Why? Goal Setting and Competitions

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
– Michelangelo (1475-1564)


The Lift: 170kg (also known as 374lbs)

I just got back from another competition this weekend.  I competed in the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic in Columbus Ohio and got a couple of long time monkeys off of my back and made some lifts I have been struggling with for way too long.  I finally did an official 374 lb clean and jerk and did the highest competition total I have ever done.  I have been able to make these lifts for along time in training but never have been able to put them together in a competition.  Needless to say it was very gratifying and rewarding for me considering how much and how long I have been training and competing.  At this point in my training career a mere 10lb gain in strength in 1 year on my competitive lifts is a good year.

Yes, 12 months of training for a mere 10lb improvement is progress.  Consider that for a second.  That is not much folks.  I have many beginners who can gain 10lb in strength every single week until they dial in to their potential and taper off.  However, this is simply because they are learning a new skill.  They are NOT gaining that much muscle that quickly, that’s not how it works.  Most of these gains are through neurological improvements in coordination and passing through their learning curve.  Once this slack is taken out muscular changes begin to take effect.  And the process begins which can take more or less time depending on how much work is done, how intensely, genetic, and lifestyle factors.  The beginner will still however be able to make very large gains within one year’s time and for multiple years.

Thank God this year I gained more than 10lbs of strength!  But, its because after 19 years of this I am still learning new things, learning how to push and motivate myself, never losing sight of my goals, no matter how far away, you have to stay hungry.  But, all for a mere 10 lbs of strength, why?  I must really suck!  Yes, that is part of it, and I would love to blame my genes, but that is a cop out.  I wouldn’t accept that from my clients and I don’t accept that for myself.  Are my genes world class, hell no!  But they are capable ones, and I WILL get the best out of them that I can.  They don’t have a choice because my will power will always be in control over my body.

“Life’s real failure is when you do not realize how close you were to success when you gave up.”
– Unknown

What I DO have, is work ethic (thanks mom!).  The will power and desire to put the work in, regardless of the fact that I will get so little of a return after ALL of that work.  I am no different than any body; I am not physically gifted in anyway. I go through pain everyday, I get tired, hungry, unmotivated, etc. All I do is keep going at it and never quitting, slowly but surely, I find little pieces of improvement and I am never satisfied, but content nonetheless.  And it’s enough to keep me going.  Maybe, I am just to stupid to give up.  But hey, whatever works right?

As you can see things just don’t happen on their own and take massive amounts of time and energy.  I find some peoples expectations a bit ironic and naive as they walk in the door expecting things to happen over night with less than optimal effort AND become discouraged when any opposition or struggle is achieved.  The journey IS the reward.

“I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying.”
– Michael Jordan (b.1963)

I urge you to consider what it’s like in my shoes for a second.  Everyone thinks they have it soooooo hard.  And bitch about putting in 60 minutes day, wow.  I put in 24 hours per week of training for a yearly gain of hopefully 10lbs in strength…talk about frustrating!  I have literally had to organize my whole life around being able to make any sort of improvements.  So, sorry folks, I don’t have much sympathy for the whining and complaining.  I understand situations are never ideal but if you want it bad enough, you will find a way.  In no way am I suggesting you do what I do to improve.  Please don’t, I have serious problemsJ  I’m just trying to relate with you and your struggles.   I have seen miracles happen over time with ONLY 1hr worth of exercise each day.

But, how do I stay focused and motivated for such a small gain. Pushing myself tirelessly year in and out for 19 years pushing my potential to its maximum?

First of all the rewards are much deeper than the 10 lbs strength gain.  The rewards are infinite and would take me over 20 pages of writing to fully detail and you don’t want that.

But, how do I stay driven each day?  I set GOALS.  More specifically, I compete in competitions.  Just like bodyweight or body fat percentage can serve as personal bench marks for weight loss, weightlifting competitions are the true measuring stick for what I do.  The truth is I really don’t like competing all that much.  I like to train.  For me, the training process is very rewarding and all the satisfaction I would ever need from exercise.

However, if I didn’t have goals to shoot for this process would unravel much differently and enthusiasm would suffer.  And complacency would set in.  And after a while I would see my fitness level decline…just like everyone else in this world, my body doesn’t just enthusiastically jump into 4hr workouts.  I have to MAKE it happen.  And 4 hours must be packed with QUALITY PRODUCTIVE work.  I’m not just killing time here.  If I could get myself to such a level with less work, believe me I would do it.  However, I just need allot of work to improve.  And, I found the point on that continuum required to make my body improve to the point I want.

Just like you I have to talk myself into it everyday, I have to internally motivate myself everyday, I have bad days, I must push myself to the furthest pain levels I can handle, I must put my body under so much stress that it is forced to improve, break, or die.  But, if I was just shooting from the hip with no target in mind or destination is site, this process would be very depressing and fruitless.

A friend of mine asked me yesterday why I compete.  And, considering I don’t exactly enjoy competing (I compete for many reasons, rewards, status, prestige, gratification, etc) but at the end of the day I NEED to compete so I can keep myself improving.  And in the end I am not competing against other competitors but MYSELF.  How do I do better and better while getting older and older? I hold myself to standards and behaviors each week that ensures I have the opportunities and ability to improve.

I compete for my own reasons and it keeps me focused and progressing.  What are your reasons? Each competition is nothing more than a set of goals and targets I am shooting for over a given period of time that I progressively work toward with single minded focus on that target. Losing 1 lb is a goal, a personal competition.  Getting yourself to run 1 mile, to be able to exercise 6 days per week.  All of these goals add up and serve as weekly bench marks and behaviors to get you to that target. Get clear on what you want, aim at your target, and map out your plan of action.  Then execute, execute, execute.  Over and over.  My last competition was 48 hrs ago and it’s now useless to me.  It’s now history and I must set new sights or I will decline in desire and ability.  It serves only as a bench mark to improve upon so that I may get better.

Now it’s your turn.

You must find out your WHY to do the WHAT.  With no emotion or passion behind your efforts your TARGET may never be reached and when the going gets tough it will be very easy to quit, give up, and come up with excuses and reasons why you are not succeeding.  You will end up nowhere and repeatedly frustrated, no regrets!

No matter how big or small you must set goals (personal competitions) and know WHY you are doing it and use that to push you to new personal limits each day, each week, each month, all year long!

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