This is one of my favorite times of the year, and it has nothing to do with the holidays. If you are anything like me, this time of year is heavy in planning for the beginning of the year to come. It’s a time of reflection on this past year, and I always feel a sense of opportunity – like I have the entire world by the balls and no matter what I want to do, personally, professionally and spiritually, I’m unstoppable. I know I’m not alone.

 

I have a question for you. If I could guarantee that by the end of next year, you would be the healthiest you have ever been, that you would have energy throughout the entirety of the day, that your sleep, mood, and overall feeling of well-being would be at an all-time best, and, most importantly, you would look better than you ever have (naked) - what would that be worth to you? If money was no object and I could deliver on all of those promises, what would you pay? Think about it.

 

If you’re like most people, you would pay any price to have your body completely dialed in. The cascade of positivity that comes from getting into your ideal shape would be measurable in every aspect of your being. Your relationships (particularly the one you have in the bedroom), work life, and even spiritual life would feel the aftershocks of your physical body getting tuned. It can’t be stopped. It’s one of those landmark achievements that spreads positivity throughout your entire system.

 

This time of year is heavy in planning for the beginning of the year to come.

Be real with yourself and you will find a level of discipline you have never known.

 

First, Establish the Rules

If you are reading this, you already place priority on your body. Excellent. You are who this article is for. Together, you and I are going to look at some cornerstone elements that will set you up for success this year. But first, there are a few rules we have to establish:

 

First, you will keep this entire endeavor coming from a place of positivity. You no longer have room for negative in your space. Anytime you feel dark clouds of any kind rolling in, you must stop them in their tracks, and that includes people.

 

Second, you will agree to think without limits. I want you to take all of the conditions others have put on you throughout your life and completely disregard them. You are starting with a clean slate, and your understanding of yourself will take on a completely different look out the gate.

 

Lastly, I need you to get excited. I need a flow of energy moving through you that will drive you where you want to go. Deal? Let’s begin.

 

The 5 Cornerstone Questions for Goal-Setting Success

#1: Where Are You Today?

Where are you now? Not some assumed place, but a measured starting point. The truth will set you free. You aren’t in the business of candy coating anything, especially to yourself, so let’s get an idea of what you are working with. Assess your current shape. You want to see veins in your abs this summer. What is your current body fat? You want to run a sub-4.5 40-yard dash before the season starts in the fall. What’s your 40 time right now?

 

To understand where you are going, you must know where you are today. Do this without judgment. It’s not a time to get down and start kicking yourself. You just want to know what you are working with. Remember, the further you are from your goal today, the sweeter it will be when you get there.

 

#2: Where Are You Going?

Where do you want to go? Remember, we are thinking without limits. Can you visualize your ideal self? Having a clear understanding of where you are headed makes the task of getting there considerably easier.

 

"The moment you understand you are limitless and you have everything you need to get to your destination, the goal is yours."

Most people have vague goals. A slight bump in the road is enough to derail the entire endeavor. Get crystal clear on where you are headed. You want to run a sub five-minute mile by the summer time. Great, that gives you a sharp understanding where you want to go and how much time you have to get there. You want to bench over 500lb by this time next year. Again, a clear place to begin your planning. Write everything down. Define every variable possible so you have a target with teeth.

 

#3: What’s the Plan?

What might seem like the most daunting part of your goal setting is, in reality, one of the easiest. You have all you need to game plan simply by sitting in front of your computer or smart phone. Breaking Muscle alone is overflowing with quality information. I was chatting with the CEO, Omid Rahmat, about how many pieces are on the site. His answer: over 30,000 articles on everything strength, fitness, and health. 30,000. Start reading. Find an author you feel comfortable with and read everything you can.

 

I am a bigtime nerd, admittedly. When I was in college, I spent my first year reading every issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Every night in the library, from the first Volume 1, February 1987 issue, all the way to the current issue at the time, somewhere in the Volume 12, 1998 space. Yes, I had little to no social life, but my research game was tight. You have access to the most powerful resource in the world for these topics right here. It’s like taking candy from a baby.

 

If you don’t want to rely on articles alone and want interaction with a live person, hire someone at the gym you are training at. If you don’t know what to look for when hiring someone, there’s even an article on this site written by me called 7 Steps to Find the Best Coach for You.

 

#4: Who Told You and Why Did You Listen?

This isn’t a fitness question, it’s a life question. We spend a lot of time empowering people who have no expertise in what they are talking about. We have anointed each and every person with presumed mastery the second we take their words as truth. But remember: “Opinions are like assholes.” Question everything, from the annoying intern in the cubicle next to you, to the gurus.

 

The most liberating thing in this world is the moment you realize everything you have been taught (or more importantly, accepted as truth) has been instructed by imperfect people with incomplete information. This information has been sifted through their filters, and you don’t have the same filters they do. There isn’t a person out there who has lived your exact path. It’s individual to you. With that, consider yourself free from the burden of anyone’s opinion about you or your destination.

 

#5: What’s Worked in the Past?

All the achievements you’ve made in your life had a pattern. What was it? I’m not going to waste your time giving you guidelines on how I think you should structure your motivation. That’s exclusive to you. This is a perfect example of why following someone else’s way is limited. Does having everyone stop what they are doing in the gym to watch you squat get your blood pumping? Are you training because you want to get more girls? Is this year the year you make it to the Games? What motivates you? Figure it out, and then apply it to every set, every cardio session, every WOD you do this day forward. Visualize that one thing that turns you into a machine, and run with it.

 

The truth will set you free.

Consider yourself free from the burden of anyone’s opinion.

 

The Red Wedding Factor

All of my Game of Thrones junkies, this is a shout out to you. It’s time to start getting the negative people out of our life. No, no, I’m not talking about reenacting the events of that episode. But we all have people in our space who bring us down. The naysayers who are willing to give us their uninvited thoughts on the matter. They have to walk. I don’t care who they are. Close friends, family members - anyone. They are poison, a super massive black hole, and you no longer have the bandwidth to entertain their banter.

 

"If you stumble, get back up and right on the ship."

This is about you and more importantly, about your goals. Take charge of your interactions with negative people. Give them a good shooshing once they begin to spew their “wisdom.” They are either with you, or they have to go. Anyone can stay, but they only get admission to the show if they support what you are doing.

 

Get Selfish

You have my blessing to become totally selfish in this aspect of your life. We do things for others all day long. I know in my own world, every move I make is for someone else. I have 500 student-athletes. I’m a husband, a father, a doctor, and a friend. Most of my waking hours are dedicated to helping someone else. With that, I allow my own wants and needs to take a back seat, and this includes my own fitness.

 

But I’ve come to realize when I put my fitness near the top and my body is thriving, all of those aforementioned relationships improve. I want to be a rock star in everything I do, but I can’t kick ass for everyone else if I’m not doing it for myself. So, you and I both have permission to prioritize this part of the coming year.

 

This is a marathon, not a sprint.

You can't kick ass for everyone else if you're not doing it for yourself.

 

No One Is Perfect All of the Time

You are going to have hiccups and moments of weakness. You are going to jump into the car, drive to the grocery store, buy a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and a six pack of Coke, and blow your diet from time to time (a likely window into my own struggles). Great! It happens, and you probably deserve it. If you slip, it’s not a deal breaker.

 

Most people fumble on resolutions because they become dogmatic about their approach. Then if there’s one oops, it becomes an avalanche. If you stumble, get back up and right on the ship. You might need to skip a training session here and there. You might have a shitty lift one day. That does not mean all is lost. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

 

Mindset is everything when it comes to smashing through your goals. The moment you understand you are limitless and you have everything you need to get to your destination, the goal is yours. Manage your surroundings. Be real with yourself and you will find a level of discipline you have never known. 

 

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Photos courtesy of Chris Holder.

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