Fit and healthy middle age woman doing a snatch barbell exercise for stretch and power training

Do I need to set a big goal for motivation? 

If you want to stay motivated, a big goal can definitely help. But it also can backfire, and keep you from starting all together. This is especially true when we’re talking about complex things like physical health and fitness. Our bodies are complex machines. When they are working well, they work in a fairly predictable way. But when they aren’t functioning optimally, straightening things out can be complex. 

For example: A person wants to lose a significant amount of weight. The traditional wisdom tells us that weight loss is a matter of “calories in versus calories out”. But this isn’t the whole picture of how a body works. Age, health conditions, medications, your brain, and even your environment can all change how many calories you burn. Mental load – high levels of stress, a thinking- or emotionally-intense job, or how much you want to eat those brownies – can impact your levels of willpower. So the simple “eat less, burn more” isn’t always easy to accomplish. 

So big goals in health and fitness often have a lot of elements to consider. This is part of why we are so good at stopping ourselves before we get started. When there are lots of things to consider, how do you know what to do first? And when there’s so much to do, is it even possible to actually succeed? 

How to make big goals possible

You can use a big goal to keep your motivation high by being smart, rather than blindly working hard. When I’m meeting with a client for the first time, my first questions are:

  1. Tell me about you. (Everyone’s favorite…)
  2. What do you want to get out of this?

The information I get from these two questions tells me:

  1. What life is like, and where the opportunities for change are, and 
  2. What that ultimate goal is.

This information sets the stage for the planning and logistics part of the session. Breaking this ultimate goal down into smaller goals (sometimes called steps, action points, process goals, or similar) is key. By taking something huge and making it small, we also make it more easily achievable. 

Easy is key! Achieving anything helps us feel successful. Success itself is motivational. And because we know we can achieve one small step, it is easier to achieve the next small step. So success continues, and motivation stays high, and all of a sudden you’re on the brink of your ultimate goal. One more small step and you’re there, motivation high all along. 
So a big goal can keep motivation high, provided you are smart in how you’re working towards it. They say rome wasn’t built in a day, but it was worth the wait and the work – and your ultimate goal will be too.

What do you think?