Conflicting Goals and Unrealistic Expectations

“The goal is to keep the goal the goal.” – Dan John

How many of you know someone with one of the following goals:

“I’m going to get down to X% body fat this year.”

“I’m going to squat, bench and/or deadlift a PR.”

“This is the year where I put on the most size EVER.”

As unique and individual goals, that’s all fine and dandy, right?

But how many of you know people that want to make ALL OF THESE their goal, at the same time?

I do – and it’s about every 20-something male that’s ever walked into my gym!

So not only are they going to shed body fat, but they’re going to get bigger and stronger to boot?

And all at the same time?

Unfortunately, these people are destined for mediocrity.  The body isn’t built to adapt to all things at once.  You need to focus on one goal, achieve it, and then working on maintaining those gains while shifting the emphasis of your program.

I don’t really blame the trainee most of the time, though, unless they’re just hopelessly unrealistic.  The blame lies at the feet of these ridiculous muscle rags and websites that espouse that you can do all of these at once.

The only time you’re ever going to get bigger, stronger and shed body fat at the same time is when you first start training.  Hello newbie gains!

Unfortunately, anyone who has been training seriously (with emphasis on the word seriously) for more than a year or two is well beyond this phase.  It’s time to focus on one, or maybe two, goals.

Remember this: If you are serious about one goal, you need to stick to that one goal.  Anything else is gravy.

Sometimes, two goals work well together – in other words if you’re serious about getting stronger, adding a little size never hurts. Dave Tate has talked about this numerous times, how adding body weight and improving his leverage improved his powerlifting total.  These goals do not conflict with each other.

If you want to improve your relative strength, you might be able to get a bit stronger, or at least maintain your strength, while shedding some bodyfat.

But don’t sabotage your goals by having way too many of them, all of which are going in different directions. The perfect example is the 150 pound kid who wants to put on some muscle and size, but doesn’t want to lose his 6-pack abz.

Your Mission for Today: Write down ONE goal you want to achieve for this year.  If you achieve nothing else, this is want you want to accomplish.

And then stick to this goal until you achieve it!

Once there, you can redefine your goals, or move in a different direction.  But don’t get caught up in “shiny object syndrome” where you’re constantly changing the emphasis and focus of your programming.

You’ll be mired in mediocrity, with no one to blame but yourself.

Stay strong

MR

(Lead photo courtesy of Cburns1)

4 Comments

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  1. This is a very important post and thank you for putting it up here.

    One of the things that I have faced, and I suspect many people who have recently lost a lot of weight and are looking at some different objectives, is exactly what to focus on. In my own case, I have lost about 50 pounds over the past couple of years, maintained that weight loss, and am now struggling with whether I should continue to lean up or shift to a muscle hypertrophy scenario. On one hand I want more muscle but I also don’t want to risk overeating so I put back on a bunch of fat, which if I believe what I read I need to do to gain muscle. So then am I really just looking for that lean look with good definition. It is very hard to reconcile those goals in my head.

  2. Mike,

    Great piece, as usual. I have been that guy. Absolutely. Still carry part of that logic around, in fact.
    For 2011, I’m focused on a quote I stole from Tony Gentilcore (who got it from John Brooks): You’re not strong enough to worry about how you look.
    This one works for me.

  3. I think a trainee first and foremost should strive towards implementing and maintaining a good lifestyle. Usually, average joe eats poorly, sleeps too little/between the wrong hours, works out too much/too little/in the wrong way, is subject to too much stress (and thus doesn’t get good recovery), breathes in the wrong way, drinks far too little water etc.
    For the reasons above, average joe usually stays average joe and doesn’t achieve his dreams. If, however, he were to drastically change all those things and get a solid lifestyle; 7-9 hours of sleep/night, 3 (or more) meals a day (maybe with a few healthy snacks) containing natural foods like fish, meat, eggs, veggies, fruits, nuts and LOTS of water, cut back on stress levels, work out 3 times/week with a solid program designed by a professional, such as MR, to suit his needs, as well as getting a bit of solid exercise in his/her daily life by always taking the stairs, walking/biking rather than taking the car if you’re only going a short way, etc… – then, if he did all this, he might for example: loose fat, get more energized, get better skin/breath/body odur, and improve relative strength/agility/flexibilty/mobility. He would even be able to improve his absolute strength, at least a little, depending on where he started at. His health and general well-being would be drastically improved!
    There are many aspects to training and fitness, and I think it’s sad that so many focus too narrowly on for example improving their bench press numbers. This is understandable if said person is a professional, but the majority of people aren’t. Wouldn’t most people prefer to look like Brad Pitt in Troy (lean, muscular, functional body and good complexion), rather than the stereotypical powerlifter who has focused narrowly on the powerlifts, is strong as hell but tight all over, somewhat fat and with bad skin (since he eats too much of the wrong things)? I know I would anyway!
    What people need to learn and understand is that there is no such thing as a quick fix, and that proper training, nutrition, recovery etc should be part of everyone’s lifestyle rather than concentrating on one thing at a time and totally disregarding the rest.
    Maintain a good lifestyle for 10 years and your results will be phenomenal. Focus, and achieve, different goals every year for 10 years and your results will likely be phenomenal as well, however, you won’t always feel great while doing it (think of the time when you bulked up to gain muscle and put on a lot of excess fat, just before you went on a diet to burn it off? Were you feeling great when you bulked up? Did you like the way you looked? Was it healthy? Maybe… Or nor)

    This certainly became very long! Wasn’t my intention. Hope you guys understand some of what I said at least and that it’s food for thought! Let the discussion commence! 🙂
    Thanks for an excellent site Mike!
    Patrik

  4. I think a trainee first and foremost should strive towards implementing and maintaining a good lifestyle. Usually, average joe eats poorly, sleeps too little/between the wrong hours, works out too much/too little/in the wrong way, is subject to too much stress (and thus doesn’t get good recovery), breathes in the wrong way, drinks far too little water etc.

    For the reasons above, average joe usually stays average joe and doesn’t achieve his dreams. If, however, he were to drastically change all those things and get a solid lifestyle; 7-9 hours of sleep/night, 3 (or more) meals a day (maybe with a few healthy snacks) containing natural foods like fish, meat, eggs, veggies, fruits, nuts and LOTS of water, cut back on stress levels, work out 3 times/week with a solid program designed by a professional, such as MR, to suit his needs, as well as getting a bit of solid exercise in his/her daily life by always taking the stairs, walking/biking rather than taking the car if you’re only going a short way, etc… – then, if he did all this, he might for example: loose fat, get more energized, get better skin/breath/body odur, and improve relative strength/agility/flexibilty/mobility.
    He would even be able to improve his absolute strength, at least a little, depending on where he started at. His health and general well-being would be drastically improved!

    There are many aspects to training and fitness, and I think it’s sad that so many focus too narrowly on for example improving their bench press numbers. This is understandable if said person is a professional, but the majority of people aren’t. Wouldn’t most people prefer to look like Brad Pitt in Troy (lean, muscular, functional body and good complexion), rather than the stereotypical powerlifter who has focused narrowly on the powerlifts, is strong as hell but tight all over, somewhat fat and with bad skin (since he eats too much of the wrong things)? I know I would anyway!

    What people need to learn and understand is that there is no such thing as a quick fix, and that proper training, nutrition, recovery etc should be part of everyone’s lifestyle rather than concentrating on one thing at a time and totally disregarding the rest.

    Maintain a good lifestyle for 10 years and your results will be phenomenal. Focus, and achieve, different goals every year for 10 years and your results will likely be phenomenal as well, however, you won’t always feel great while doing it (think of the time when you bulked up to gain muscle and put on a lot of excess fat, just before you went on a diet to burn it off? Were you feeling great when you bulked up? Did you like the way you looked? Was it healthy? Maybe… Or nor)

    This certainly became very long! Wasn’t my intention. Hope you guys understand some of what I said at least and that it’s food for thought! Let the discussion commence!
    Thanks for an excellent site Mike!
    Patrik

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