Top of the Shop? WTF Does That Mean?

If achieving goals were simple then New Year’s resolutions wouldn’t be necessary; you could define a goal at any point in time and the desired outcome would be guaranteed. We know for the majority that this isn’t true. January 1st offers that sudden surge of motivation, “I can do this; this time I mean it.”

But then why is it always the same?

  • Your friend stopped his P90x routine 6 days into the month.
  • Friday rolled around and your girlfriend felt entitled to a night out. After working 5 straight days tapping away at a computer, she deserved that bottle of wine and entire pizza. She earned it after all.
The problem? You’re doing it wrong!

Defining the Goal

How can you measure the abstract? What does “top of the shop” mean? Define your goals in concrete & measurable terms.

Come spring I’m going to be top of the shop.

For the shop rides starting in April, I’m going to ride with the A group, sprint the climbs, and finish in the top 5 every Tuesday.

I’m going to lose weight before the first ride of the year.

I’m going to lose 15lbs by April 1st, 2011.

I’m going to get swole before summer.

I’m going to improve my 5×5 squat by 70lbs by June 15th.

Don’t Forget

With the constant influx of information we process everyday it can be easy to lose sight of the goal. Write it down. Post it somewhere you can see it everyday: on your computer screen, dashboard of your car, the wallpaper of your cellphone. This is the first, and most important, rule of achieving any goal. Stop reading and do this now.

Tell Your Friends, Tell Everybody

Want to drop 15lbs? Add weight to your squat & deadlift? Tell your friends, family or post your intentions on a forum. Not only will these people most likely support your efforts, but more importantly, you’ll look like a real idiot (…and failure) if you don’t come through. Pride is a strong motivator. Don’t embarrass yourself.

Progress Must be Measurable, and It Must Be Measured

Success doesn’t happen overnight. Measure your progress day-by-day. Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Losing Weight:

Take progress photos every Saturday morning. Given the gradual nature of weight loss you won’t notice changes day-to-day or even week-to-week; it becomes easy to abandon a diet that doesn’t seem to be working. But collect several weeks of photos and scroll through them like a flip-book. The scale may have not changed, but muscles you haven’t seen in years will suddenly start to appear — one pixel at a time. This is real motivation.

Just the same, take measurements. Subtle changes between weeks may not be detected from your morning glance in the mirror. But small increments add up to real change given enough time.

Getting Strong:

Keep a written log of your workouts. Adding just a pound to the bar each session doesn’t seem like much, but it is progress nonetheless. Over several months these small increases in weight can add up to real strength.

It’s real easy to give up on a goal when it seems like progress isn’t being made. But you need to start recording your efforts: take photos, keep notes, write in a logbook.

Start From the Finish

Consider the goal, “I want to cut down to 7% body-fat.” How will you get there? One technique I like is to put yourself in the frame of mind of someone who has already achieved it. Ask yourself:

Q: “Would someone with 7% body-fat eat that pizza?”
A: Absolutely not.

Q: “Would someone with 7% body-fat go out and drink beers with the boys on Friday after hitting the gym?”
A: No, they would lift the weights, eat a balanced dinner and get plenty of sleep.

The answers come easily — there is very little thought, debate or internal conflict involved. Faced with a tough situation, answer as if you’ve already achieved the goal.

Flipped around and approached from the traditional point of view, it becomes obvious how easy it is to lose focus:

Q: “Should I eat that pizza?”
A: Yeah, it’s okay. I worked out really hard today which is more than I did last week. One slice won’t hurt.

Q: “Should I go out and drink beers with the boys on Friday after hitting the gym?”
A: It was a long week and I got all of my workouts in. I deserve a night out. I used to go out every Friday before I started going to the gym, so at least I got something in. I’m doing more than I used to.

TLDR: Too Long Didn’t Read

Achieving your goals is easy as long as you do it right. Having trouble making real change in your life? Try these simple steps instead of doing whatever it is you’re doing now (…and has never worked). So you want to be “top of the shop?” Define what that really means and get to work.

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