Goal setting. It is one of the first things we learn in “personal training school”. We’ve been told, “Make sure all your clients have short term and long term goals”. We’ve been taught that, without them, a client cannot be successful. While I agree to some extent- I am beginning to rethink this over focus on goal setting- can it lead to feelings of failure if a goal is not achieved? What happens once you achieve “Your Goal”? Do you set another one? Or do you lay back and bask in the glory of achievement?
Recently, I saw a great tag line at my local gym- “There is no finish line”. I loved that saying! It put lots of things into perspective for me- that I MUST exercise and eat right even if:
- My weight doesnt change
- I don’t cut 3 minutes off my 3 mile run
- I don’t lose an inch off my waist.
Does this mean I am doing things wrong? NO- I exercise because I like it. It makes me feel accomplished. And, I know the other side of the coin- if I didn’t exercise, I would be unhealthy and unhappy, not to mention overweight.
My questioning of goal setting was also accelerated by experiences with two clients of mine. One client had a goal of losing 25 pounds. She did it! But, once she reached that weight she had so desired- she stopped exercising and started overeating. She gained back 15 pounds and is once again struggling to get back on track. I’ve done the same thing myself -reached a “weight” goal, only to find myself subsequently letting poor nutrition sneak back in. Another client set lofty goals of weight loss and daily exercise. After several weeks of great adherence, she jumped on the scale- only to find it hadn’t changed as much as she liked. She spiralled into feelings of low self-worth and self hatred. It took weeks to get back on track.
First- do not use the scale as the primary marker of your goal achievements.
Second, there is no finish line for health and wellness- unless you consider death a finish line. Once you’ve achieved your goals- you must keep on going- reset new goals, perhaps broader in focus such as committing to exercise a minimum of three times a week. Or, nutritional goals that do not relate to weight loss specifically such as eating 5 servings of veggies a day, omitting afternoon coffee intake or having only one sweet a week. Doable and healthy- but your whole success or failure is not contingent on the total adherence to these goals. You can still be succcessful even if you have two sweets in one week- just add another day of exercise!