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The Goal-Achieving Mindset

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As we embrace a new year we inevitably want to achieve beyond last year's successes and learn from its defeats. But, as the old adage goes, talking doesn't cook rice. Reflection only gets us so far. When reflection stops and action begins we need a mindset, and a plan, that leads us to our 2015 goals.

Avoid the Resolution Trap
Resolutions are cute thoughts -- niceties that aren't reality based. They're things we'd like to do. But liking the thought of something doesn't invoke the action necessary to achieve a goal. We need concrete, measurable objectives and a scripted behavioral plan. However, it all starts with our thinking.

It Starts With Mindset
In her book, Mindset, Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck discusses two basic mindsets that pervade our thinking. The growth mindset and the fixed mindset.

Those inhabited by the growth mindset know that they can develop their abilities with attention and hard work. Fixed mindset folks falsely believe that natural abilities are impervious to change. They're only as smart as they're ever going to be, only as athletic as they're ever going to be.

The reality is we can enhance our talents and we can consistently improve our abilities through dedicated hard work and the belief that we are physical, and mental, clay to be molded. Before we continue our goal discussion, embrace the growth mindset.

Goals: Outcome vs. Behavioral
Goals exist in two categories: outcome and behavioral.

Outcome goals are the things we're aiming to achieve or become: a better body composition, a 500-pound deadlift, be a better coach. Two imperative factors separate outcome goals from wishful thoughts: they are time-sensitive and they are written down.

Dating a goal spurs action. Writing it down makes it concrete. Rather than remaining a wishful thought viewed romantically through your mind's eye, a goal dated and written enters reality. You can see it and you can touch it. You can hold yourself accountable to it.

Behavioral goals are the defined actions that advance our odds of achieving our outcome goals. The reality is we don't have complete control over our outcome goals, There are factors beyond our control that often influence our ability to achieve them. But we do have control over our behavior.

Let's examine the relationship between outcome goals and their behavioral supporters.

You've set a hypothetical goal of reducing your body fat by three percentage points during the first three months of 2015. You've written it down and dated it April 1. Outcome set.

What's required is clear: a carb intake reduction, appropriate carbohydrate timing and increased workout frequency. Knowing what needs to be done isn't enough, we need detail-oriented action. Here's how we write it out.

I commit to reducing my carb intake by twenty-five grams every two weeks until April 1.

I commit to eating starchy carbs only during the three hour window following my workouts until April 1.

I commit to training six days per week until April 1.

The critical actions are scripted. There's no question about when you'll be doing what you need to do within a finite time-frame. With the guess work removed you have the mental clarity simply to act. Setting the finish-line date encourages your sense of urgency while also offering relief. You know this won't go on indefinitely.

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Emotional Importance
Why is the force behind what. It's easier to define our actions and create goal-driven habits when our goal is emotionally comprised. So before writing your focus of the next month, quarter or year onto paper, strongly consider why the goal is meaningful to you. More often than not, aesthetics aren't enough.

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Let's revisit the body fat goal. Everyone wants to look better naked, but it's rare that folks do what's necessary to get lean. The reason is simple: they don't have a reason significant enough to make them act to lose body fat. Without an emotional catalyst, goals are infinitely harder to achieve. But if the emotion is present, commitment is a natural feeling. Each calculated action makes sense.

Examine the physique competitor. Every meal is deliberate, training is planned for months in advance, and they take action to achieve their goal on stage. But leanness, a low body fat percentage, isn't the real emotive spur that drives action. It's feeling successful. It's the self-satisfaction of achieving something difficult in spite of drawbacks, shortcomings and obstacles.

Consider also the single mom that wants to lose ten pounds. She works two jobs, cares vigilantly for her kids and still makes time to train. Sure, looking better is always on her radar, but setting an example for her children is what initiates her push. Her why is powerful, her path is evident.

These are, of course, extreme examples, or illustrative tools. You don't have to compete or be a single mom to pledge a worthy why. But it must exist, your goal must be so meaningful that failing is painful. If not, it's too easy to resign ourselves to failure.

So, what's your why?

Take Action
Now what? How do we utilize this information to achieve our 2015 goals? We take action.

Start by understanding your starting point. You're not a super hero. Not everything is going to come easily to you, nor should it. But your abilities aren't fixed. You can change, develop and grow with attentive hard work.

Set a measurable, time-sensitive and emotionally significant outcome goal or goals. Plan daily and weekly behavioral goals that blaze a habit-directed path to your outcomes.

Enlist supporters. Nothing great is accomplished in solitude; everyone needs help. Telling people about your goals and plans to achieve them is scary but necessary. Be judicious in selecting who you tell, naysayers inhibit progress. But there are people in our lives that want us to succeed and will support us while holding us accountable. You know who these people are. Tell them.

Reflection time is over, it's time to cook the rice. Embrace the goal-achieving mindset and make success your 2015 theme.

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