It's not about your f@cking goals.

Are you on the path towards better?

Being a better skier or climber? Looking better nekkid? Getting less winded walking up the stairs? Aiming for better health overall?

I’ve got bad news for you – real bad – your path will not be direct, linear, or consistently moving forward.

There will be setbacks. Maybe it’s an injury. Maybe it’s a lack of progress for a week or two. Maybe it’s an emergency which pulls your focus away from training or away from great nutrition.

It’s not a question of if you will encounter setbacks.

And it’s not a question of when you will encounter setbacks.

What matters is how you respond to setbacks, and what you learn. 

Walk with me, won’t you?

What’s a goal you have, regarding health and/or fitness? Here’s one of mine: press a 106# kettlebell overhead, on both sides with just one hand, in the next four years. This is a good example of a SMART goal:

It’s Specific: you know exactly what I want to be able to do.

It’s Measurable: it’s entirely binary – can I do this? Yes or no.

It’s Achievable: yes, it’s realistic for me to be able to do this (although it’s a definite stretch).

It’s Relevant: what I learn from the process will be useful for my students.

It’s Time-Bound: I’ve given myself a set amount of time to achieve this (March 4, 2022).

So this is a good goal, but here’s the problem: the road to get there will be bumpy. I’m sure I’ll have days where my elbow is sore. I’ll probably have some days where I can’t train because of travel, emergencies, or other events. My left arm is noticeably weaker than the right, and it’ll likely require some hypertrophy training to add muscle to get as strong as the right. And overall, I’ll need to add more size and strength to my shoulders and arms, so that will mean eating with those goals in mind (as opposed to weight loss).

How do you keep moving forward, towards a big, exciting goal, even when you know in advance that you’ll face some setbacks? 

Learn to love the journey.

Think about it again – what’s your goal? Why don’t you write it down. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Okay, so that’s on paper. When do you think you’ll get there? How far away is success?

Let’s come back to the time between now and then. What’s one thing that’s likely to get in your way?

  • Maybe an injury
  • Time away from training
  • Sickness
  • Boredom
  • Lack of planning

Honestly, none of these have to get in your way; you can avoid injury with smart programming and a lot of luck; you can plan your meals and training; you can find ways and places to train on vacation. But that’s another topic.

How will you respond when these setbacks appear? Will you get frustrated, contemplate quitting? Or will you learn from the experience, make the best of it? How will you even talk about it?

There’s a tremendous difference in these two statements:

“Now that this has happened (“I ate all the ice cream”), I’m done. I give up. I’ll never be lean/strong/healthy.”

“Now that this has happened, I’m going to step back and look at the situation leading up to the solo ice cream party, and identify triggers.”

Or if it’s an injury: “Now that I’ve tweaked my shoulder, this is an opportunity to learn more about the structure of the shoulder and build a plan for warming up in the future. And I’ve got some extra time to strengthen my legs and my core.”

How you frame your experience – the words you use to talk about it, how you explain it to yourself, in your own head – will change the nature of the experience.

Will a setback detail you, ruin you, prove that you’re not worthy? Yes, absolutely, if that’s how you think and talk about it.

Will a setback make you stronger, more determined, and better able to avoid future setbacks? Yes, absolutely, if that’s how you think and talk about it.

And that’s what it means to get your head straight; you have the power and responsibility to decide how your circumstances will impact you.

What will you decide?

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