Goals are pointless without frequent tracking

I remember back in high school we would do goal planning in our Career and Personal Planning classes.  Teacher said that if you write down your goals you are more likely to achieve them.  I thought great, I want to play junior B hockey (I wasn’t a very good hockey player).  The next year another class on goals … great I want to play football after highschool (I quit hockey that year to focus on football).  Nothing I ever wrote done became important enough for me to do something about it.  Why?  Because the goals were to vague, too subjective, too big, and not measurable.

If you have read the first few chapters of The 4-Hour Body you know how much Tim emphasizes tracking something that is measurable.  Weather it is weight, navel circumference, bodyfat percentage, or strength, if you don’t measure it daily (or frequently) your won’t do anything about it.

The reason for my post is from a recent set of comments that I had on a quora answer here http://www.quora.com/What-is-the-smallest-simplest-thing-an-average-person-could-do-to-be-healthier.  I am a bit of a quora whore and was doing some self promotion but giving good valid answers as well.  The comment by Trapper started with

Being Healthy is not a goal. But is it a state of being. Which is equally worth striving for as a goal.

Wha Huh? Goal, State of Being, whatever you want to call it, of course it is worth striving for.  The point is how do you know your getting there?  What is motivating you on a daily basis to do something about it?  Trapper follows my rebuttle comment with

There is a certain readiness that people require to embark on behavior change. To even accomplish this readiness often means connecting with subjective statements about yourself that you yearn to be true. “I want to be happier”, “I want to love myself more”, “I want to be excited about my life”. They aren’t goals, but they signal a readiness to start making goals.

Sounds to me like he is talking about depression?  People need to yearn to be happier, love themselves more and be excited about their life?  Even if someone has issues and is at a low point in their life, I don’t believe that small subjective statements are going to do anything to help them on a daily basis.

Trapper continues to say:

But I believe the spirit of this question thread is trying to get at something more fundamental.

More fundamental then measuring progress and staying motivated?  The question was “What is the smallest, simplest thing an average person could do to be healthier?  Again, I’m looking for things that an average person can do easily. The health industry is looking for solutions, desperately. Most old approaches to better health don’t work for average people (they never did work, but now orgs have data and must face reality)”

Fundamentally the reason most things fail is because people make vague subjective goals and don’t measure anything, that is THE reason.  When you have something tangible, something you can see right now that is when you are motivated to take action.   When the scale read 2lbs less than it did the day before I was ecstatic, and that progress made me believe my goal was achievable.  When the scale went up again I knew I had done something wrong and had to be more careful and focused on my eating and exercise.

As Tim says in the book the best ways to stay motivated:

  1. Make it conscious.
  2. Make it a game.
  3. Make it competitive.
  4. Make it small and temporary.

I have been reading quite a few 4HB blogs lately and trying to be active the new 4HB community.  I find that not many people are posting their goals, and everyone talks a lot about their cheat days.  I did find one blog that had an awesome graph and daily data points but can’t find the blog now (I’ll update the post when I find it, if it is your blog post a comment please).

So I have said a few times in my blog that my first goal is 10% body fat.  My scale currently says 27% which is crazy but it is just measuring BMI base on my weight and height.  I haven’t been to the local bod pod yet and I haven’t got the pinch test either.  When I was younger the pinch test I was around 14%, right now I am probably around 20%.  The picture of the scale above is the scale that I am using.  Some other products you can use are Withings Wifi Body Scale, Omron HBF-306C Fat Loss Monitor, or the Orbitape Body Mass Tape Measure.

My next goal will be to work on my speed and strength, I will be focusing on the Effortless Superhuman: Breaking World Records with Barry Ross Chapter trying to get my 40 time back down to 4.8 or faster.  The 10 and 40 yard sprints will be my main tracking tool for this.

After that my goal is to get my 10K under 60 minutes.  I will be focusing on the chapter Ultraendurance I: Going from 5K to 50K in 12 Weeks. I  will be easily able to measure and track my training for this.

My last goal will be to do a triathlon, I’ve always wanted to, and probably could train for one now, but I don’t have time right now to train that much or that hard, I am hoping I will in a few months though.  The biggest issue for me will be the swimming but there is a chapter for that.

So what are your goals?  What are you doing to track them?  Have you blogged about them yet?  Would love to hear about them in the comments.

Also for anyone that is reading I am going to start trying to focus more on the quality of my posts, so will probably be posting about once a week.  If you have anything specific you want me to write about please let me know.

I will be adding some recipes that I find on the internet and try to cook as many of them as I can.

[newsletter]

January 31, 2011Permalink
  • http://activecouchpotato.com Carsten

    As an engineer I’m quite biased on this, but I’d say: what you can’t measure with a number, you can’t control.

    I’m a number whore and I used to track every little aspect of my body. Circumferences, weight, progress in weight training, calorie intake… put it in a spreadsheet and make a graph. If you can do that, you can set a goal like “reach Xkg on date Y” or “get to Xkg on bench press in Y weeks”.

    Everything without a number/specific goal is whishful thinking.

  • http://www.lifetothemaximum.com Michael

    Hey great blog!

    And great post about tracking the numbers. When I read the book I took Tim’s advice and started tracking my own numbers.

    As quite a competitive person it is incredibly motivating and rewarding to see your own progress. I’ve even put live tracking onto my own blog here:
    http://www.lifetothemaximum.com/2011/01/four-hour-body-is-here-time-to-set-some.html

    and started to chart the results, which are bang on target, here:
    http://www.lifetothemaximum.com/2011/02/4-hour-body-experiment-2-week-progress.html

    I’m about to start using PAGG too, how are you finding it?

    Anyway hope all goes well with your own goals.

    All the best,
    Michael (lifetothemaximum.com)

    • http://blog.maeper.com/ Justin

      Hi Michael,

      Good luck. I have taken a break from PAGG due to being sick but will probably start again in a couple weeks. I did find that it worked well when I was on it.

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