Most times, we start our health and fitness journey with only the end goal in mind. It’s a shining light at the end of the tunnel, guiding us through and (ideally) giving us the motivation we need to succeed in our efforts.
But that’s not the important part or where we will find success.
The true success is falling in love with the process.
Although reaching for the big goal seems as if it would be the biggest motivator, it only provides fleeting motivation. With a goal too far away, we often lose focus and motivation to do seemingly small and insignificant tasks. Research has shown that focusing on small, process-oriented goals are key to achieving the long-term, big picture goals.
Process goals are exactly what they sound like; they focus on the process instead of the outcome. An outcome goal will detail a big picture item; these smaller goals will lead you there. Let’s use an outcome goal of running a race.
Outcome Goal: I will finish the Oktoberfest 5k on the last weekend of September.
Process Goal: I will follow my prescribed training program with 3-4 days per week of running.
Can you tell the difference?
In addition to the time required to reach the goal, process goals often focus on specific actions.
I will drink 8 glasses of water per day.
I will strength train 2 days per week.
I will lay out my workout clothes each night before bed so I’m ready to go in the morning.
Of course, all goals will be action-oriented in that you will do something to accomplish them, but these process goals measure performance in a specific area.
It is through these small, seemingly insignificant process goals that we reach out success by falling in love with the process. To bring back our race example, if you’re just beginning to run, each training session may seem terrible. It’s not fun (yet). But, as you begin to run faster or farther or perhaps just feel better about running, the task is less daunting.
You begin to fall in love with the process. It becomes something you enjoy doing, instead of something you dread as soon as the alarm buzzes.
Of course, not every type of exercise is for everyone. You don’t have to run or train like a powerlifter. You don’t have to incorporate snatch or clean and jerk unless you’re competing in weightlifting. The key is to find that exercise you do love! I don’t think running will ever be my favorite activity; I’d much rather lift. But I tried to love running for YEARS. It didn’t work. Now, I just every once in a while, but I wouldn’t say I’m “a runner”. I wouldn’t even say I’m a single thing or belong to a single group.
Don’t feel as if you have to do a certain activity, simply because a friend, coworker, or family member swears by it. Find what you love, set small goals, and achieve your big, long-term goals! Along the way, you may just learn to enjoy the climb to the top.