First set a long-term goal; your ultimate outcome. What kind of body do you ultimately want to have? Let your imagination run wild and dare to dream. Don't listen to anyone who says it can't be done! You can't afford to associate with negative people who always try to tear you down. If you really want it badly and you're willing to work for it, then go ahead and set the goal.
Next, set a one-year goal. A one-year goal is especially important if you have a lot of work to do. For example, if your primary objective is to lose one hundred pounds, that's at least a twelve-month project. Don't expect or even attempt to do it any faster.
Probably the most important goal you can have at any time is your three-month goal. Three months is the perfect time frame for your short-term goal because a lot can happen in three months. Most people can completely transform their bodies in 90 days. A sensible and realistic 90-day goal would be to lose up to 6% body fat and 12 to 24 pounds. The three-month goal is important because long-term goals don't have any urgency. A one-year goal is so distant, you may find that you tend to procrastinate more without the impending deadline.
There's a law in psychology called "Parkinson's Law," which says, "A task takes as long as there is time to do it." Differently stated, "Work always expands to fill the time allowed." Deadlines are motivating. Without time pressure, you'll rationalize missing workouts or cheating on your diet: Your brain will keep saying, "You have plenty of time, so missing this one workout won't matter." With a deadline right in front of you, you'll know that every workout and every meal counts.
You also need to have weekly goals to let you know if you're on track. Weekly goals provide immediate feedback to tell you whether you're moving in the right direction. Each week you should weigh yourself and have your body composition measured with skinfolds. If you're getting the results you want, you simply continue doing what you've been doing. If you're not seeing the results you want, you can immediately adjust your training or nutrition to get yourself back on course. (See chapter four for more information on how to chart your progress and adjust your approach).
To reach your weekly, three-month, twelve-month and ultimate goals, you must develop good habits every day. You develop good habits by setting daily action goals and working on them repeatedly until they become as routine as brushing your teeth or taking a shower. Ninety-nine percent of the actions you take every day are habits. Write out a list of daily goals, to-do's and habits you want to develop - good daily habits that serve you - habits like eating small, frequent meals, cutting down on sugar, getting up early, making your meals in advance for each day and so on. Long-term goals are important, but they can be intimidating and discouraging if you don't have small daily goals, too. If you only look at the "big picture," it can sometimes be unsettling to realize how much farther you have to go.
There's an old saying about tackling big tasks: "The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time." When your larger goals are broken down into smaller parts and you focus on each little step one at a time, you won't be overwhelmed. "By the mile it's a trial, by the yard it's hard, but by the inch it's a cinch." Take baby steps. Every step you take, no matter how small, will give you a feeling of accomplishment and keep your momentum going.
The next time you feel a craving, you're tempted, discouraged, unmotivated or you feel like skipping a workout, focus on your daily goals, not on the huge amount of work that is ahead of you. Tell yourself, "All I have is today. All I have is this moment, this workout, this meal, the next 30 minutes, the next hour. If I just do what I know I must do now, then I know I'll reach my ultimate goal eventually." Concentrate on the task at hand in this moment. As the Zen masters of Japan remind us: "Be here now." The point of power is always in the present moment.
The final type of goal you should set isn't so much a goal as it is a mindset. If you fall into the habit of continually comparing yourself to others, this will ensure that you are perpetually unhappy and unsatisfied, no matter how much you achieve. This is called the law of contrast. There will always be people stronger, leaner, faster, more athletically talented and more genetically gifted than you, so compare yourself only to yourself, not to others.
Set goals to become better than you used to be, not better than someone else. Constantly challenge yourself. Keep aiming to beat your previous bests. Going to the gym can become fun and exciting when you're always working on improving yourself. So make it fun - make a contest out of it. Go for one more rep, five more pounds, five more minutes, or one level higher on the Stairmaster. Aim for hitting your lowest body fat ever. Work on constant and never-ending improvement. Make this process a fun game!
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