Each goal, in a sense, creates and organizes its own world—each evoking different thoughts and emotions and calling forth different behaviors.
From Goals: An Approach to Motivation and Achievement. Elliott and . Dweck Laboratory of Human Development, Harvard University 1988 J Pers Soc Psychol. 1988 Jan;54(1):5-12.
Many defeated yo-yo dieters say, “I won’t even set a goal anymore”. They’re terrified to even get on a scale to determine their current weight.
These behaviors make a lot more sense when you understand the damage caused by poorly defined goals. After setting and failing at dozens of fast results performance goals, their confidence is completely shattered and the mere mention of weight loss makes them feel like a complete failure.
How you define your weight loss and fitness goals will be the most important step you take towards long term success. Far more important than motivation, discipline, nutrition or exercise selection.
Consider a typical weight loss goal:
I want to lose 30 pounds in the next 3 months.
This would be a “performance goal”. Performance goals are defined as:
Goals where success is defined as validating the dieter’s ability to reach specified results. (1)
There are other types of goals that are vital to understand and use in your efforts, but let’s look at performance goals first, because every diet plan promises you’ll accomplish them and every dieter has been chasing them for years.
PERFORMANCE GOALS FOR WEIGHT LOSS AND FITNESS: FRIEND OR FOE?
So, we’ve defined how much weight we want to lose, 3 months, and specified the TIMING to lose it, the next 90 days. TIMING is key. What if we gave ourselves 2 years to lose the 30 lbs? Would that influence your approach and behavior towards this goal? Without a doubt.
But there’s another TIMING issue that matters even more:
You may have decided how much weight to lose and set a deadline to reach your goal. But how long would you like to stay at that weight? Would it be okay to reach your weight loss goal in 3 months and then gain it all back over the next 6 months? I don’t know anyone who would answer yes to this question, but it sure seems to happen a heckova lot!
So EET always tries to include a how long in our performance goals. It could look something like this:
How Much? Lose 30 lbs
By When? The next 3 months
For How Long ? Keep it off forever
And, this goal would give you marching orders both short and long term.
But are we really ready to march? What are the chances of us losing the weight that quickly? What if we fall behind? And if we do lose 30 lbs. in 3 months, are we really prepared to stay with the diet and exercise plan we used to lose the weight FOREVER?
Maybe. However, it’s likely dieters who have failed for years won’t have much confidence in that goal. But, what happens to our confidence if we break down our performance into more manageable numbers?
GOAL: Over the next 2 months, lose 5 pounds in the first month and 5 additional pounds over the following month.
How much? 5 lbs
By When ? first month
For How Long? 5 additional lbs the 2nd month (this requires you to keep the first 5 lbs off as well – clever eh?).
EET believes this goal is far more likely to succeed. The reason is simple. We’ve broken down the elements of our longer term goal into more manageable tasks. We have created more confidence we can achieve this goal. We skeptically HOPE we can lose 30 lbs in 3 months and keep it off forever. But we are CONFIDENT we can lose just a little over 1 lb a week for the next 2 months!
EET calls this idea to break goals down EET Progressions. Because long term weight loss is one of the hardest goals you can pursue, it can be devastating to challenge ourselves to our maximum potential right away. To build a successful long term weight loss plan, it makes sense to walk before we run. You’ll experience more success with manageable shorter goals, and success builds CONFIDENCE. And as research on goals from the Harvard Laboratory on Human Development clearly illustrates (table 1 below), confidence is the most important element in reaching goals.
TABLE 1 From Study: Goals: An Approach to Motivation and Achievement. Elliott and . Dweck Laboratory of Human Development, Harvard University 1988 (click to enlarge)
It’s important to define your goals in a way that will maximize your confidence, and EET has proven EET Progressions is the most certain path to weight loss and fitness success. However, the real power of EET Progressions and confidence building comes when we face challenges.
Say for example, we lost 15 lbs in 2 months. Using EET Progressions goal to lose 10 lbs over that 2 month period, we now have 2 months of solid success under our belts. In fact, we’ve lost 5 lbs more than our goal called for, and we’re feeling confident we’re on the path to success. If we face challenges during the next week which cause a 2 lb weight gain, we don’t sweat it. We know our plan works, and we’ll figure out what went wrong and try to correct it.
But what if we chose the 30 lbs in 3 months goal and “only” lost 15 lbs after the first 2 months? This will not build confidence, but rather adds pressure to our efforts. If we run into challenges the next week and have a 2 lb weight gain, we will likely focus on the 17 lbs we now have to lose in the next 3 weeks in order to avoid failure.
You lost the same amount of weight but, your thoughts, and the confidence you have in your plan are completely different based on the way you’ve defined your goal.
And, when your confidence begins to falter, it has a devastating effect on your efforts. Here is a list of symptoms people exhibit when they pursue a performance goal with low confidence. See if any sound familiar:
EFFECTS OF LOW CONFIDENCE ON PERFORMANCE GOALS (1):
1) Loss of belief in your ability to reach the goal
2) More defensive and less effort to avoid confirming failure
3) Worry about all that can go wrong and likelihood of failure
4) Anxiety or shame, desire to quit efforts
5) Concern about others judging you negatively for likely failure
Clearly, performance goals that harm your confidence can be very dangerous. Yet, that is exactly the type of goals dieters are encouraged to pursue. Commercial weight loss and fitness plans that hype amazing, fast weight loss and fitness success stories (while only disclosing in small print “results not typical”) are crushing the confidence of millions of dieters who fail trying to replicate those fast results.
The EET Fitness Plan recognizes the power of a high confidence level, so we encourage dieters to only set performance goals that build confidence, and this means, start easy and lower your expectations. The more small, steady successes we can build on, the more confidence gets built and the more lasting the results!
LEARNING GOALS – Your KEY To Long Term Weight Loss?
There is another type of goal that most dieters have never considered. Learning Goals. Learning goals are defined as:
(1) From Study: Goals: An Approach to Motivation and Achievement. Elliott and . Dweck, Laboratory of Human Development, Harvard University 1988