When a new person walks into our CrossFit Palm Beach facility for the first time, we always ask them what their goals are. More often than not, their goals are physical goals, meaning they want to improve how they look. They may want to lose X number of lbs, add muscle tone or build size in their arms or legs, fit into a dress or an old pair of jeans, or get that elusive six pack. Regardless of how they phrase it, the result is the same. They want to look better than they think they look now.
While there is nothing wrong or shallow about having goals related to how you look (and I would encourage you to have some), my experience tells me that physical goals like these are not enough. You need performance-based goals, and here’s why.
As human beings, we are motivated by growth, by progress. Therefore, in order for a goal to motivate you long-term, it needs to allow for an infinite amount of growth.
If your only goal is to lose 20 lbs, what happens when you achieve that goal and you do actually lose 20 lbs? What happens when the novelty of that achievement wears off and you’re forced to maintain it? What will motivate you then? What will get you out of bed every morning or into the gym after a long day at work or with the family?
The idea of maintenance is boring. The thought of working your ass off to stay in one place is very rarely going to push you to do the things you should do on a daily basis.
And that’s assuming you actually reach that goal in the first place. I believe that the reason most people give up on their goals is not because they can’t achieve them, but because the thought of having to sustain the habits and lifestyle to maintain those goals, is too daunting to even try. The idea of upholding those goals for the rest of their lives is overwhelming.
That’s where performance goals become so important. Performance goals allow for an infinite amount of setting and resetting of your goals, so there is always something to keep pushing you forward.
Many women walk into our facility with the goal to achieve their first pull up. Some of them think it’s impossible, but we encourage them to set a goal like that anyway. Just like the goal of losing 20 lbs, the thought of getting your first pull up can help motivate you to show up to the gym regularly and eat better when you’re not in the gym.
Eventually, you will achieve that goal. You will get that first pull up and it will be one of the best feelings in the world. And you better stop to celebrate that goal. Because you earned it, and it took a lot of hard work and discipline to get there. And just like any other goal, the excitement and joy around that goal will eventually subside, because ultimately, we as humans are motivated by growth, not by maintenance, not by some absolute achievement.
And that’s where the magic of performance goals really takes off. Once you can achieve 1 pull up, you know you have the power within you to get 5 pull ups, and maybe you set that as your next goal. Or maybe you want to do a chest to bar pull up or a muscle up. Whatever your next goal is, you can always set a new goal that is 1 rep further or just a little more difficult than that previous goal was. That’s the beauty of CrossFit, there are an infinite number of exercises, skills, and benchmark workouts that you can get better at, so you can constantly set and reset goals all the time.
The best part about performance goals, is the physical goals tend to come with them. In the process of trying to achieve that first pull up, you end up with the body you always wanted. And instead of fussing over the number on the scale, and the 1 lb you gained over the weekend, you can keep your sights set on the 2nd, and 3rd, and 4th pull up, and let the physical goals continue to take care of themselves.
When I re-ask the goals question to that same new member after they have been with us for a few months, it’s always exciting to hear how their goals have shifted from the physical side to the performance side. It’s at this point that I know this person has made a positive change that will last with them forever. Their health and fitness has taken on a deeper meaning beyond just how they look.