Roadblocks to Goal Achievement and the Tools We Need for Success
We live in an instant oatmeal society...a world that's driven by instant gratification. The trouble with the expectation for fast results is that some things require patience, persistence and time to manifest. Too many people give up just short of success because they may not see results quickly enough. Although I’ll be using fitness based examples in this blog, the principles expressed here can be applied to anything in life.
Using myself as an example, I’ll share a photo of myself in 2012, one year before I began training for bodybuilding in 2013 compared to today...6 years later. Building muscle can be like watching paint dry, BUT if you do the required work, persist and have patience, over time it WILL happen. **One of my key points here is this: day by day, I saw NO difference in myself but little by little, muscle was being built and years later the difference is obvious. It took time. I love this quote because it’s so true in life: “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?” The thing is that nothing will change unless you change, but if you are taking actionable steps towards your goals EVERY DAY, then eventually, you will see change and results. I will also emphasize that in addition to patience and persistence (not giving up), my goals required self discipline. You can’t reach goals by only acting upon them when you feel like it or if it’s convenient. I didn’t reach my bodybuilding goals by training occasionally. No. Training is part of my daily routine just as much as showering and brushing my teeth are. How many people do you see who approach working out like it’s seasonal? Some will train for several months and then drop off for a few months and then maybe come back again. It’s an on and off cycle on repeat. That doesn’t work. This off and on approach doesn’t work for any goal, whether it’s fitness related or not. You must be committed to your goals and commitment requires discipline.
My personal example is only an example that you must exercise patience, persistence and discipline to reach your goals and that OVER TIME, you will achieve them. You can apply this to your own personal goal whether that’s reaching a healthy body weight / body fat % / building muscle / building strength / running a faster mile...whatever your goals may be. No matter your goals, the formula for success is the same!
Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success. -- Napoleon Hill
Keeping in mind what we’ve mentioned already, now let’s thoughtfully dive into this a bit more...
Patience...when we don’t see results manifesting fast enough, we are tempted to give up. Patience is a huge success key. Patience is not passive waiting. Patience is active acceptance of the process required to obtain your goals and dreams. Results happen OVER TIME, not OVER NIGHT.
Don't give in. Don’t fall prey to the pitfalls of instant gratification. Persist and be consistent with your efforts... no matter whether you feel like it or not. Motivation will wax and wane...do not rely on motivation...instead, be disciplined...there is no success without self discipline. Hard work stems from discipline. Life will test you and offer you the easy way out to test your will power and 9/10 will take the road MOST traveled...the easy road. Will you be the 1/10 to take the road least traveled? The road least traveled is a road of hard work, patience, grit and grind.
“It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.” Zig Ziglar
You must realize that true success is only based on yourself, your mindset and how far you really want to take yourself. No one will always be there to push you or watch your back (not your trainer, coach, workout partner, etc.), it relies solely on YOU to grow, and you will soon see that discipline will become both your most important and most difficult aspect of life to maintain. Discipline is not a negative word. It’s not the enemy of living. Discipline is a life lived in pursuit of dreams and goals. Without it, our pursuit of happiness is fleeting. It’s filled with quick fixes...nothing lifelong or permanent. When you really look at it, you will see that discipline is the refining fire by which dreams and goals become reality.
“Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.” Frank Herbert
How do you build self discipline?
Firstly, what is self discipline?
Self-discipline is specifically about your ability to control your desires and impulses in an attempt to stay focused on what needs to get done to successfully achieve your desired goals. It’s not falling prey to the pitfalls of instant gratification. Self discipline is a process of building consistent daily habits...it’s about taking small consistent actions that help you form the habits that subsequently help you achieve your goal.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle
How do you get self discipline? You have to build and cultivate it. Self-discipline isn’t something that we are naturally born with. It’s rather something that we learn to develop over time. In fact, it’s very much like a muscle that strengthens as we exercise it over time. Each workout that you choose to do instead of skipping out or each healthy meal you choose over less healthy choices...each positive choice you make that takes you closer to your goals builds upon your self discipline.
Self discipline requires commitment and commitment requires accountability. Accountability is what is lacking for so many and is one reason why they struggle with true commitment and thus self discipline. Being accountable to others and learning to be accountable to your SELF are important. If sticking to a regular exercise routine is difficult, then try joining an exercise group that meets on specific days or partner up with a friend who’ll help hold you accountable or hire a trainer...there are multiple options. Eventually though, for long term success, you must learn to build upon your OWN self discipline. I don’t think it’s wise to become overly dependent upon anyone but yourself for reaching your goals because ultimately, it’s ALL up to YOU.
This all, essentially, comes down to making simple agreements with yourself. Agreements about what you will and won’t accept are the cornerstone of self-discipline. It then requires holding yourself accountable for following through with these agreements.
All this boils down to regulating and correcting your behavior whenever you get off track. You must learn to self regulate and correct your behavior when necessary.
You’ll know you’ve built self accountability and self discipline when you choose to do what you said you’d do whether you feel like it or not. When you choose to workout after a long, exhausting day at work instead of going straight home to collapse on the coach...that’s discipline being exercised. When you choose to keep your workout appointment with your personal trainer even though your friends just invited you to happy hour, that’s discipline at work. When your workout partner cancels on you and you workout on your own, then you’ve just shown that you have self accountability and you aren’t reliant upon others for success. Even when you get off track (because no one is perfect), accountability is recognizing & acknowledging it and discipline is stopping your sabotaging actions in their tracks.
Let’s create a step by step approach that will help us on our goal achievement journeys: Grab a notebook or journal and write each step out with your answers
1. Clearly define what you want. List your specific goal(s). What do you want to achieve? What new habits do you want to develop or what behaviors do you want to change?
2. Why? Know your “why”. Why is what you listed in #1 important to you?
3. Describe the changes and actions required to achieve #1
4. Adopt a role model or mentor who has achieved what you’re working towards. Who do I know who has succeeded or achieved goals similar to mine? What can I learn from this person on my own journey? How did they discipline themselves? How did they handle challenges?
5. What are my obstacles or challenges and how will I overcome them? Plan for this NOW instead of waiting for it to happen because it WILL happen. You need to have an action plan ahead of time for how you’ll address expected challenges. Somethings can’t always be planned for and are unavoidable, but just plan for what you do know. If you know that juggling workouts and childcare are challenging, then develop a plan for how you will handle that. Prime example: I have a busy working mom in one of my workout groups who NEVER uses her child as an excuse for why she can’t workout (big pet peeve of mine...children should never be used as an excuse but instead should be one of your biggest reasons for working out and taking care of yourself). She and her husband have developed a routine in which he exercises at 5:30am and she exercises at 6pm so that one of them is always available to take care of their little one and both of them still get to exercise and take care of themselves and their health.
Is time one of your challenges? Guess what, you’re not alone. It is a challenge for EVERYONE. We are all busy. Time is going to be a challenge, but don’t let it be an EXCUSE. There is NO reason anyone cannot dedicate 2-4% of their day to exercising. Yes, I said 2-4% of your entire day which equates to 30 minutes to 1 hour. So, if that’s your challenge, then address it ahead of time with a plan.
Make sure you don’t confuse challenges with excuses. Be honest with yourself. Is it an excuse or a legit challenge to work around?
6. Using #3, set up your specific ACTION PLAN! Include mini milestones within your action plan. Don’t just focus on the grand result...remember that the overall goal takes time. Keep yourself encouraged along the way by setting smaller milestones to achieve along the way. Example: If you want to focus on body composition goals (building up muscle tissue), then focus on the weight you’re lifting. Set a bench press goal or a squat goal. You will have to train to reach those goals and by training for those mini goals, you will inevitably reach your long term muscle building goals.
7. Develop an accountability system. First and foremost, you must be accountable to yourself. Make a wholehearted commitment to yourself. Do what you say you’ll do regardless of if it’s convenient or you feel like it. The more you exercise this, the stronger you’ll become in this regard. Secondly, build a support team or find an accountability partner with similar goals to help you stay on track. Surround yourself with like minded individuals who will encourage and support your journey.
8. Strengthen your MINDSET. Self discipline is a state of mind. Attributes that support the self disciplined mind are: patience, tenacity, faith, optimism, courage, passion and diligence, just to name a few. Be aware of the state of your mind. Make a conscious effort to reframe negative thoughts into positive thoughts. Have a CAN DO, WILL DO attitude. Engrave this mantra upon your heart and mind: I CAN, I WILL
9. Lastly, track your progress. Use a calendar, journal, take pictures...whatever helps you monitor positive changes and results. If your goal is related to achieving a healthy body weight, then please don’t forget to celebrate non-scale victories. The scale is ONLY a tool. Tracking progress is also useful for identifying any adjustments that need to be made if milestones are not being met. This will help you stay on track.
In closing, goal achievement is not an easy, quick or seamless process. There will be speed bumps along the way, roadblocks and pot holes, and possibly detours BUT this is just part of the process...this, my friends, is part of the beautiful journey of life...what would be the joy in achieving anything worth achieving if we achieved everything effortlessly? With SELF-DISCIPLINE, PATIENCE and PERSISTENCE in your back pocket, you will be armed with everything you need to succeed and reach your goals! YOU CAN, YOU WILL!