If your goals feel so out of reach sometimes and you feel like throwing in the towel because your hard work seems to be going no where, keep reading this blog to help you get out of this mindset.
It is somewhat true that what doesn’t challenge you, doesn’t change you, so it’s great to be ambitious and set the bar high for your personal goals.
However, if you want to actually reach your goals and stop being so hard on yourself if they don't work out immediately, you need to make sure what you're aiming for is realistic.
If your friend told you that they’re planning on running a full marathon tomorrow, but they've never even jogged once in their life, how would you rate their chances of finishing the race?
Likewise, would you expect to be able to perform 10 reps of 150kg hip thrusts today, if you only just hit your 50kg personal best a couple of days ago?
Both of these examples are obviously quite unrealistic, and for most people, they'd probably expect themselves to fail at the first attempt. In this case, they should logically reassess those targets and set smaller goals that are realistic for their ability and the timeframe, for example, running 5k in under 30 minutes after a month of dedicated running training, or working to progressively increase their hip thrust PB each week.
So why is it that our thought process tends to be very different when it comes to physique-related expectations?
It isn’t too surprising, considering we are constantly bombarded with clickbait and ads promising to help us "shred 10 kg in a week” or “build a booty in a month”. A mix of unrealistic expectations and wishful thinking makes our brains believe that it’s an attainable goal to be able to see physical changes from the moment we start putting the work in.
The issue is, your transformation isn't going to happen overnight, and for most people, probably not in a few weeks either. Expecting big changes to happen in an instant can really hurt your self-esteem and hinder your progress if you stop believing in the process and yourself.
Our long-term client Ellie is the perfect embodiment of putting in the hard work and trusting the process over a longer period of time. She shares her experience with seeing slow progress on her fitness journey.
“It's easy to think we're not progressing sometimes. If you're like me and you are a slow progress kinda gal, don't be discouraged!
Never give up, because hard work forever pays off. Slow progress is still progress. It doesn't matter at what speed you are progressing: at any speed, forward is forward”.
The key to setting realistic expectations for your fitness results is accepting that no long term journey is ever going to be linear.
When you look at some one else's accomplishments on social media, you typically only get a look at the before and after shot without actually seeing what they’re going through every day.
It might seem like their results happened in a perfectly straight line, but you don't get to see the ins and outs of the real journey, that actually looks a lot more like a rollercoaster.
The little twists, turns and curves you don't get to see are all the typical disruptions we all experience, like getting sick or injured and having to take a break, social events popping up and going over your calories every now and again, or the down days where you'd rather stay in your pjs on the couch then train. All of these are completely normal and are to be expected on this journey.
During those times where you’re a bit further away from the “straight line of success”, it may seem like you’re getting nowhere, but so long as you are taking steps forward and not giving up, you’re still moving in the right direction.
Even if you don't end up hitting your exact goal in the original time frame you set, don't forget to celebrate all the other wins and progress you've made on the way.
To go back to the example of running a marathon - they might have been following all the training protocols to a T and eventually discovered that their endurance is not quite there for the full 40 km, but instead found that they're a natural sprinter. Is that in any way worse, or less valuable? No, just different! Is it still progress and growth? YES.
The key is to keep an open mind and be willing to adjust your final goal. While it’s true that theoretically anything is possible with enough time and resources, sometimes it’s wiser to adjust your expectations and become the best version of YOU, instead of a close enough representation of someone else.
Here are a few practical tips to help you match your efforts to your expectations, and achieve the best results throughout your journey.
Set realistic goals
Take your time to set goals that are actually meaningful to you and achievable, by thoughtfully going through the entire S.M.A.R.T. goal setting process. Grab a pen and paper and write down all your goals, and break them down to analyse whether each goal you set is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. By getting clear on each aspect, you will save yourself from shooting too high or too low.
Don’t compare yourself to others
Comparison is an innate part of human nature, but we also know that it is the thief of joy and can be detrimental to our sense of self-worth.
Avoid setting someone’s physique as your “goal body” or the ideal you're working towards. While it’s entirely true that it’s possible to change your shape with training, there are limitations to this such as natural build and genetics. If you naturally have a long, dainty frame, striving to become like someone who’s naturally curvy and possesses a softer physique is setting yourself up for an almost guaranteed failure - and vice versa.
If choosing a fitspo crush is the motivation that works for you, make sure that they naturally have a similar shape to yours, and what you're aiming to achieve is realistic. You may not be able to assess this on your own, so it’s always good to ask for an opinion from a friend you can trust, or better yet, a fitness professional to be objective and constructive.
Always remember that everyone progresses at different rates, and there’s absolutely no point looking at someone’s seemingly faster changes and getting discouraged. This can be hard to accept, but making comparisons will only make you feel unnecessarily upset and discouraged.
Our inspiring client Bex shares her words of wisdom about self-worth.
“I’ve been doing MWU Programs for 1 year and 3 months now, and have completed multiple Challenges, repeating a few of them along the way. I quickly realised that this journey is about lifestyle and long term changes, not quick fixes or trying to lose as many kgs as possible.
In fact, I’ve learned to not measure my worth by a scale at all. It honestly means nothing and that’s the way I used to measure my value entirely! I've learned so much about nutrition, self love, finding the workouts that work for you, consistency, and so much more - and all this has helped me undo years of negative diet and exercise myths and fads that I believed were true!”
Consider your starting point
A big part of setting realistic expectations is assessing your starting point. You must look at it from a place of loving kindness and self-compassion, but still be honest with yourself on:
- What lifestyle have you been leading over the last weeks, months, years
- Where is your body composition at, and what you want to work on (you - not someone else projecting their perception of beauty and strength onto you)
- What is your fitness level - including your strength, endurance, and exercise frequency
- What is your health status - whether you have any injuries or conditions that may have an impact on your journey
- And anything else that helps you build a big picture of your reality
Think about the goals and standards that might be challenged, for example if you’ve never exercised before, jumping straight into 6 sessions a week may be too taxing on your body.
If your goal is to lose 20 kg all together, understand that you will not get there in just a weeks healthfully.
Don’t place any pressure on yourself that is unnecessary. Think about what advice you’d offer to your best friend at the same starting point and do your best to apply it to yourself. Remember that this is not a race, it’s a journey that should be enjoyed, taking time to appreciate the views and plenty of discoveries along the way.
Remember that this is your journey, not anyone else's
Comparing yourself to others, setting goals to please someone else, or trying to fit into someone else’s shoes is only going to cause you grief.
If you can set realistic expectations and put in your best effort to meet them, then you will be surprised by just how much you can achieve.