GET A GRIP
ON YOUR GOALS
It’s Here! That mystical time of year when we use a meaningless, manmade, calendar system to determine that it is the optimal time to make huge important changes in our lives.
All through the year the cry is, “I’ll start on Monday”, but now the all-powerful New Year Resolutions come out to play.
It’s a New Year, time to hit the re-set button and really set after those goals that weren’t important enough to implement 24hrs previously.
Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail
The 1st of January is just as good a day as any to get started on a new journey and in some ways, the fact that you know you are not alone in your quest for change makes it a little more comforting. Plus, you are less likely to meet resistance from others in your social circle as, chances are, they are implementing changes of their own.
However, 70% of people have let their resolutions slip completely within 2 months of starting and most people just do the same cycle they have followed every year previously.
The main reason for this is that, there is simply nothing special about that day.
It has no magical powers.
In fact, because of all the festivities that preceded it, you are much less likely to properly prepare for change and if you overindulged on December 31st, then it’s going to be an even bigger shock to the system.
January 1st – The Ultimate Monday
All through the year, Monday is the go to ‘put off’ time.
“I’ll start on Monday” is possibly the most commonly used phrase when it comes to making changes. So much so, it is almost used as a punchline, complete with a wink and a nod that shows the same comment will be getting made next week.
There’s always the get out clause when New Year’s Day isn’t a Monday.
New Year becomes the ultimate Monday because things can get put off for weeks toward the end of the year, knowing that the official resolution date is January 1st.
However, when January 1st happens to be any day other than a Monday, now that shock to the system has a get out clause.
The resolutions can now be delayed until the Monday.
Then, though, the shock of returning to work kicks in. So, better push it back a week. In fact, 1st of February seems much more appropriate now as there is no point in joining a gym and starting a new healthy eating plan until after pay day.
You can see how this easily gets out of control when there is no forethought to the process.
Following the crowd to failure.
When it comes to fitness, which is one of the more popular choices, without a plan most people will take the path of least resistance and follow the crowd.
That means doing the same fad diet as your friends and possibly heading to the gym.
Most often the local commercial gym or the nearest budget gym.
So, the big change you decided to make this year was to improve your fitness, lose some fat, tone up or whatever it may be, but the first thing you do is look for the cheapest or most convenient option?
And given that is what most people do. And given most people fail. It’s not a hard stretch to see that you are simply setting yourself up for failure.
If you want to be more successful than the average person you need to stop acting like an average person.
Take a minute and truly think about this.
The average budget gym in the UK charges between £10 and £20 per month for a membership.
A commercial grade treadmill costs a minimum of £2700 (actually it’s more than that, but we’ll be generous).
So, just to break even on the cost of treadmills alone the club must sign up a minimum of 12 members, at the top end fee, per treadmill.
So, even if you never want to use a treadmill, but the gym has 20, you are already having to share the space with over 200 other people just to cover the cost of that thing you don’t use.
But, a gym doesn’t just have treadmills (actually ours doesn’t have any for the simple reason that we have better uses for the space with more effective equipment and systems) and most of the bigger gyms will brag about how they are giving you access to something in the order of two million pounds worth of equipment.
That’s all great, but again, to justify that cost alone would require well over 8000 members.
And there’s more to a gym than equipment.
There’s the cost of the building itself; non-domestic rates; water and utility bills; phone lines; card machines; fees for processing payments and we haven’t even got to staff yet.
Which is why most will not employ staff directly other than their sales team, because they would rather have Personal Trainers selling you yet another service on top of your membership without having to pay them to do it.
But there’s more!
Cleaning products and equipment, lightbulbs, servicing for equipment and the building itself, insurance, music licenses, carpeting, fit outs for changing rooms, receptions, kitchens.
So, when all is said and done, the actual costs are likely more like £5 million.
But that’s not what they need to make.
These are big corporate companies who want to make a profit.
In fact, in recent years, two of the better-known budget gyms were amongst the largest growing and earning, non-public, companies in the UK.
The model relies on the ‘follow the crowd’ mentality
The reason is that everyone follows that same pattern.
Join the cheapest gym, start with good intentions and fall away quickly.
But the membership is so cheap you don’t bother cancelling because you’ll start again next week or next month or in a couple of months.
What is being offered is a service that can never be delivered.
If everyone turned up, not at the same time, just on the same day and spread themselves perfectly even over the course of the entire day, you would be lucky if you had enough room to physically fit everyone in the building. And, even if you could, no one would be able to move never mind do a workout.
The entire model is based on the idea that most people will fail but continue to pay their membership.
Because if everyone took them up on the service they have paid for, it would be physically impossible to deliver on it.
And the time that shows that the most is the time when everyone is certain they are going to make a huge change.
The January crowds!
The memes flood the social media sites.
“Brace Yourself – The New Year Resolutioners are coming”
“Gym in December – Gym in January” pictures (obviously and empty gym and one that’s crammed full of people.
It’s a cliché because it happens.
But it’s cheap!
So, you can’t do the workout you’d planned!
In fact, you can’t even get to the equipment for any of your back up plans!
You need to wait 20mins between exercises queuing for a piece of kit!
Or you don’t know what you are doing and it’s all new to you. So, you book an induction (which will be the same induction everyone gets). It won’t be person specific and will be mostly determined by what machines and pieces of equipment happen to be free when you are being taken through it.
This is your big launch into the new year?
This is how you are setting about making a life changing difference?
The same could be applied to diets and nutrition.
Just blindly following a plan that has been created to sell a book or that you found online that worked for some celebrity (which is another bone of contention I’ll come back to in a future article) is like playing the lottery.
It might work for you, but if it does it’s either extremely lucky or it is set up for short-term success and long-term failure.
What I mean by that is, it’s usually an extremely low-calorie diet (1200 kCal per day or even less sometimes) that, in the short-term is obviously going to cause weight loss, because you are starving yourself. But, in the longer-term, is going to cause distress to your hormonal structure, mess up your metabolism and make it even harder to lose the weight that you are inevitably going to pile back on again a few months down the line.
Continuing the group mentality
Where the similarity lies with the gym choice is that often these things are selected in groups.
You follow the same plan as your friends.
Because it’s the best option?
Because it’s easier than going and researching it yourself.
And if it is hellish to follow, oftentimes, so much the better.
Now you have something to be a martyr about. You can complain about it as a group and big each other up for how well you are doing. Share stories about how you nearly blacked out getting out of a chair or how you almost caved and ate a potato, but you stayed strong.
Then, it gets too much and before you know it you are all supporting each other in how ‘life is for living’ and giving validity to the others as to why it’s not worth it.
Rather than taking stock of the poor choices that were made in the first place, it’s now easier to give up all together and go back to the nights out, the over indulging and ‘living life’, at least until next January.
Some of this is a bit extreme and maybe a little cutting, but if any of it sounds even remotely familiar, you can either take offence or take the chance to do something about it.
A better approach to resolutions
I’ve written so many articles on the foundations of the process and getting the ‘why’ of your goals set before launching into action.
Just to use our facility as an example (and I’m by no means saying we are for everyone. There are many other great facilities out there if you look hard enough). We opened to try and ensure that NONE of the headaches of the bigger commercial facilities existed.
To put the emphasis back on the results for the clients and members rather than the profit margin.
The primary goal has always been to give every single person that trains with us the best possible facility to make the most of it. We look to give plenty of space (on average every person training at any given time will have a minimum of 500-700 sq.ft to themselves, usually much more).
We don’t have millions of pounds worth of equipment, but we do have hundreds of thousands worth.
And because of the set-up and the limitation on member numbers, we can pretty much guarantee you never have to queue to use any of it (and if you ever do we look to rectify that by purchasing more of that equipment ASAP).
There is always someone on hand to help with either your technique, developing BESPOKE training programmes for your specific needs and keep you safe if you are testing your limits.
We have never had annual contracts or major tie ins (though I will admit that our ‘you play fair by us and we’ll play fair by you’ policy has been somewhat damaged by people over the years taking advantage and causing us debts that could have been avoided with some common courtesy, causing us to introduce things like deposits on our access fobs).
At the time of writing this we only allow 7 training slots at any given time in a space of around 5000 sq.ft and with over £150,000 worth of equipment. We have an in-house sports therapist you can call upon at any time. We provide ‘proven’ supplements (we don’t stock anything like fat burners, mass gainers or the like) at discounted rates for our members.
The biggest concern people usually have with that is the booking system. But no one needs to book. It’s just preferable and suggested at busy times if you can’t afford the time to delay the start of your workout. But, we have a strict limit on our member numbers, so it almost never happens.
And if we do start to see any level of congestion, usually that’s a sign we have been able to purchase even more equipment and would allow us to expand the diary to accommodate.
The point I’m making is that the training quality is of paramount importance, not the numbers on the books.
Our primary concern is ensuring that everyone who trains at our facility has what they need to make the most of their training.
And that is what a gym should be.
If you are taking your goals seriously, it’s that kind of facility you should be seeking out.
People join a gym, in most cases, to achieve something.
Is it possible to achieve those goals in a commercial gym?
But, particularly at times of the year like January and February or the lead up to summer, the workouts involved are going to be compromised.
Thus, your progress is going to be compromised.
If you want a quieter gym floor, you’ll need to start training at unsociable hours.
If your gym is 24hrs, you may need to start waiting until 10pm or later to do your workouts or getting up to head in at 5am or earlier.
Alternatively, you should add half an hour to your planned workout.
If you are a beginner, you may have to wait weeks, sometimes months to get that induction that is not going to be tailored to you specifically anyway.
Value and Cost are completely different
There is always a price to be paid and there is an element of ‘you get what you pay for’ in everything.
I don’t know of any gyms outside of London (other than a couple of leisure clubs with other facilities) that charge £100 per month or more.
The highest I’m aware of is around £80. But remember to weigh up the VALUE of this versus the COST of what you are getting for your investment. If you are truly getting full use of the facility and its hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of equipment without compromise, then that’s a bargin.
If your workouts are generally compromised and you must regularly queue for benches or equipment, or it gets so frustrating you hardly go, then it’s not worth £1 never mind £10 to £20 or more.
Evaluate based on value and treat the decision as an investment in yourself rather than a cost.
So, you can either do what you’ve always done and get what you’ve always got.
Follow the crowd and become one of them (i.e. average at best with a 70% chance of failure in the first 2 months).
Or, take a step back and plan your attack.
A 7-point plan for success
Now we can see why following the crowd is a path to failure, what is the path to success?
Here is a 7 step plan to ensure your goals actually stick this time around.
Take a minute – In fact take an hour.
Set aside an hour in your diary over the next day or two where you can really focus on evaluating what it is you truly want to achieve.
Don’t just say you’ll do it tomorrow, pick a time, be specific, put it in your diary and don’t let anyone or anything override it.
Treat it like a doctor’s appointment or a meeting with someone extremely important.
After all, who is more important to your life than you?
Set clear and deliberate goals – vague notions of losing weight or getting a bit fitter are just setting you up for failure.
If you don’t have a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve how are you going to be able to start moving towards it?
Ask yourself ‘Why?’ – Get to the emotional root of the goal.
What is it that is spurring you on to do this.
All goals come down to emotions and feelings.
So, you have decided what you want to achieve. But, why do you want to achieve that particular thing?
Why is it important to you?
How will you feel when you achieve it?
How strong is that feeling and how important does it feel to you that you achieve it?
If you can make that feeling strong, nothing will get in your way.
Work out ‘How’ you are going to achieve it.
Really assess what is best, not what is best all round, but what is best for you to achieve this goal.
If you know you will not do this alone, don’t.
Look at group training options (not classes that are one size fits all, but proper small-scale group training sessions that will be adapted to your specific needs).
Hire a Personal Trainer or buddy up with someone.
If you need to join a gym (and for most fitness related goals, that would be an extremely good idea) don’t pick it based on location and certainly not on price.
Weigh up the value for your investment.
Don’t just listen to a sales pitch and if you are being toured by someone in the sales department, ask to speak to some members (privately) or at the very least trainers who actually work on the gym floor.
In smaller, private gyms you will likely end up speaking to the owner or at the very least a trainer who also works out in the gym, so you can ask questions based on what you need, not what the sales guy wants to dangle in front of you.
If you need a nutrition plan, work one out or have one worked out for you (specifically for you, not some generic thing from a book or online and make sure it is from someone reputable who is not going to give you some crazy plan to follow with fast, unsustainable results to get a quick testimonial).
Most of all consider all these ‘how’ elements from the point of view of what you want to achieve not how it is going to impact other things.
Work out what is best BEFORE you start considering if you need to make compromises to that.
Insert those ‘how’ elements into your life.
One of the biggest downfalls of any plan is stress.
If your body is stressed it will not perform optimally.
Whether that’s stress due to lack of sleep, lack of time, too much work or lack of money, it’s all the same as far as your physiological response is concerned. So, there is no point having an amazing plan in place that is perfect for your needs if it is going to add significant levels of stress to your life.
However, that’s not to say you then default back to the path of least resistance.
If the perfect training facility for you is a 1hr drive away, but the nearest one is 10mins away, can you adapt to that?
Maybe you were planning on going 4 times per week, but if you cut it to 3 times and just train a little harder or a little longer, you will save one journey. And if that ‘perfect’ facility saves time on queuing, you’ll make the time back anyway.
Are their non-productive things you could cut back on?
Time sitting in front of the TV perhaps?
Time on social media sites?
Time playing video games?
None of these things are beneficial to your goal and none of them are critical to your life. Therefore, if you truly want to achieve these goals (and we have already established that to move past point 2 they must be) then these are sacrifices worth making that won’t cause greater stress.
If it’s the finances that are the problem, will being more precise about your shopping budget make a difference (I’ve seen people cut their weekly shopping bill by over 70% just by planning for the meals in the week ahead and not buying any filler or impulse purchases).
Do you pay for satellite or cable TV? Movie channels? Sports channels?
How often do you order takeaways or go out for meals and drinks?
Do you buy takeaway coffee through the week?
How about magazines?
You would be amazed at the amount you spend on things you barely think of when you assess your outgoings.
Scale back as necessary and find the balance that offers the greatest value to you.
If you feel you NEED a personal trainer but you can’t afford to pay for the one you feel is best for you, don’t just go and find someone cheaper who is not up to the job.
If you genuinely can’t afford the £1-2 per day that most gym memberships will cost, don’t just immediately switch to the cheapest option.
If you feel you cannot make the switch to the nutritional path that would be best for you, don’t see it as all or nothing.
Look for compromises that you feel will make a significant enough difference for now and accept that the progress you are going to make may be a little slower than you may have hoped.
But again, don’t set yourself up for stress.
If you are going to have a few so called ‘cheat meals’ through the week because you know being ultra-strict will be too much for you to cope with, then do it.
Accept that you will improve but just not the way you would possibly hope and it may be a bit longer before you see noticeable results.
There is a truism that you should always keep in mind.
There are cheap results, fast results and great results and you can have any of these that you wish, but you can only every have two of them at once.
So, you can have cheap and fast results, but they won’t be very great.
You can have cheap and great results, but they will take time.
Or, you can have fast and great results but it will cost you more.
Put it all together and make it a part of your life.
Most people treat their ‘resolutions’ as an inconvenience, a hardship that has to be endured and usually with an end date in mind.
Things like – I want to drop 2 dress sizes in 6 weeks or I want to lose 5 inches from my waist by the time my holiday comes around.
But the reason for the end date is because then this hardship is not forever.
Rather look to integrate this plan (the one that, at point 2, is exciting you and you are emotionally attached to achieving) into your life.
Make it something you either enjoy completely or at the very least you enjoy what it is bringing to you and so you, in a strange way, enjoy the uncomfortable parts.
It should never be something you dread or something you hate.
Yes, there will be times where you need to focus because you are tired, and the workout needs done or you are sick of eating healthy and you just want to gorge on chocolate. But, if that is happening often, you are fighting a losing battle.
So, come up with a plan you are comfortable with. Something you may feel will be tough, but you truly believe is achievable and within your means.
You can always add to it later.
The goals can be large, but the first steps should be comfortable and not too scary for you.
Follow these 7 steps and you have laid the groundwork for success.
There is much more that could be layered onto that, such as how you are going to track progress.
Ensuring things like posture and movement are in good working order, getting the foundations of strength in place. But that’s for another time.
The most important takeaway
Making arbitrary lists of resolutions on a whim is only going to lead to disappointment and following the crowd is never going to allow you to stand out.
Set yourself up to stand out from the crowd.
Do a little prep work.
Take some time and truly evaluate the changes you want to make.
If that means you don’t start on January 1st, don’t think that’s the end of it. It’s only a manmade date.
One day is no different than the next.
But if you fail to prepare then prepare to fail.
Rather, take the time you need to prepare. Just, don’t use that as an excuse to procrastinate.
You only need to give yourself an hour or so to get your mind in the right place. Maybe a day to do some research into the ‘how’ element and then another hour or two putting it all together.
Hopefully with that behind you, this year will be the year where you make real, life changing, resolutions.
Ones that you will stick to and follow through on.
After all, you will have a detailed plan and if you stick to the plan, how can you fail?
I wish you every success
Get a Grip
On Your Goals by Mark Tiffney
Share your thoughts.
What has worked for you in the past?
What goals have you set and followed through on?
How did you go about that and what was different there than the times when you have been less successful?
Let me know in the comments below.
You never know, you may just inspire someone else to make an amazing change. That, I’m sure, is an achievement worth hitting.