While we’re out of town, I want to leave you with a quick bit of perspective on something I’m not completely sold on:
[Cue the outrage and pitchforks]
For most health and fitness professionals, goals are the holy grail of planning. Without a goal, you’re doomed to a life of spinning your wheels and never seeing results. Goals need to be SMART, and you shouldn’t even bother setting foot in a gym if you don’t have one ready to go.
But is that really the case?
I’d argue that goals aren’t always necessary. In fact, I’d argue that learning to be well-versed at approaching health and fitness without a goal can be more beneficial than setting goal after goal after goal.
The Long Con
In my opinion, health and fitness is a lifelong endeavor. There might be some goals here and there or some challenges you want to take on, but the majority of your time likely end up being spent in an in-between phase. Making health and fitness a part of your life doesn’t necessarily require the relentless pursuit of goals. If you simply want to be healthy, then being someone who performs some smart exercise on a regular basis might be enough.
I Don’t Have Any Goals
I would never make the asinine assertion that my situation applies to everyone else. But my current lack of goals does leave me wondering what all the fuss is about.
I guess I should be clear: I don’t have any specific goals. My generic goal is to live a long, healthy, capable life. In that context, it does not matter if I reach a certain weight or increase my squat by a certain percentage. What matters is that I challenge my body sufficiently to maintain or even increase my strength and functionality.
As of right now, that's all I really care about.
What Are Your Goals Based On?
Goals can be good. They can be motivational, help you track progress, and even help you work harder because you know what you’re working toward. But if your goals are arbitrary, it’s difficult for me to agree that they’re a good thing.
Goals Based on Body Weight
Goals based on weight are as arbitrary as they come. Without any other measurements to provide context (circumference measurements, body fat percentage, etc.), scale weight really doesn’t provide much information. There are plenty of examples around the web of people who’ve lost inches, slimmed down, gained strength, and reclaimed their health while maintaining or even increasing their weight.
Goals Based on Performance
I’m much more open to goals based on performance. Trying to push yourself to be able to do more is a much more reasonable approach to goal-setting, in my opinion. After all, being able to do more is directly applicable to your everyday life. Losing five pounds might make a small difference in your silhouette (emphasis on might), but working your way up from deadlifting just the bar to deadlifting your bodyweight will affect how easily and effectively you make it through your day.
The only thing I’d caution against with performance goals is letting completing the goal take precedence over moving properly.
This article is not meant to be conclusive. I’m not trying to make a sweeping declaration that goals are either good or bad.
Rather, I’m trying to lay out some thoughts to have you challenge the status quo. Is the non-stop ride of setting and reaching goals draining you? Is the constant nagging of your goal wearing away at you mentally? Is having such a large focus on fitness causing you to hate the journey?
If what you’re doing is proving to be counterproductive or is making you miserable, it might be time to reassess.
Just some thoughts. It’s up to you to figure out how they apply :-)