Over 108 days this past winter I lost 72 pounds. Since then I have kept it off and even trimmed a few more off lately. Nearly a year ago I had a car wreck followed by a doctor visit. I weighed 272 pounds (just over 123 kg), about 40 pounds more than I anticipated. That afternoon I knew I needed to do something and that was loose weight.
A month later I started the march to 200 pounds in earnest. I did not even set a new years resolution, it started a few days later, in my karate dojo. One night our sensei had us do a 500 club. This is a series of strength exercises that totals 500 repetitions. The goal is to do 100 push ups, sit ups, body weight squats, left and right pump kicks.
Due to my frame of reference that night it seemed insane. Today is a different story, I do that most mornings before breakfast.
I am not sure what it was, but as I was doing that first 500 club something ignited in me, a determination to do that 500 club and do it well. That night it kicked my butt and I let that motivate me. Combining that motivation with my growing desire to drop weight I started a personal system to achieve some goals.
My big, fat, hairy, audacious goal (BFHAG), to loose 72 pounds by July 1, just under 6 months.
What the heck does this have to do with web development? Well a lot. You see we need to set goals in different areas of our lives or we become satisfied, lethargic and well fat. It does not depend if you are getting in shape or choosing to become a better programmer, parent or spouse. The way to accomplish the goals follows the same pattern.
There are many important pieces to the story I want to share with you today and hopefully they serve as a motivation and a blue print for you to achieve your goals.
My morning routine led me to a Dave Ramsey tweet promoting an Entreleadership podcast on goal setting. I decided to listen. The episode was inspiring and caused me to reflect on my effort to loose my weight. Part of that process caused me to do research on achieving goals. The points raised in the podcast are aligned with many other resources I found.
In particular I like Michael Hyatt's podcast and Blog posts on goal setting. Michael is a great resource to follow about just getting things done in your life. Later this summer I listened to Scott Adams' (the Dilbert creator) new book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. The book is all about accomplishing things and how system help you achieve goals.
Later in the day, at my dojo, sensei was sharing with the kids about goals. I thought it was a bit more than a coincidence. So after my class I decided to write this article in hopes it will help others achieve goals, make their lives better and gain confidence.
There are 10 common rules I have discovered help you achieve a goal or set of goals:
1. A Goal Must Be Specific
For nearly a month after that doctor visit I did not take much action. I knew I needed to do something, but somehow felt numb when it came to action. On January 7 I intentionally went to WalMart ad bought a $15 scale and started weighing every morning. That day I set my goal, be 200 pounds by July 1.
That seemed like a mountain I might not be able to achieve. 72 pounds in just under six months. Fortunately when I weighed that morning I was 266.4 lbs, I was already 6 pounds in the right direction!
The specific weight of 200 on July 1 was very specific and tangible. Just saying I need to loose weight had little to no impact.
2. A Goal Must Be Measurable
Weight is an easy goal to measure. Buy a scale, step on it every morning. But more than that track your measurements. I logged my weight each morning. I started making notes each day. Eventually I even started doing regression analysis to estimate when I would hit my goal. By early March I could see I was trending toward early May. What a motivation!
If would have set my goal to loose weight by July 1 that is not very measurable. It is too open ended. Even if your goal is to be nicer to others you should set a goal like compliment a friend every day for 6 months.
If you cannot measure something you cannot improve it. You have to know where you are and where you are going. You must track how you are doing and what worked and did not work.
3. A Goal Must Have a Time Limit
July 1 was my time limit. If I failed to weigh 200 by July 1 I would have failed. I cannot emphasize how having a fixed time motivated me. This does not mean you should procrastinate. I could have waited till March or April to really start loosing the weight, but if I had I would not have lost it. I would have most likely found myself becoming comfortable with where I was and let the goal slip. Who would have known or cared?
4. A Goal Must Be Your Goal
I find it odd the doctor did not say something to me about my weight. The visit was more about possible fractures caused by the wreck the night before, but still I was 5'10" 272! But how often do doctors tell their patients to loose weight, quit smoking or do some other lifestyle change only to fall on deaf ears? Too often.
This is because the goal is not yours, it is the doctor's goal for you. Until you decide to set a goal you are not going to put in the work. Trust me any goal worth achieving requires real work. The energy and drive to achieve that goal can only come from within.
5. You Must Write Down Your Goal
Every resource I read or listened to on goals make this a requirement. Write it down, put it on the refrigerator, your office bulletin board, etc. Put it somewhere you can see it every day. Something about writing a goal makes it real. Posting it for others to see is convicting. I have already started writing down goals for 2016.
6. You Need to Set a Small Set of Goals
As I am writing a list of potential 2016 goals I know I am not going to work toward all of them. I will whittle the list down to say 10 by the end of December. Too many goals spreads your attention too much. Life is complicated as it is, you need to keep things simple.
My 10 goals will be big, fat, hairy, audacious goals, but 10 nonetheless. I can sub-divide those goals later and work on the short term goals as a series of stepping stones, measuring things during the journey.
As I lost the weight I set a weekly weight goal. My official weekly weigh in came after my Saturday morning sparring class. I chose it because it allowed me to cheat a little. Sparring is a killer cardio workout, and I sweat a lot. This gave me a slight advantage of loosing water weight.
I met most of my weekly goals and was angry with myself when I didn't. I met the next weekly goal for sure. For the record I never missed that Saturday weight by more than a pound or two. The last 6-8 weeks were crazy aggressive too, so those goals were set high.
Weight loss was my main goal. I did not have 20 other goals vying for attention. I don't think anyone can manage many goals and get much done. For example I have over 340 drafts for this Blog. Each one can be considered a goal. Not many are getting finished even though I enjoy writing.
7. You Must Review Your Goals Frequently
I logged my weight every day. The last 8 weeks I did regression analysis and trend charts. I started doing research on fitness and nutrition. These daily reviews caused me to evaluate my actions and how my body reacted.
This gave me a feedback loop I would pair with the knowledge I was gaining through research and make adjustments. Remember I lost up to 8 pounds a week!
If you do not review where you are you cannot figure out what you need to do to achieve your goals. You don't know what is working and what is hurting. You need to know these things so you do not go too far off track.
8. You Should Share Your Goals Selectively
I have heard/read over the years you should share your goals with as many people as you can. I did not tell anyone about my goal in January, at least the first few weeks. It was not until I had dropped the first 15 pounds or so I started telling others, even my wife.
To be honest until the last month or so there were two people I talked to about my weight loss plan, my stepson and my wife. I started adding others as the weight starting melting, I mean after 25 pounds people notice.
I am glad I took this approach. If I had told everyone in January I was going to be 72 pounds lighter in 6 months they would have thought, yeah right. But limiting things to just a few select people made it more personal, very accountable.
9. They Must Stretch You Outside Your Comfort Limits
You can set wimpy goals and achieve them all the time. This becomes pointless you have nothing that tells you just how much you can achieve. I could have set a goal of 10 pounds by April, very achievable, but not much real effect.
72 pounds in 6 months is what you call a big, fat, hairy, audacious goal (BFHAG). 72 pounds was roughly 25% of my body! Too often we choose to stay comfortable. The problem with that is we never really get better at anything.
Now that I have lost the weight I have been focusing more on getting in true shape. Each night in the dojo I push myself harder than the day before. Every morning I try to push myself a little harder than the previous morning. As I look back to the first week of January I cannot believe how much I have progressed. My body feels close to where it was playing college football and I am now 44!
Set your goal tangibly outside your comfort zone. Pick where you feel confident you can do and extend it 10, 20 maybe 50% beyond. My original goal was 6 months. I did it in 108 days. I saw I was trending toward late May. I pushed it harder and made late April.
10. Develop a System to Achieve
I could not have achieved my weight loss goal unless I created a system. I did not know I was creating a system at the time, but I did. Morning workout, nightly karate. Eventually I started a 15 minute bad workout during lunch. I expanded it to 1 hour. I was on a mission.
The workouts were paired with the daily weigh ins and a complete nutrition overhaul. It was not just exercise, but what I fed my body. I started eating much better. Not only that I started doing research on what to eat and why.
I have not had a soft drink all year and only been to a handful of fast food restaurants. During the 108 days I limited my eating out to things like fish and vegetables. I was super strict with nutrition and it paid off big time. Everything combined to make a system, one that has become my way of life.
In August I listened to Scott Adams How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. In this book Scott talks about building systems to achieve goals. He talks about how goals do not get things done. To achieve a goal you need to compose a system that makes the goal happen.
This is what I did to loose weight. Fitness, good nutrition combined with regular telemetry gave me the insight to shed the pounds. Not only have I shed the pounds I have kept them off and moved on to becoming very fit. I feel great now and my system is just part of my lifestyle now.
These are 10 ways to achieve your goals. But just like achieving your black belt the hardest belt to earn is the first one, the white belt. You have to start by wanting something better in your life. Weight loss is everyone's common goal. Not many achieve their goal(s) because they do not follow these rules, especially creating a system.
As we approach 2016 you are going to make a new year's resolution, this year put the pieces in place to achieve those goals. Make a system and make your life and your family's lives better. Set some BFHAGs and go make them happen.