Why It's Perfectly Okay (Even Good) Not To Have Goals

If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance that you’re in one of two different groups:

One  - You’re a goal-oriented person and were offended by the title. Because you were offended, you clicked. Don’t worry - goals are still perfectly okay and we’ll outline some things that will help you achieve more goals.

Two - You’re someone who has struggled with finding a fitness home because you don’t have any clear-cut goals. Good news.. You don’t need to have one (and you’re probably better off by not having any)

As a coach, I’ve been lucky enough to work with both kinds of people: the driven, type A clients who see exercise and nutrition as a means to an end, and their polar opposites who are exercising to create a good routine.

Who do you think is more successful?

Just like the story of the tortoise and the hare, the Type A person with an ‘All Or Nothing’ mentality may make a huge change off the bat, but their lack of focus on creating something long-term will end up working against them.

Over the course of months (or even years) the person who focused on creating a good routine will be leaner, stronger, and overall healthier nearly every single time.

In his blog titled ‘Forget About Setting Goals. Focus On This Instead’ [1] Author James Clear points out the best way to make progress is to understand the difference between systems and goals. To paraphrase James:

For weight loss: Your goal is to lose 10lbs, your system is regular exercise and healthy eating

For strength gain: Your goal is to do more pull-ups, your system is practicing pull-ups every day.

For improved flexibility: Your goal is to touch your toes, your system is to stretch and do core work every day.

Now, what would happen if we completely ignored the goal, and instead focused 100% on the system? Would you still get results?

You’re damn right you would.

Here are my big problems with focusing on goals instead of systems-- with some personal experience sprinkled in:

Goals are finite, and discourage consistency.

Consistency.jpg

My story: When I was first getting started as a powerlifter, there was a time where all I cared about was deadlifting over 500 pounds - this lead to months of maxing out weekly, with little to no strength gain. This style of training ended up leading to a back injury seven enough to keep me out of the gym for weeks.

Your Application: The healthiest people I’ve ever met are also some of the most consistent, and least goal oriented. Instead of obsessing over whether or not they’ll be able to do more weight week-to-week, they spend their energy focusing on just showing up. Ironically, the more they show up, the stronger, leaner, and healthier they become. Focus on the process.

Goals Vs. Values

Goals2.jpg

My Story: My only experience with depression began when I became too obsessed with reaching my goals - for months, my sense of purpose came from achieving my goals - and when I finally achieved my goals, I ended up losing my sense of purpose. This has to do with the fact that, although goals are good for telling us that we’re heading in the right direction… There has to be something more for us to experience fulfillment.

Your Application:  Try to come up with a list of values that are infinite, and give you purpose to follow through on your system or process for getting in shape. (ex: Being there for my family, having energy to take my dog for a good walk every day etc.)

“Do something today that will make tomorrow slightly better” - Jordan Peterson [2]

My Story: I’m no longer a powerlifter, and instead I’d go far enough to describe myself as a fitness minimalist. My goal is no longer to deadlift 600lbs (although that is a cool party trick) but instead, to do things that my future self will thank me for. Exercise for me is no longer a means to an end, but instead a tool to give future Stan a hand.

Your Application: Focus less on one piece of the puzzle (losing 10lbs) and more on the big picture -- will your body thank you 10 years from now if you starved yourself and did hours of cardio to lose weight? Probably not - had you taken a more long-term route, like strength training and making small adjustments to your nutrition, you would be in a much better place.

Putting it all together

If you do have a goal in mind, great - but if not, don’t worry!

In both situations, putting your energy into creating good processes in your life will only increase your chances of being successful long-term.

Want help with that? Let's hop on a call.

Sources:

Clear, James. “Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.” Jamesclear.com, jamesclear.com/goals-systems.

Peterson, Jordan B. “Biblical Series II: Genesis 1: Chaos & Order.” Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories.

Stanley Dutton