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How to Set Goals to Drive Real Results at Home and in the Gym

Without an actionable plan and a vision of where you’d like to be in x-number of months, it’s really difficult to get the exact results you’re going for. It’s too easy to let life happen and keep going in our usual habits and routines. This is where goal-setting comes in. Having well-measured goals is what helps us break down all those habits that get in the way so we can start working toward everything we want out of efforts at the gym.

Here’s what I do.

First, I write down all my goals and all the steps I need to get there.

It’s not enough for me to have an idea of what I want in my head. I need to write it down. I need to read it. There’s a connection between writing, especially writing by hand, and learning something. It helps me focus. But more importantly, it gets me out of my head. Having the right mindset is great, but my mindset only ever gets me as far as the physical actions I take.

Most often, the process of writing down my goals is the first real step I take in achieving all the results I want, both related to fitness and to my whole life. At the same time, this is only the first of many real-world actions I take.

Once my goals are written down, I set dates for carrying out each step I have written out for myself—with rewards if I stick to my timeline.

I have found that the best form of accountability is the calendar. It’s much harder to ignore the things I need to do if there are a date and time next to them. From there, I make sure to reward myself with something I enjoy. Not necessarily food; though a cheat meal every now and then can be a great motivator. I’ll give myself an extra hour or two to relax with a book, have a movie night or a weekend off.

In other words, I use my deadlines to make myself earn time off from the grind. This gives me the small dose of instant gratification I need to keep going the next day or following week.

I, then, visualize myself attaining these goals.

I think it’s important to explain what I mean here. Visualization on its own has never gotten me anywhere. For me, it’s about the brain-body connection that happens during meditation and visualization. Generally, our brains are wired to live with constant awareness of the past and future. This is what causes us to get trapped by our fear and anxiety (if you have Netflix, check out Vox’s The Mind: Explained).

Visualization brings our brains into the present moment—allows it to make a new connection based on what we’re able to do, not what we think or hope we can do.

And this is exactly what I get out of visualization. Seeing myself carrying out each step toward my final goals essentially “rewrites” the way process those steps. They become familiar, and less daunting. Which makes them far easier to accomplish than they would be without visualizing myself doing it first. It makes me more grounded and focused, concerned only with every single action I need to take in that moment.

Finally, and most importantly, I do it.

Every other step in goal-setting is nothing without the hustle and grind it takes to accomplish everything I want to do. I know I have to be willing to embrace the discomfort of changing my schedule, working differently and doing whatever it takes to make my dreams a reality. Otherwise setting goals is just wishful thinking.

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