• Matt Ferrara BS C.S.C.S

F*ck Your Goals

Goal setting is not what you think it is.

We've all been told that setting S.M.A.R.T. goals is the key to success right?

The typical goal setting process starts with identifying an accomplishment you would like to achieve.

This isn't necessarily wrong, as you need to first identify what you want to accomplish before heading off in that direction.

For some this may be hitting a certain number on their bench press or front squat. For others it may be a weight loss goal, or even a daily movement goal such as tracking steps or taking a walk with a spouse each evening.

However, focusing on the goal is sometimes a shortsighted way of approaching your success. Once this goal is established we simply have an ideal end result in mind. We're not even close to done though, as there isn't even a plan in place yet!

Goal setting can be likened to making a to do list. Yes it organizes your efforts, but nothing actually gets done by simply writing the list.

You still have to DO the TO DO's!

From here we need to break your goals down into actionable steps. For example, if you want to bench 315, you are going to have to first hit 225, then 245, then 255, etc.

However, this isn't an action plan. It's simply your goal broken down into further sub-goals. Again, we have expended effort without actually making any progress towards our goals.

Our to do list has been further expanded, but we still haven't actually done anything!

The Work Must Be Done!

Your goals send you in the right direction, but it is the systems that you build that drive you towards success.

I meet with, on average, ten to twenty perspective new members a month. We are a smaller facility, so this number is the lowest it has been for me in years.

At places I have worked prior, I could meet with anywhere from twenty to fifty potential new members in a monthly period.

That being said, the assessment and consultation process is something I have gotten quite familiar with. Repetition breeds success in all aspects of fitness it seems.

One of the most important parts of these consultations is helping the client identify and set fitness related goals. Or, so I thought.

Everyone comes in with an idea of a goal they want to achieve. When I dig further, a lot of times this is a goal they have had for years.

Think about that.

In some cases I have sat down with people who have had a singular goal for over ten years, yet they haven’t taken the steps towards achieving it…

Even if they have started the process, they have undoubtedly gotten stuck. Otherwise, why else would they be sitting across from a table from me on a Saturday morning at 7am?

So if goal setting isn’t what gets people to take action and achieve what they set out to, what does?


Systems are daily habits and routines that are small, consistent steps towards your goals.

The reason they are so effective is that they include actionable steps, as well as focus your mindset in a more productive direction.

Instead of focusing on the outcome, you are focusing on the daily input. This is literally training your mind to enjoy the process, and the outcome will take care of itself.

Long term goal setting can be frustrating because it shifts the emphasis to a future outcome as opposed to the here and now. You are striving to be healthy or strong or lean, but you aren't there yet and won't be happy until you are.

With systems, you are working to change your identity and lifestyle, not the outcome. Every day you do the actions that are in line with your goals and gain satisfaction from that.

If you lift weights every day, you identify as someone who is strong and values strength

Therefore you live a lifestyle congruent with the goals of getting stronger. This has a variety of unforeseen benefits including putting you in atmosphere with like minded individuals and helping you feel more successful in the short term.

Goals are temporary milestones, systems are a patterns of thinking and acting that have been imprinted onto your personality to help define who you are.

Strong people train hard, overcome excuses, and seek out growth as opposed to discomfort. They don't just bench press 315, even though that may be a byproduct of living a strong lifestyle.

Goals focus on doing, systems focus on being.

Should I Still Make Goals?

Yes and no.

Goals should still be made, as they help identify what you want to accomplish.

However, I like to start my clients off by thinking about values instead. From there we can link goals to their values and develop systems to help them get there.

Is your goal weight loss?


Do you want to look better, feel better, and be able to keep up with your kids?

Then maybe your true value is promoting a healthy lifestyle for your family.

From here, we can start implementing systems that help you start living that lifestyle TODAY.

We aren't going to focus on how many pounds you want to lose and how that breaks down into weight loss for each week.

Instead, we are going to start implementing habits that put you more in line with that desired lifestyle.

Maybe that means going for a walk with your family every evening and having more healthy food options in the house. Maybe it means ordering better food options when you go out to dinner with your children in order to set a good example.

These systems will be personal to you, but they will be key in helping you achieve your long term goals while at the same time receiving positive feedback for the small actionable steps you take each day.

Interested in turning your goals into systems that you can take action on? Schedule an in person consultation with me at Arkitect Fitness in Concord NH, or a complementary phone consultation with me via skype.

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