BeneFIT PT’s Guide to Working Out: Setting Goals

We at BeneFIT PT presume that all the people through the years that have asked us how they can start working out have had a reason to ask that question. Health reasons, weight loss, to ‘look good for the beach,’ whatever the reason was, there was one for the question to be asked.

Which tells me that the person asking the question already has an obtuse, hazy, generic idea floating in their mind of what they want to accomplish – their goal.

Some Appalling Goal Setting Stats

New Year’s Eve is probably the single most goal creation day in the world. The New Year provides the once in a year line in the sand division to say for that one moment in time the old me is out and the new me has a bright future! According to an article published by the University of Scranton in 2012, almost 45% of Americans make a New Year’s Resolution with the number one resolution people make, you guessed it, losing weight!

However, according to a US news article written by Toby Amidor in December 2013, did you know that of those resolution makers 80% fail by the second week in February and of the remaining 20% only 8 percent achieve them!

In fact, research From the University of Scranton shows that 25% of people give up on their resolution in the first week! The FIRST WEEK!

Furthermore, some studies indicate that 80% of people do not even make goals for themselves at all, ever, regardless of time of year! Another research study suggests that 14% of people have some general idea of their goals but nothing concrete. Does that mean that 6% of us are making goals and hopefully smashing them on a regular basis?

The Problems with Goals

First, no one makes a new goal on something already achieved. The entire reason we make a goal is to attempt to conquer something that historically we have failed at in the past. No one makes goals on things they all ready like to do. Often we make goals to immediately feel good about a positive change we could make.

We get instant gratification yet there is no immediate change necessary as all we are doing is thinking about things that would make us feel good. We don’t have to do anything about that goal just yet…”I’m going to start tomorrow morning/Monday/the first of next month!”. In the Psychology world this is called affective forecasting: using our emotion in the present moment to project how we will feel in the future.

That spike of positive emotion we got from the instant gratification of making a bold proclamation has to be followed up. Unfortunately, when we attempt to make those substantial lifestyle changes to achieve the stated goals we realize, this is a lot of work.

A lot more work, pain, and inconvenience than what we were experiencing in our routine. So we tend to put it off, and we begin to procrastinate those very goals we just felt so good about. Heck, even Mark Twain is famously quoted as saying “Don’t put off to tomorrow what can be done the day after.”

Also, to overcome your procrastination research over the past couple of years is beginning to indicate another potential problem to contend with. When we make goals, we have a vague image of our future selves accomplishing those goals. But that’s it, our goal attaining future self is just some misty apparition floating in the space of our mind.

Researchers from UCLA have done some studies where they have taken fMRI (functional MRI is an MRI that detects brain activity by measuring changes in blood flow of the brain) scans and asked people to think of different things.

When they were shown a picture of themselves now an area of the brain lit up. When they were shown photos of a stranger, a different area of the brain lit up. When they were asked to think about themselves in the future, the area of the brain that lit up was the same area associated with the stranger pictures.

From this study, we can correlate that our brain thinks about our future self just as it does with a stranger walking down the street. Meaning that we have no connection to our future self, no visualization to draw upon to help us achieve our stated goals.

In fact, if you remember what your Mother told you about strangers, then you know how our current mind looks at our future self, as just another person to ignore walking down the street of life.

Check back next week for our next blog post in our new BeneFIT PT’s Guide to Working Out  Blog Series!