Are Your Exercise Goals Doing More Harm Than Good?
We’ve been taught since day one that setting goals is important.
We’re assigned to write about what we want to be when we grow up in grade school, elaborate on our lofty dreams for the future on college applications and create vision boards to keep our goals in the forefront of our minds when we awake each morning.
When I worked as a trainer at big box gyms, protocol required that we ask clients and members about their exercise goals as well as remind them how important having an exercise/fitness goal was if they ever wanted to have a “successful” gym experience (what ever that means).
If you Google, “goal setting for exercise”, you’ll find countless articles on this topic, and article after article on goal setting is featured all the top fitness magazines.
But what really is the ultimate purpose of having a goal or goals in the first place (exercise related or not)?
This is of course the obvious answer. Without goals where the hell would we be? Aimlessly floating through life with no real motivation to do anything or get anything done? I imagine most of us would be lazily reclining on a couch, watching hour upon hour of Netflix with no real reason to stop (but there are plenty of people that have goals and still do this).
Without having an end point in mind, how do we know which way to turn or what decision to make when we approach a major fork in our life’s metaphoric road? Wouldn’t we be more likely to make the wrong decision if we don’t have some kind of intentional direction set regarding where we want our life to head or eventually end up?
Or may be it's fulfillment?
One of the ultimate rewards for reaching a goal is a sense of fulfillment and this is getting closer to hitting the nail on the head. Humans by nature love to move from point A to point B and have the pleasure in knowing that something has been accomplished and completed. The feeling of closure and finality on a journey, quest, song, movie, story, or school year is a very rewarding feeling no matter how big or how small the accomplishment may be.
So what is it with goals and why are we told they are essential to a “successful” exercise/fitness experience?
Human beings are emotional creatures and in the end, we do not take actions or follow through with our dreams because we want the “perfect” body or improved health, the money, the house or the car.
We set goals and chase after them because
we ultimately want to feel a certain way.
Think about it, if you finally did get “the perfect body” (what ever that may mean to you) how would that make you feel? Would you feel more worthy, important, attractive, successful, youthful, invincible or confident?
In the end, we pursue exercise goals because we ultimately want to FEEL a certain way about ourselves and we believe (or rather we are sold) the way to attain this feeling is by physically changing our body from where it is right now to something else. This is not always a bad thing, until it is…
“It’s not just getting a goal that matters, but the quality of life
you experience along the way”
– Tony Robbins
Far too often we believe reaching our goal is the only way we can experience the desired feelings driving us toward our goal; meaning we cannot feel worthy, important, successful, attractive, vibrant, etc. until the goal is reached and accomplished. And when this is the case, the quality of our life inevitably begins to suffer. By setting goals in this fashion, control over our emotions is placed on this external achievement and we emphatically cling to the disempowering belief that “I’ll only feel better about myself once I can fit into that a size 4 again” or “I’ll have the confidence to do [insert anything here] once I’ve lost all this weight from [insert life event here].” This type of thinking (typically subconscious) depletes the quality of our life because it allows circumstances that are beyond our control to dictate when and where we’re allowed feel a certain way about ourselves.
Recently, multiple studies been released concluding how little control we actually have over our body weight and shape and this is why 98% of all weight loss attempts (through diet and/or exercise) fail. So waiting to give yourself permission to feel worthy, attractive, successful, important, etc. until that magical number on the scale is reached or a body fat percentage attained is not only placing your life on hold, it’s making your own goals the biggest obstacle standing between you and your own happiness. This makes for a very frustrating, resentful and overall negative existence.
Like I mentioned earlier, exercising to physically change your body is NOT always a bad thing. In fact that’s why the majority of people I work with begin exercising in the first place; they want to have less achy joints, reduce chronic pain, or increase their daily energy and vitality. All these goals are achieved through making physical changes in the body; increasing circulation, reducing resting heart rate, lubricating joints through consistent and moderate activity, etc. The resulting feelings for these goals usually are something like, independent, strong, capable, confident, youthful or just overall good in their body. And even though these goals are not about weight loss or changing one’s size, they too can become something that might eventually do more harm than good if approached the wrong way. When someone believes the only way they can feel strong and capable is by performing a handstand and no matter how hard they work at it, it just doesn’t happen, there’s a good chance they won’t feel very capable. In fact, the negativity swirling around in their body resulting from so many failed attempts is probably the very thing keeping them from feeling the way they so desperately wish to feel.
We are human BEINGS not human DOINGS
When we believe we are what we do or we are what we accomplish, what will happen to us when we can no longer do or accomplish? We will undoubtedly crumble.
So how do you set exercise goals that keep you motivated to stay consistent but also honor your body and your existence in this present moment? Don’t miss next week where I’ll share with you how to do precisely that!