6 Dumb Training Mistakes

Christian Thibaudeau from T-nation talks about 6 Dumb Training Mistakes

Dumb Thing #5: Misunderstanding “Overtraining”

If you ask me, “overtraining” is the most abused and misunderstood concept in the entire strength training community! Perform more than twelve sets for a muscle during a workout and you’ll undoubtedly be accused of overtraining. Train a muscle group more often than two times per week? Overtraining! Relying on set extending methods such as drop sets, pre or post-fatigue, or rest-pause? What are you doing? Don’t you know that’s overtraining and you’ll shrink faster than your masculine pride on a snowy Canadian winter night?!

Yes, overtraining can eventually become a problem when it comes to your training performance, injury risks, and growth. However, it’s far from being as common as most people would have you believe.

The problem stems from the term itself, which is composed of “over” and “training.” Because of that term, individuals are quick to equate it to “training too much.” So every time someone thinks that a routine has too much volume, frequency, or advanced methods, they’re quick to pull the “overtraining” trigger. When someone is tired and has a few bad workouts he’ll also automatically assume that he’s “overtraining.” In both cases this shows a misunderstanding of what overtraining really is.

In the post, he has a full description of the states of physiological fatigue associated with training too much and it includes an image outlining the type and amount of recovery time needed to return to a normal state. For this one item alone it is a fantastic article, but there are a few other mind opening ideas that make it a must read.

Resistance Training – Think Movements, Not Body Parts

This article is for you if you resistance train in splits with different body parts being worked during different workout.

Ask yourself, do you have a shoulder day when you will work each of the three heads of the deltoid muscle group? If so, why do you do this?

I used to and I didn’t like it very much. As a consequence my shoulders suffered. It wasn’t that they lagged very far behind the rest of my body, it was that I didn’t train with enough intensity to get to know how to work them correctly – I never felt the muscles working the way I could feel my biceps when I train arms.

What I did find was that my rear deltoid muscles would be fatigued and pumped on back day, particularly when I finished off with a narrow rowing movement (reverse grip barbell row, seated row, cable row).

I found that my front deltoid muscles were slightly fatigued on chest day, particularly when I would focus on the upper chest (incline barbell press, incline dumbbell press).

I found that the medial deltoid muscles would be well rested on back and chest day because they were hardly used at all.

What did this all mean? I started to think about it and after a while I saw the movements in my head in a new way. It turned out that the rear deltoids have more movement in common with the muscles of the back than they do with the muscles of the chest, which have more movement in common with the front deltoid muscles. The medial head of the deltoid muscle has little movement in common with either the chest or the back, but lots in common with the trap muscles.

This was good news for me because I didn’t like doing the shoulder workout I was doing. This new understanding about the supporting role the front and rear deltoids played in chest and back movements meant that I could gut the the shoulder workout of exercises that isolated either of these two heads and instead focus all of my energies on the medial head. It meant that my shoulder workout got a lot shorter, which was perfect for me because it wasn’t fun to do.

It was easy to put this to work for me. I started off adding rear machine laterals to the later part of my back workout when I knew the joint and deltoid muscles had been well warmed up. I would do three or four back exercises and I would just slide laterals in after the 3rd or 4th back movement. My only consideration was to make sure that they would have enough energy left in them to play a supporting role in any remaining back exercises that I would do. For example, bent over reverse grip rows recruit a lot of rear deltoid muscle fibers, so they must be done before rear laterals. Front lat pull-downs do not rely so heavily on the rear deltoid muscles so I can do them after rear lateral movements. The shoulder pump I get from doing rear laterals on back day is awesome, arguable the best pump I’m able to get out of any muscle.

Concerning the front deltoids, I now do front dumbbell laterals towards the end of my chest day when the join and muscles are well warmed-up. But I’ve changed the way that I do them. I used to just raise the weights up to the front trying to use only my shoulder muscles. Now I also focus on squeezing the pectorals on the way up because engaging the upper pectoral region during this movement will shift some of the work on to them to help to more fully fatigue them. And the movement of the weight is slightly changed too, the line they follow is more of a “)(” shape. My goal with this is to improve the appearance of the pectoral deltoid tie in area.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have a shoulder day, but I call it medial deltoid day and that is exactly what it is. I’ll do an overhead pressing motion (dumbbell shoulder press, machine shoulder press) and lots of medial laterals. Occasionally I may do a single arm dumbbell press before medial laterals to ensure symmetrical strength and development. As you can imagine, the these workouts do not take very long to complete, maybe 25 minutes to work through a max of about 12-14 sets. I’m now able to add a couple of trapezius exercises to the end of the work out, or train abs, or do some plyometrics training during the same workout. By eliminating direct training of the front and rear deltoid muscles on shoulder day I’m able to engage in movements that compliment the medial deltoids or are completely unrelated and therefore on fresh muscles.

This small change of training movements vs. body parts has really made a big difference in the overall appearance of my shoulder and neck. It has also allowed me to better manage the demands of a complex split training regime along with making resistance training a lot more fun. It has also allowed me to experience some mind blowing pumps that leave me laughing at what I see in the mirror after my workout – sometimes I can’t believe that my shoulder muscles could look so bloated.

I am presently experimenting with training gluts and hamstrings as the same body part and training them separately from the front of the leg. While the anatomy and planes of movement are a lot more complicated than that of the shoulders, I have found that stiff legged dead lifts have more in common with glut raises than they do with leg press. I’ll just leave it at that until I have a more complete understanding of what is actually going on and how to best put it to work for you.

Try gutting your shoulder workout and move front deltoid training to chest day and rear deltoid training to back day. Shoulder day should be about the medial head of the deltoid because that is what is going to give you the massive width. Give it a try and see how well it works for you.

People Who Get It

As a reformed bitter person I take some pride when people say that I “get it” because I never used to.

What do I mean by “getting it?” Well, very simply, you get it when you figure out what the world is all about and when act accordingly.

What is it that they get? Basically that the world is a tough place for most people and that you have a choice to make when it comes to how you engage it. You get it when you realize that other people have a similar experience of reality that you do and that your actions impact their experience of this reality. You get it when you realize life is about the journey and not about the destination. The destination is what motivates us, but the living occurs along the way.

  • Those who get it tend to work hard at their jobs because they like doing a good job and not because they are paid to do the work. Payment is required for them to agree to the work, but they will work to their potential at EVERYTHING they attempt to do because that is what gives them satisfaction.
  • Those who get it tend to have a work ethic that helps them deliver quality results with little managerial intervention. They thrive in an independent work environment when they have clearly defined expectations.
  • Those who get it tend not to view themselves in adversarial relationships with other people. They tend to view others as partners in tasks or as people to avoid due to the negative attitudes they hold.
  • Those who get it tend always to be to be involved in some sort of personal development project. It can be further education, reading, exercise or an artistic pursuit. They see themselves as a work in progress and are very open to new experiences and to change.
  • Those who get it tend to welcome and embrace new information because it improves their understanding of the world.
  • Those who get it tend to be people that others like to be around because they make you feel good. Their view of the world is enriching or enlightening and their optimism about things is a fresh change from the glut of bitterness that modern living seems to nurture.
  • Those who get it tend to improve group synergy because they foster an atmosphere of caring and non-judgment that gives other the permission to speak freely and express more creative solutions.
  • Those who get it tend to laugh freely because it feels good and because they view things in a more positive light.

We all know a few people who get it and we find that we engage these people more frequently for assistance or help because we know that they will offer their service to us without attitude or with any attempt to make us feel like we are inconveniencing them. We identify these people because we can see their passion for their activities and we’ll often believe that they would be doing the same thing anyway, even if they were not getting paid to do it. They make things happen without creating bad feelings or a sense of obligation, and they smile and say thank you.

The Joy Of Motion, For Me Anyway

“I’ve seen old people. Old people don’t move very much. I’m not angry at them for this, I’m angry that it happens to people, I’m angry that it will happen to me. I move like this now because I can and because I won’t be able to when I’m old.”

This used to be my signature for my email and it captures the essence of how I feel about locomotion at this point in my life. Moving brings me joy today that I may not be able to experience tomorrow. It feels really good physically and I become more and more comfortable in my environment as I increase the ways in which I interact with it. I am, for example, more confident walking on snowy or icy sidewalks as a result of my plyometrics training because I have increased body awareness – I know exactly where I am in space and time and this awareness helps me avoid falling. This knowledge can make everyday life less stressful and a little easier.

A love of movement also leads one to try other activities either out of desire for further enjoyment or because I feel less shame about trying something new. I have spoken to too many people who claim that they did not do something because they we intimidated, scared or because they feared that they wouldn’t be any good at it. The consequence to this is that they never get the joy out of something new because they’ll never try it for the first time because of the thought of feeling shame about it.

As I tried more stuff I began to notice that I am not naturally good at most things. In fact, I’m pretty useless at most things the first time I try them. I learned how to play guitar a few years ago and I was horrible at the beginning. The fine motor control that is required to finger the chords while strumming or picking certain stings is almost overwhelming. It took me about 3 months before it stopped sounding like noise and another couple of months until it sounded like music. But I stuck with it and eventually doing it started to bring me joy. With me, for most new tasks, three months is about average for how long it takes before I feel comfortable enough doing it to find the experience rewarding vs. finding the fact that I’m trying it to be rewarding.

I find yoga to be very difficult to do and I feel like a heal doing it. It really is hard to imagine being so bad at something that is so graceful. The main reason it is so difficult for me is because I have no frame of reference or any past experiences with skills that transfer over to yoga – I’m a lifter and an adrenaline junky which require very different skills than the downward dog or any of the warrior poses. But as I do it more, I am acquiring the skills that will allow me to not have to think about it while I’m doing it. For me, the ability to make the skill automatic is essential for maximum enjoyment because it is the only thing that will lead to a state of mindlessness.

So I move out of fear of a future that does not contain movement and out of a lust for more pleasure, satisfaction and personal growth. It is only through interacting with the world that we learn how to exist in peace and harmony with our environment.

Study Findings About Long-Term Exercise Compliance

Gary Homann talks about his findings into long-term exercise compliance in this T-nation thread called Long Haul Training.

He covers all kinds of stuff such as goal setting periodization and what the evidence indicates about exercise intensity is well worth the read if you’re prone to quit training:

Back to the intensity issue. Unfortunately, this is another example of experts prescribing what they think people will do rather than what’s best or optimal. Reviewing the research makes it clear that higher intensity exercise leads to a longer life and less cardiovascular disease. (5) Studies have also demonstrated that people who do higher intensity exercise are leaner than people who only do low or moderate intensity exercise even when they eat more calories and burn fewer calories during exercise. (6) In short, you get more bang for the buck with higher intensity exercise.

Posture, Breathing, Intention, Aura – What I Meditate On

Posture, Breathing, Intention, Aura are the things that I will meditate to when my attention is not better placed elsewhere. Each one leads into the next one, building into the presentation of a purposeful me.

Appropriate posture is absolutely critical for taping into the energies of your body. When you first feel your body blend in with the earth’s gravity you will understand exactly what I am talking about. Gravity seems to pull the hips downward in such a way that they force the shoulders back, opening up your chest. It’s a powerful feeling that tells you that you are aligned. As the feeling builds, your mood and thinking will change to correspond to this improved state. Your breathing will become easier and deeper.

Once this happens, I shift my attention on to my breathing. I will be breathing from the belly instead of the chest. My diaphragm will be drawing air deep into the lungs and the abdominal muscles will be contracting and forcing it out. This will be a dramatic change from the normal shallow chest breathing that is more common and the consequences will be improved oxygen and CO2 exchange, increased breath size, decreased breathing frequency and a passive massaging of the organs of the abdomen. As attention remains on the breathing, there is a building sense of energy and stillness of the mind. Now I direct my attention to my intention.

When I’m mediating, my intention is to find peace and unity. I find these things when my mind is silent and they come about because of the sensation of NOT being ME. Thoughts and feelings of me being a part of everything, part of the individual global picture that everything belongs to, are peaceful because I am aware of no suffering and no isolation. It is within this peace and unity that I find the power to create and build my intention aura.

My aura is the energy I give off or sum total of the paralanguage that I radiate. Some people see energy auras radiating off of other people, others pick up on an energy field that radiates while others present paralanguage communications that indicate to everyone around them that they are positive, powerful, confident, at ease, peaceful and open. These may or may not be the same thing, but in this deepest stage of my mediation I am attempting to build an aura that others can pick up and draw power from. I want to beam energy and positive intention to everyone who sees me and I want to coat myself in a field of energy that allows me to hold on to this aura for as long as I can. It may seem unlikely, but people have commented on me looking different when I do this. They are unable to place exactly what it is that they are picking up on, so they just say different, and maybe a little brighter.

I will focus more on aura than anything else because of the four items as it is the only one that you cannot measure.

My practice of aura building goes back to my university days when I lived with Tony and Beth and was prone to fall asleep in front of the TV at night. As I feel asleep I would try to focus my attention on feeling a warmness within my fingers or toes. If you think about it, other than when you injure yourself or are in some sort of distress, you are rarely aware of anything existing within your body – you know there is something inside your head when you have a head ache, your back when you have back ache, in the muscles when delayed onset muscle soreness and your stomach when you bring in food or cold water. But you are, for the most part, oblivious to internal sensations of your limbs. This makes sense, given that the human perception works by determining contrasts – when you are not injured or sore, you have no reason to be aware of your limbs and will quickly and completely habituate any awareness. My goal with turning my attention towards my fingers or toes is to tune in to these sensations and try to perceive them.

It takes a few minutes to feel something but I slowly become aware of a warmness either in the fingers / toes or in the hands / feet. My eyes are closed so I imagine that blood is pooling in the extremities and this is create both a pressure and an increase in temperature – whether or not this is happening is irrelevant, what is critical is that I feel it happening. Once I feel the heat, I work at growing the heat up my arms / legs towards my torso. As the sensation builds I shift my focus towards my arms or legs, depending on how I started the aura-nurturing portion of the mediation. The sensation is a lot easier to generate once the whole thing has been set in motion and very quickly I feel both my arms and legs and my torso quickly fills up with feeling. As the awareness takes over my entire body, I reestablish the connection to my breathing and allow it to keep the sensation alive. I will try to maintain the feelings for as long as I can, imagining that there is something radiating from my body. Since my eyes are closed I visualize a sort of blurry field about 6-12 inches surrounding every part of me – I imagine that it is like looking at the top of a toaster that is on when the heat coming off of it makes the air rising from it look and behave like a liquid. I try to see myself surround in a field of that. After some time I would fall asleep. Upon waking the next day I would find myself full of energy and beaming with a social confidence and I’d be free from anxiety.

The aura building process works the same sort of way now, except I use the posture, breathing and intention steps to prime my body and mind and get them ready for it. After a lot of practice I am able to achieve this state with my eyes open and when I’m doing other activities like riding a spinning bike, climbing a hill or cruising a long straight section on a road bike or climbing a steady section on a mountain bike. With my eye closed I find the sensation easy to create when I’m doing resistance training. In fact, I credit my ability to generate this body awareness for big improvements in isolating specific muscles during resistance training sessions when it is critical to feel the muscle contracting.

I did say that this is the only item of the four that cannot be measured so why would I make it the biggest part of my mediation? Well, because I think there is something happening and I do enjoy improved feelings when I focus on generating an aura. Even if it is only psychosomatic, the improved feelings of well-being are worth the effort. It is also possible that the sensation of heat that I generate plays a similar role as delayed onset muscle soreness in letting me know that there is more of me than I am normally aware off. I’d liken this to the increase in confidence that many body builders experience when they gain weight. They feel more confident because there is actually more of them. Regardless of the mechanism of action, I do find an increased sense of wellness following this type of mediation.

“Posture, Breathing, Intention, Aura” said repeatedly until I tune into each one of them. It’s a great way to your attention onto something that will make you feel better.

Dr. John Berardi Wonders Out Loud

Finding inspiration in a return drive from Toronto to Philadelphia and back John Berardi wonders out loud.

I wonder…
Would more people overcome “average genetics” if they devoted 1-2 hours to their exercise plan every single day?

A new Canadian television program, The Dragon’s Lair, features aspiring entrepreneurs who are given the opportunity to pitch a business idea to 5 successful venture capitalists in the hopes of convincing them to invest in their business ideas. In typical reality TV fashion, the show presents a string of woefully unprepared contestants making a mockery of entrepreneurship.

However, on a recent episode, a woman from London Ontario, home of my Alma Mater, the University of Western Ontario, impressed the “dragons” with her business model and approach. She had started a line of delicious, omega-3 rich, organic salad dressings, She already had distribution and was looking for capital to mass-produce and distribute her dressings. Her presentation was on point, her marketing and advertising was solid, her product was of high quality, etc. And as a result, two of the dragons kicked in a total of over 100K to help her along.

When interviewed, post-show, she confessed that she was a mother of 2, worked full-time during the day, and devoted only 1-2 hours/night during the week to her salad dressing business. “People are always shocked when they hear about how I’ve grown the business” she stated in the interview. “But you’d be amazed by how much you can accomplish with 1-2 hours of directed effort performed consistently 4-5 nights a week, every week.”

It’s surprising how little incremental effort is required for long term success. His observations are solid and his article is worth the read.

Clearing Off The To-do List So I Can Think About Nothing

Ever wonder what makes some people accomplish so much while others just sit around waiting for life to happen? I used to wonder until I became one of those people who do things.

When I was at university I learned very quickly that you didn’t need to go to classes or do all the readings, all you needed was to do well on the exams, tests, assignments and you’d get a good mark. I was lucky enough to be able to do well on these things without having to work very hard. Instead of investing any of this un-spend effort potential on something worthwhile, I worked hard at doing nothing, literally NOTHING. I watched Law and Order on A&E, Simpson’s reruns, sat around drinking with friends talking about a future that we’d one day get to. Looking back I sort of wish I had done something, take a dance, art or music class, start indoor climbing or mountain biking, go to the gym or even go to the library and learn something that I cared about but wasn’t going to be marked on. It would have been nice if I had done something for its own sake instead of doing nothing for the sake of it.

Well school ended, I got a job and life got going. Now instead of doing things because I was getting marked for it, I was doing things because I was getting paid for it, but all in all I was still doing very little. I remember back on my mid to late 20’s as a miserable time in my life. I had a high paying IT job and could buy all the things that I wanted, but I was still used to doing nothing so I found myself not wanting anything. I kept drinking with my friends and I discovered a love of eating in restaurants. I had taken up smoking so even when I was sitting there doing nothing, I felt like I was accomplishing something because I was having a cigarette. Talk about your life preserving fictions!

In hindsight, it was the IT crash of the early 2000’s that was responsible for a big shift in the way I looked at the world. The company I worked for went belly-up and I was laid off. I hated the job so I wasn’t that unhappy about it, and because I was laid off, I was able to go on EI. I was collecting a pay cheque without having to go to work. This was, in my view, the best of days. It wasn’t of course as I was still very unhappy and completely unmotivated to do almost anything. I didn’t find or look for work and had to move back into my parents place because the money ran out.

This was the beginning of the end for the old me. My parents didn’t drive me to get a job but they did need to see me doing something “productive”. Since they didn’t give me any specific instructions, I took it to mean that if I could improve my mountain bike riding they’d be happy. I bought a trail pass at Kelso Conservation Area in Milton and started riding there daily. This was fantastic because I started to get better. I was able to ride tougher and tougher sections without clipping out and I began to enjoy climbing hills. I developed a passion for riding and with my improvements I became more and more confident. At the end of the summer when I took part in a 24 hour team relay race my improvements were noticed by my teammates and my improved confidence allowed me, for the first time ever, to feel at peace with what I was doing. I had set the goal of improving as much as I could by focusing on my training and I was enjoying the success of achieving that goal. It was the first time in my life that I had wanted to do something and had actually worked to attain it. It was the first time in my adult life that I didn’t feel like I was doing NOTHING.

The switch was flipped and things started to change very quickly after that. I began setting goals, planning how I was going to achieve them and then setting that plan in motion. It was fantastic and addictive. What replaced the feeling of apathy and fear towards the world was a sense of excitement and empowerment that I had some impact on what I got out of life. I learned that I could do things and that I would feel better after I did them. I think it was around that time that I discovered that the voice inside my head that reminded of all my failings would go quiet whenever I was working on something or had just finished something. That was a huge step forward in my development because I hated this voice and welcomed anything that would make it go away. The problem now was that I was working to get rid of the voice. Well, it isn’t so much a problem because I was getting a lot done, it’s just very annoying to have to listen to it at all. While doing things is a great way to silence it, the voice is still there to remind me that I’m wasting time.

At 33 I accept that I did this to myself. Whatever environmental influences there were, they play only a legacy role in who I am and how I create my present understanding of the world. However, the antiquated role they play still impacts me today. For example, back when I learned to do nothing, a part of me felt shameful or guilty for it. If the voice spoke to me and told me that I was being a failure, it was absolutely correct. If I had continued down that path I would have ended up dead very early and never accomplished anything with my life. The voice served a very important function, it warned me that I was wasting time and it created a sense of urgency to drive action. But because I left it untested for years, it is a part of who I am today and it will fire-up whenever I’m wasting time. The problem now is that I hear it even when I have the right to take some down time, which makes taking it easy and doing nothing extremely difficult. I blame my tendency towards overtraining on this characteristic. I think in time I will learn how to get back to doing nothing and not feel bad about it, but it’s going to take a while.

Today I need to clear off my to-do list before I can relax. I guess it’s good because when I wasn’t like this and I never got anything done. Now I can’t get around to wasting time if there’s something pressing on my mind or if someone is waiting for my input. I can’t because my mind won’t let me. It requires my action to silence it and I’m only too happy to oblige it.

Compliments Mean The Most When We Want Them To Be True

I give out a lot of compliments. When I identify someone who is doing a good job I will tell them that they are doing a good job. The girl at the coffee shop who makes my coffee, a joke and me smile will get recognized for it. I’ll notice new hairstyles, engagement rings and changes in the look of vitality and comment about them. In doing this I’ve noticed a few of things.

First off, most people can’t take a compliment very well. They seem to play it down like it isn’t true and some are very successful at diminishing it completely. I’d be inclined to say that some of my positive comments have actually allowed people to feel worse about themselves. I do wonder why someone would tear himself or herself down so completely in response to something nice. I tend to think that it is because they believe that I’m not telling the truth because, in spite of what I say, they know that they are crap and unlovable. It’s really weird.

The next group is those who respond with suspicion. They’ll ask me what I’m selling or just throw a compliment back at me. I’m guessing they do this because they feel unlovable too. I clearly must want something from them if I’m going to lie to them. If they reciprocate the compliment they keep everything on an even playing field and will not feel obligated to me for the nice thing I said. Both are clear indications that they do not believe my observation.

The final group is those who respond with a thank you and are filled with a sense of gratitude. They take compliments well because they believe what I have said. They don’t question my intentions, they just assume that I am telling the truth and have noticed something about them that they want to be true. I regard these people as more complete than the others because they give in to the possibility that things are the way I think they are. They allow their feelings and understanding of the world to be impacted by the way I view it – they take something positive out of my kind words and they allow themselves to feel good about it.

If you are going to give out compliments be sure that they are true and that they reflect how you actually feel. For example, “I like the way your hair looks” or “the way you smile every morning makes me feel good” are better than “you look pretty” or “the other people don’t smile as much as you do”. I say this because you can easily defend and embody your feelings; it is a lot harder to back-up objective type statements – I am an expert on my own feelings so any statement I make that speaks of them is undisputable. If your new hairstyle makes me feel that you look more beautiful, you aren’t in a position to tell me that I’m wrong. It is very difficult to tear these compliments down without being offensive to the person who uttered them.

It’s also very difficult to automatically reciprocate the compliment because it won’t sound natural. I’m saying something that I’ve clearly been thinking about because I’m telling you how something made me feel – knowing your feelings requires at least a moment of introspection. If you automatically compliment me back the “when were you going to tell me that” question is unconsciously raised. This question changes the dynamic between the two people in a very real and unnatural way.

A good compliment is simply just an honest observation about something that you view as positive. It will be well received if it reflects what you actually feel, especially if the confirms something that the recipient wants it to be true. If they receive it well, you know you are engaging someone who is comfortable with who they are and that they trust that you are telling them the truth. Be sincere and make their day!

Writing Out Your Goals: The Actualization and Evolution of What You Want

I was cleaning out the basement this weekend and I came across a list I made about 3 years ago. It is a “to do before I’m 40” list and I wrote it after I got laid off from my IT management job. I remember the list well because it was my first ever goals list and it looks like:

By 40

  • Record an album
  • Complete a triathlon
  • Own a business
  • Own a house
  • Have $50000 in the bank
  • Own a mountain bike trail
  • Complete a 24 hour mountain bike race by myself
  • Have written two books
  • Be working as a motivational speaker
  • Get a nose job
  • Have a suit made for me
  • Sing in front of other people
  • Bench press 200 pounds
  • Have a six-pack (abs)
  • Drive across Canada
  • Go out East
  • Have a recording studio
  • Have an MA
  • Have invented something
  • Meditate 30 minutes per day 3 times a week

It’s a lofty list with a few very challenging items, a few superficial items, a few status items and a number of fitness/sports goals. When I saw the list I remembered it instantly in spite of the fact that it was in a box in my basement and I hadn’t seen it for three years.

Of particular interest to me are the number of these items that I no longer care about (they aren’t my goals anymore), and the number of items that I have been able to cross off the list.

On the face of it, the few items that I have cleared off the list are fairly modest. But when I think about it more, I realize that many of my peers have similar goals but have not achieved them or are not even working towards them. Even if I didn’t achieve anything else in the last 3 years, I think I have achieved more success than most people have as far as setting a goal and moving towards it because I did achieve some of the things I put my mind to.

But that isn’t the case as this was just the FIRST goals list I made. As I worked towards building my own company (making video game cabinets) I realized that it didn’t really make me very happy – I wasn’t that I wanted my own company, it was that I wanted to work for myself and have my success be determined by my own effort. Given at this was the case, I needed to learn how to sell. Learning how to sell became an item on the next goals list. I also knew that I’d have an easier time being taught how to sell working for an established company vs. learning through trial and error with my own company. “Working as a sales person for an established company” was also put to paper as a goal. I ended up getting a job with GoodLife Fitness Clubs as a membership coordinator; it’s a sales role.

With reference to GoodLife and selling, my goals changed very quickly as I attained more and more of what I put my mind to. It went something like this:

  • Learn the theories of selling – 6 weeks
  • Make a sale – 10 days
  • Achieve my monthly goal – 30 days
  • Lead the team in sales – 75 days
  • Lead the division in sales – 120 days
  • Become a General Manager of a GoodLife Club – 160 days
  • Become a successful manager – did not happen

There was some over lap with these goals – I completed my first sale and achieved my monthly goal when I was still learning the basics of how to sell. The other thing that is interesting is the speed at which I changed my goals – what started off as a desire to prove whether or not I could sell became a desire for a career with a company in about 60 days. Recall that working for GoodLife was not one of the before 40 goals and even the goal of learning how to sell was only tangentially related to anything on that list. There is a sort of evolution with this – what we want can be changed by what we do today, one achievement leads to a desire for other related achievements or to a desire for something completely different.

My failure to become a successful manager was a bit of a disappointment but it was also a huge learning experience. I worked hard to be successful at it and had enjoyed some successes but did not achieve what I viewed as success and after a lot of soul searching I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to. Once I saw the futility of what I was trying to do, I conceded and stepped down allowing someone else to try and make good on what I had hoped to achieve.

The next goals list moved away from leading a team in favor of leading individuals:

  • Become a personal trainer – 4 weeks
  • Help someone start working towards his or her fitness goals – 2 weeks
  • Achieve my first month goal – 2 weeks
  • Sell over $3000 in training – 5 weeks
  • Sell the most on the team – did not happen

Again, there was a goal that I gave up on because I realized that I wasn’t going to be happy working towards it. In fact, I found training people to be one of the hardest things I have ever done, seriously. It takes a special type of person to work one on one with someone to help him or her achieve their goals. The problem was fit. I never had the goal of seeing someone achieve their goal, only to sell training, be a trainer and help people get started. Had I had a better idea of what the job was actually about, I wouldn’t have done it because it’s a long haul thing and not the simple once-off that selling memberships is.

So I left the job, particularly drained, and since I had saved some money I took a month to travel the east coast of Canada and do some camping. I went with my childhood friend Deb who loves traveling. It seemed to make sense to go with her because we had spoken about traveling together before and the opportunity just present itself last May. So that cleared off another couple of goals (one from the first list and one from a fifth or sixth list).

Now what does this all mean? Well, I think it means a bunch of things:

  • That by writing your goals out you make them real
  • Real goals will be achieved more often than imaginary ones
  • Goals will be achieved or changed based on new information
  • Every action you take can impact your desire for things that were never considered before
  • By looking at a list of your goals, you can begin to create a sense of entitlement or, at least, a sense of ability that you can do something
  • You’ll have a better chance of finding yourself doing what you want to do if you figure out what you want to do and working towards it
  • That your desires are based on what you are doing at the moment and less on what you think you want

I encourage everyone to write out their goals and I’m not sure how it goes. When I ask them about it, they say things like “I don’t feel like it” or “it feels really stupid” or “I don’t need to”. But I think that most people don’t do it because they don’t think they have the right to anything better than what they have now. Life is something that is done to them and not something they are willing to take an active role in creating. Life isn’t like for everyone, those who have taken the time to write out their goals tend to be working towards achieving them.

If you want to change your life, change your life and the best way to start is to figure-out what you want to get out of it. Go on, make that goals list!