goal driven. Now there is literature stating that introducing external incentives reduces an activity’s intrinsic value. This was shown in a study where one unintended consequence of adding incentives is that individuals are less likely to pursue the activity after the external incentives are removed than they were before the incentives were introduced. There was also a study that explored the ‘overjustification effect’ in children. The ‘overjustification effect’ occurs when an expected external incentive such as money or prizes decreases a person’s intrinsic motivation to perform a task. The outcome of the study showed rewarding children for drawing decreased the likelihood of those children drawing spontaneously after the rewards were removed compared with before they were introduced, presumably because the status of the activity changed from enjoyable on its own to ‘‘a means to an end.’ Now the outcomes here isn’t meant to be reflective of every case and situation but meant to point in a direction and also get us thinking.

I remember when I just got serious about training for powerlifting. I already had a pretty decent base and great habits in regards to eating and training.  December 7th 2014 was the first time I deadlifted 525lbs. I thought 550lbs was so close and set out to achieve it. The process to get there was just the same but when I eventually got there, I felt unsatisfied because I wanted more. I was so process driven than even when I did 580lb in 2016, it felt like I didn’t accomplish much and the process to get there could take me further. Not giving up and striving for more eventually got me to 600, 600 paused, 600×2 and an all time gym PR of 625lb by 2018 @165lbs/bw. Sticking with it allowed me to develop an unbreakable work ethic that suited my life and my goals. Looking back on my accomplishments made me thankful to understanding the process was worth it as I did it for the love of deadlifting. In the mix of a dying federation with no place to compete, I showed up and continued the sport for as long as I could until I was mentally burnt out. I reassessed my goals and in 2019 when I dipped my feet into bodybuilding. Refocused on a new goal was motivating to me and helped me find the passion for competing and pushing myself again that was lost. I had strong habits and disciplines built in so although the process was new, it was easy to execute. At the end of the prep, although I had second place, I felt that regardless of the end results I was content because the process of getting there was fulfilling. For those interested, you can also ask me how I maintain a 1670+ day MPF streak and been going 3 months+ without a food scale.

I shared this because sometimes in life we may feel as if achieving a certain goals will be life changing and we can get lost along the way. In some instances yes but as long as we stay the path and focus on the process, you will be happier along the way and achieving the end result will help you refocus to attain much more. In today’s society where there seems to be a quick fix for everything and the idea of fast results is attractive to most. Now the unethical marketing and false claims is one end but consider those who fall prey to these traps and the deeper issues they face.

Take a step back and consider why it may not be your time and why you may not be ready for overnight success. Haven’t we heard the stories of why some lotto winners go broke since they weren’t financially smart or disciplined enough to make the right choices? What about those who crash diet and yo-yo diet with no long term results? It speaks to people not learning proper principles and making the necessary lifestyle changes that they can sustain to keep results for the long term. What if after 3 lifting sessions with a 45lb bar, you woke up a strong enough to deadlift 800lbs? This doesn’t mean you can automatically become a coach and help others do the same since you learnt nothing along the way, except you might be a miracle child or an avenger.

The point I want to drive home is that goal setting is important and you should establish why you are doing something for your own personal reasons. Understand the goal but let it be done it for the right reason so you will be engrossed in the process and can enjoy the journey. Habit formation and lifestyle changes help in accomplishing the goals along with teaching the skills to maintain your success.

In closing, thank you for reading. I hope it was helpful and please share. More content is in the works and feel free to give us ideas on what you will like to be discussed. Keep working guys!

– Varoon Seepersad
IG: @varoon.seepersad @strengthstudiott @strenthstudiott_fitness


– When thinking about goals undermines goal pursuit. (Ayelet Fishbach & Jinhee Choi.)

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