Psychologists know that the best route to a stronger, fitter and healthier body is through setting specific goals. That’s why Felix Economakis works with the clients of Ceo Personal Training, who pay £35,000 for a holistic, 12-month program to deliver their own body and wellness goals. He has seen firsthand the mental pitfalls that lie in wait for those aiming to transform their bodies, and knows the best tactics to use to make sure you don’t fall at the first, or last, hurdle.
RSNG spoke to him to find out how you can optimise your body goal setting, maintain your motivation, deal with setbacks and stay on course to make real progress, right now…
RSNG What’s the biggest myth about goal setting?
FELIX ECONOMAKIS, PSYCHOLOGIST ‘That wanting it desperately is enough. Books like ‘The Secret’ tell people something like: If you visualise something you want hard enough, the universe acts like a cosmic version of Amazon, and consumer goods will magically fall on your lap.’
‘I think a lot of poor people desperately dream of cars and goods but we don’t see them materialising all over the place for them. Seeing yourself rolling in money or shiny goods is not enough. There has to be a bigger creative drive behind that.’
RSNG How can we go about setting successful body goals?
FE ‘Ultimately what keeps people pursuing and maintaining goals is a passion for our goals. If we don’t have an underlying passion, our behaviour will stray or fizzle out. The goals have to be exciting and continue to provide the fuel to keep doing what we need to do.’
‘How could you get excited about your body goals? For instance, does the idea of creating a new body shape, or becoming twice as strong or twice as fit, or more physically attractive, excite you?’
‘How about the idea of setting yourself a personal challenge to beat targets at the gym? If I say, “Next week I will make that lift 5kg heavier” and then I achieve that goal, my brain rewards me with a little dopamine hit, which will inspire me to keep pushing my goals and get more rewards.’
‘Success comes from taking a little action regularly – every day you move a little closer to the goal’
RSNG What’s the biggest mental roadblock to realising our goals?
FE ‘There are several:
- Being too desperate. Desperation creates pressure and performance anxiety.
- Poorly formed goals, such as being too vague. Instead of saying, “I just want to lose weight”, ask yourself how much weight? How good do you want to look?
- Unrealistic and unattainable goals will keep you feeling defeated and deflated.
- Negative attitude. Some people see the thing they want, whereas other people see the thing that prevents them from getting what they want.’
RSNG How can we prepare for success?
FE ‘Success comes from taking a little action regularly. Every day you move a little closer to the goal. Practice patience – just because you want it doesn’t mean it will materialise immediately.’
‘We’re are used to getting our whims met immediately (we can download music and films, and get goods either immediately or via next day delivery, and even find a date with a few simple clicks). But you’re not going to get a body like the ones you see on the cover of magazines in a couple of gym sessions.’
‘Also, appreciate the journey to get there. Sometimes the more important issue is what did we learn in the pursuit of the goal versus just getting the goal itself. The goal is not so much to get a blackbelt in karate, for example, but learning discipline, perseverance, body strength and mental toughness. This is more impressive than just proudly proclaiming, “I am a black belt.”’
‘Be flexible about how you will achieve your goals. Sometimes life throws a detour. Adapt. Don’t get hung up on one way to pursue a goal.’
RSNG What are the benefits of finding a mentor to our goals?
FE ‘A mentor can guide you through tough times, help keep you focused on your goals, anticipate obstacles and help make you accountable for your goals. Often people will be prepared to let themselves down, but not their mentors or coaches.’
RSNG What is a classic mistake people make when setting goals?
FE ‘With body goals it is often about unrealistic goals in too short a time that end up seeming unattainable and people give up because the subconscious mind feels powerless.’
‘With mental goals it is about being too focused on the outcome – being too desperate, putting on too much pressure and being too rigid in your ideas of how to achieve it. As long as you have a destination, don’t get too hung up on there only being one way of achieving it.’
RSNG Do you follow a system of goals or draw a roadmap to the ultimate one?
FE ‘With body goals a good plan provided by a mentor gives your mind something to work on and overcome. Our brain evolved to solve problems, so it loves being set challenges; think about the fun we have when given a puzzle or similar challenge.’
‘With a mental goal, be very clear about your destination but be flexible in its pursuit.’
RSNG Can you make your goal too specific, setting you up for possible failure?
FE ‘It’s quite a good idea to have a specific workout plan, but it will always need updating as the muscles get used to the new stimuli. Don’t just do the same things that worked once because there will come a point of diminishing returns.’
‘Feedback is important. If something is working, keep it, if something is not, adaptation is needed.’
‘Do you really want that goal? Or do you actually want something else?’
RSNG Give us a personal example of setting a goal and achieving it, and a lesson learned along the way?
FE ‘I’ve written two books. Writing a book can be a lot of mental effort and thinking but it is a lot easier when broken down into manageable steps rather than trying to do everything at once:
- Decide the purpose of my book. What’s the point it wants to make? What does it want to raise awareness about?
- My goal right now is to paste info that I’d like to include, into the book.
- My goal right now is to sequence these chunks of info into a logical order.
- My goal right now is to link points together, fill in bits between and add more examples, and case studies that come to mind.
- Repeat and refine until finished.’
RSNG What should I do if I fall short of a goal?
FE ‘Evaluate the factors involved:
Is your goal realistic?
Do you really want that goal? Or do you actually want something else? For example, are you only going to the gym because you feel you should go to the gym, but really you’d much rather go dancing. It may not burn as many calories, but you are far better off dancing because you are much more likely to stick at it.
What qualities do you need to cultivate? Focus? Patience? Diligence? Perseverance?’
WHAT NEXT? Stuck in a mental rut? Want to change something about how you think? The good news is that you can transform your own mindset – read the RSNG guide to find out how.
Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.
Felix Economakis is a psychologist at CEO Personal Training, a 12-month holistic training and wellbeing programme for CEOs and senior executives in London.
Follow this article’s author on Instagram @The_Adventure_Fella