Goal-keeping Isn’t Just For Footballers!

Excuse the headline. This is absolutely nothing to do with football! I’m just shamelessly capitalising on the World Cup! (Go England!)

Anyway, I’ve messed up lately. I haven’t been practising what I preach and I’ve suffered because of it. Read on to find out what I’m on about. But first, let me preach a little…

Improving your fitness, losing weight, and upgrading your lifestyle is often referred to as a journey. But before any journey can be planned, we need to know the destination. How often have you felt that you’ve been vaguely meandering along this constantly-changing fitness journey, not really getting anywhere? In other words, the programme and lifestyle changes required (the journey) can only be effective if you know what the goals are (the destination). Of course, you have to also elucidate your starting point through a series of relevant assessments, but that’s another blog post entirely!

So we need to know the goals. Sounds simple, right? A typical goal-setting sheet might ask a few questions along the lines of:

  • What are your Short term goals (<3 months)?
  • What are your Medium-term goals? (3-12 months)?
  • What are your Long-term goals? (12 months+)?

Of course, these questions can take many forms or iterations.

There’s a SMARTer way…

The half-decent trainers and coaches will also ensure that your goals are SMART.

This means that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Attainable, Realistic and Time-constrained. Just saying “I want to lose weight”, or “I want to get fit” is none of these things. Essentially, setting SMART goals forces you to focus on what exactly you want to achieve (put a number on it!), and know that it’s possible – thereby increasing your self-efficacy (which is your personal belief that you can indeed smash your goals!). Sprinkle on a little time-constraint (add a deadline!) and hey presto, you’ve got a little jeopardy to kick you up the butt along the way. Everybody performs better under a little pressure, right?

Here’s what a couple of good, SMART goals look like:

  • Lose a stone by dd/mm/yy (6 weeks from now)
  • Run 5km in under 20 minutes by dd/mm/yy

The first example is the most common I see, it usually revolves around fat loss but in my humble opinion, ultimately it’s about looking better and gaining confidence in one’s appearance rather than the actual target figure (e.g inch-loss, weight-loss or clothing size). It’s really effective for the target date to be an important upcoming event – one that is immovable, such as a wedding or a holiday. This is something to visualise as things get tough but also something to work backwards from in order to set progress milestones along the journey (smaller ‘stepping-stone’ goals). The second example might have a sporting event or competition as the target date, or it might just be a personal goal.

Sometimes you’ve gotta touch a nerve!

Now then, these are a great starting point, but I like to dig a little deeper. Something I have found very common amongst my trainees, is that often even they don’t know why their goals are their goals. I once had a consultation with a 52 year old lady, she must have been around a UK size 16. Her goal was to get back down to a size 8. When probed why that was her goal the hasty response was “Because that’s what I was when I was 18”. So I dug a little deeper. “How did you feel when you were 18?”. Her response was, “Energetic, happy, fit.”. It eventuall transpired that her goal wasn’t to be a size 8 (which wasn’t achievable within the 2 months she envisioned), it was to feel energetic, happy and fit. Still, those things need quantifying in order to make SMART goals, but the actual figures and reasons may not be immediately superficial.

Don’t hit a bullseye on the wrong dartboard!

You see, when you tag your goals on to a real emotion, a true desire, you have something that will permeate throughout your daily life that resonates, that constantly reminds and reinforces. You may have to peel back, layer-by-layer, constantly asking yourself ‘Why?’. You may need to get uncomfortable. You have to dig deep in the mines to reach the gold. This is much more meaningful than an arbitrary figure plucked from what we deem is expected by ‘society’, for example, “I want to be 55kg”. Why? Keep asking yourself why to every response, and you will get deeper and deeper into your own motivations. That’s where the magic happens.

Giving it some quality thought, answer these questions while setting your goals:

  1. What will I gain/ pleasure will I get by achieving my goals?
  2. What will I lose/ pain will I experience if I don’t achieve my goals?
  3. What will I gain/pleasure will I get if I don’t achieve my goals?
  4. What will I lose/pain will I experience by achieving my goals?

The pure act of asking yourself these questions helps you to look critically at your motivations and to also root your goals deeply by attaching them to a meaningful emotion – both positive and negative. The 3rd and 4th questions also help you to identify potential barriers or stumbling blocks, and then plan strategies in advance to overcome them. Acknowledging and accepting that there will be some personal sacrifice starts you off in a strong position.

Example responses might look like this:

  1. I will regain my confidence and be able to play netball with my daughter
  2. I will continue to feel sluggish and depressed
  3. I can continue binge-eating chocolate in front of Netflix
  4. I will have to forego some of the excess wine with the girls/ I will have to take time to plan my food shopping and meals/ I will have to get up earlier to train etc

Enough about goal-setting. Nobody’s talking about goal-keeping!

Finally I’ll lead you, excitedly, I’m sure, into the thought-processes that have got me rampantly pounding the keyboard today and lecturing you all about goals.

Setting your SMART goals is one thing. Truly asking yourself Why and setting the real goals is a better thing. Keeping your goals is another skillset entirely. Skip to the end if you just want to cut to the chase with my five strategies how.

As a single mum, studying a full-time degree and also fervently changing lives building this kick-ass business, you can probably imagine that my time is limited. It’s valuable. But who is it most valuable to?

To me, of course. Or at least, it should be. Since the end of semester back in mid-May, my plan was this: Spend a couple of weeks catching my breath, re-calibrating, recuperating and just allowing myself to chill out for the first time in my life with zero f***s given about how much I did or didn’t achieve, then get back to my empire-building plans full-time from June 1st.

You see, I’ve always been a word-of-mouth and referrals based trainer. A kind of underground, well-kept secret. Self-promotion has never been my ‘thing’. I let my trainees do the talking. Since I’ve moved to Chichester, I’ve intentionally adopted a ‘maintenance mode’ with a small, select group of kickass trainees. Alas, the ground spinning beneath my feet following divorce and several house moves has finally started to slow down. June 1st marked the beginning of my planned business development phase. Tasks include setting up this website, setting up my scheduling and payment systems, filming and editing hundreds of videos for my online client platform, start writing my blog (let me know how I’m doing, by the way!), finally getting to grips with marketing, local networking and just general ‘busy-ness’ that requires SMART goals, focus and self-discipline.

However, it’s now June 22nd and I’ve made painfully slow progress having lost 2 or 3 full days every week so far doing other things that do not precisely align with my goals. I’ve overcommitted. I’m feeling burnt out. Around serving my current trainees, doing all these ‘extra’ commitments and single parenting, my big goals have gone by the wayside. I’ve put myself and my goals last. Yes, much of it I have been remunerated fairly for, and aside from some research I’m regrettably participating in, I’ve only said yes to tasks that utilise my skills as a trainer or sports massage therapist. But these have essentially just been distractions.

This is a lesson I have bitterly learned in the past. I remember back when I was competitively powerlifting and training for the national championships. It meant a lot to me and I even trained on Christmas day. I was still breastfeeding at the time, getting little sleep, was in an unsupportive, emotionally-abusive marriage and training others early mornings and late evenings. Why oh why, I now ask myself, was I going out sometimes 2 or 3 times a day, running with my trainees? Running was THEIR goal, not MINE. It was directly moving me further away from my own goals. It wasn’t possible to continue sacrificing my body like that, so lo and behold, I burnt out. Yep, I ended up having a complete nervous breakdown.

I didn’t value my own goals enough.

Now excuse me if I’m getting ahead of myself here, but I’m going to assume that my trainees pay me for my passion, knowledge and talent in helping to them to make lifelong and impactful change – for the programming, training and coaching – not for my accounting, marketing and sales skills. So these goals of mine, to automate as much of these additional ‘tasks’ that a self-employed person must take care of, allows me to make much more meaningful, valuable use of my time doing exactly what I love whilst freeing up precious time to be ‘mummy’.  That’s what my goals mean to me. But when friends want to catch up or ‘opportunities’ arise elsewhere, I have been saying ‘yes’ a little too often. It’s not their fault though. I hadn’t communicated to others what these goals mean to me. I hadn’t safeguarded and ringfenced these goals in my own heart. I hadn’t fine-tuned the filter that asks:

How does this align with my goals?

Well it’s time to laser-focus on these goals and get down to business. I am human, after all, so I need help from my five strategies listed below.

Just remember this, YOU are your only goalkeeper. The keeper of your goals. Your goals are your baby, and nobody on the planet is going to prioritise your baby like you do. So don’t expect them to. However, support is essential, and your friends/family/colleagues can provide invaluable support, but it’s your duty to share your goals and communicate the importance of them.

If you’re single parenting, hats off to you, I feel you… but learn this word:


And don’t justify it either.

The crux of today’s rant- my 5 strategies to goalkeeping like a boss:

  1. Create deep and meaningful SMART goals that are personal to YOU. Keep asking WHY until a tear rolls down your cheek.
  2. Share your goals. Communicate the importance of your goals to you, with the people you spend the most time with. (I ask for at least one friend/family member to sign my clients worksheets as a goal-sharing exercise)
  3. Keep visual reminders of your goals where you will frequently see them (I suggest my trainees pin their goals sheet somewhere prominent, e.g the kitchen cupboard)
  4. Acknowledge in advance what your personal barriers will be and plan strategies to overcome them.
  5. Take full ownership and be your own goalkeeper, because nobody else has as much motivation to protect your goals as you do!

I’ve made a handy worksheet going through all of the strategies I’ve written about. If you’d like some help setting and keeping your goals, come and see me we’ll go through it together over a nice brew. Just book in for a free consultation.

Finally, in the words of the great Dan John…

…Remember to keep the Goal the Goal!

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