Goal Setting: Making a Plan

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March 27, 2012 by Darlene McC

Lets get back to goals.

It’s the end of March.  You’ve had 90 days to start on your “resolutions” (or, hopefully, you agreed that “resolutions” are bullshit and set goals).  How’re you doing?  (Seriously, I want to know.  Drop some comments and share).

If the reason you’re not sharing how you’re doing is because you’re not doing… then lets talk about that.  (If you haven’t set any goals yet head over here and take 5 minutes to get started… I’ll wait…)

No One Said You Had to be MacGyver

With enough tricks up your sleeve plans become obsolete… but we’re mere mortals and we’re not diffusing nitrate bombs while our hands are zip-tied.  So plans are in order.  A good plan is something you can unquestionably do; otherwise what’s the point?  Why plan a vacation you know you can’t afford or to a place you know is impossible to reach (moon trip anyone?).

We want to build doable plans:

Break it Down

By now you should’ve broken down 4 or 5 goals for the next year.  Maybe lose some weight; maybe go back to school or save some money.  They should be SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-specific).  But how do you get there?  You break it up into manageable chucks, each chunk itself a mini-SMART Goal.

Lets use a savings goal as an example since it’s easily translatable into other goals (weight loss, event training, etc) and most people over the age of 10 have done this at some point:

You want to save $5,000 for a big vacation.  You crunch the numbers and you’re able to save $500 a month if you shave out your daily latte, don’t buy that extra pair of shoes, only go out one night a week, and bring your lunch.  This vacation is going to be fucking awesome so you don’t mind giving up those little things for 10 months.

The $500 is a monthly goal that you then broke down to a weekly $125 goal.

But lets say you’re blowing it every week.  You keep going out and drinking when you know you shouldn’t and you’re just not hitting that $125; so you need to rope yourself in even further.  You’d need to put $17.80 in an envelope every day to save $125/week.  At the end of every week you put that in a savings account to keep yourself on track.

Okay, great – so now you’ve reviewed your 10 year old self savings plan.  What does this have to do with weight loss and fitness?

Say your 40 lbs overweight.  A pound of fat has 3,500 calories.  It would kill you to try and cut 3,500 calories a day (or if it didn’t it would cause you a serious eating disorder, screw with your metabolism, and make you very sick).  For healthy weight loss it’s recommended that you try to lose 1 – 2 lbs a week; that translates to between 3,500 and 7,000 calories per week.

Great Dar, what the hell does that mean for me?

It means to lose 1 pound a week you’ll want to create a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day.

Again, great… but how the hell do I do that?

It’s now generally accepted in the medical community that self control is an exhaustible resource in the brain.  That means that if you try to change too much too fast you’re setting yourself up for major failure (yo-yo diets, anyone?).  So you want to start with something you know you can change and then make it a habit.  For example:

Week 1 – 3: Go to the gym 3 times these weeks.  Whether you’re doing strength or cardio just GO!

Week 4 – 6: Begin to track everything you eat and keep going to the gym 3x/wk!

Week 7 – 9: Keep going to the gym and tracking everything you eat, but start tallying up the calories.

Week 10 – 12: Keep going to the gym and tracking, but start trimming back the number of calories you eat by 200 less every week.

You’ll notice that each of these is in a 3 week chunk.  Research shows it takes most people about three weeks to create a new habit; and until something is a habit it takes up our precious self-control juices in the brain.  Try to form too many new habits at once and you run out of habit-juice…and then you binge eat, burn out, and end up back on your couch feeling worse than you did when you started.

Write it Out

Get a piece of paper (just DO IT).  Now ask yourself: what can I change right now to my daily life that I can keep up for the next three weeks?  And what can I add to that in three weeks?  What about three weeks later?  Feel free to tweak the 3 month outline above.

Oh, and the numbers?  If you’re working at appropriate effort levels you should burn between 300 – 500 calories per gym session (30 – 45 minutes of work).  Just the effort of tracking tends to help people shave off 300 calories per day; so by week 4 you’ll naturally drop about .5/week… and then by that third month you should be well on your way to 1 lb/week.

Share Your Plan

The act of telling someone naturally holds us to our goals.  Post here or tell your buddies to keep your feet to the fire.


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