How to Achieve Your Health and Fitness Goals • Common Purpose

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How to Achieve Your Health and Fitness Goals


Words by Common Purpose Team

Published 7th November 2019

Approximately 5 minutes Reading Time


Brief Article Overview


  • To understand where you want to go, you must first know where you are at present.
  • To clarify a goal, apply the SMART principle: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic/Relevant and Timed.
  • Address inaction and ambivalence by using “fear setting”.
  • Make “worst-case scenarios” explicit and put appropriate preventative measures in place as a fail-safe.
  • Run a cost-benefit analysis of action vs inaction, then extrapolate this over the next 2 years.
Know Thyself


I bet you didn’t think we’d start this article with some Ancient Greek philosophy, did you? Well, here it is. According to our trusted source (Wikipedia), the Ancient Greek aphorism “Nosce Te Ipsum” (Know Thyself), is one of the Delphic maxims and is inscribed on the Temple of Apollo. So, it probably contains some worthwhile wisdom for just a few words. It’s essentially a call for introspective thinking into past errors and transgressions, as well as an understanding and awareness of your current state of being. 


Let’s bring this analogy into the 21st century. SatNavs get you from point A (where you are) to point B (where you want to go). When it comes to goal setting people often fixate on the end goal, but fail to make a truthful analysis of where they are right now. If a navigation system can’t triangulate its current position, it would be completely useless. 


Simply put, to formulate a plan in order to achieve a goal, you must first know where you are right now. Hence, “know thyself”. Set your position first, then set your parameters. Only then can you embark on your journey. 

Be SMART About It


Once you’ve got to grips with your current position, it’s time to create your goal. When doing so, we follow 5 easy to remember rules using the acronym SMART, which stands for;


1. Specific 


A vague and ambiguous goal is next to useless. Be clear and precise about your goals and why you want to achieve them. If you have multiple goals, you can separate them in order of priority, we like to use the terms ‘primary goals’ and ‘secondary goals’. 


2. Measurable 


You should be able to measure your goals, in order to your progress towards them. Tracking goals highlights the efficacy of a given intervention, which should be adjusted if and when it’s necessary. 


3. Attainable 


Goals should be challenging, but not so much so that you set yourself up for failure. This is why understanding your current situation, ability levels and tools at hand is so important. 

Goals should align with your deeper why. This may take some reflection, but once this is achieved, the goals you set will gain gravitas and you will be much more likely to stick with them through difficult times. 


5. Timely


Set a timeline that is both realistic and motivating. This also creates a set point, at which you can evaluate your progress and adjust if necessary. 

Lessons from Stoicism


More philosophy (this is relevant though, so bear with us!). People often think of stoic thinking as being inactive and passive. But properly understood, it can be a powerfully useful and productive mindset. It has been described as “an effective operating system for thriving in high-stress situations”. 


Stoicism is a school of thought in which virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge. The truly wise live in harmony with reason and are impervious to fate, fortune and extremes in pleasure or pain. A stoic is not indifferent, no one is impervious to the chaos of life, they are just not emotionally volatile or reactive. 


Understanding that there are things in life we can’t control, and identifying the things that we can, improves the efficiency and effectiveness of our decision making. This enabling us to take action and achieve our goals. Put simply, when life gets difficult, control the controllables.


Action vs Inaction 


To do or not to do, which is more damaging for your development? How often have you set yourself a goal, but never pulled the trigger for reasons you can’t quite put your finger on? 


Fear of action due to overthinking can lead to a “paralysis by analysis”, which can leave you stuck in a rut. As Seneca, the Younger put, “We suffer more in imagination than in action”. 


Whilst the world around you keeps moving forwards, if you stay stuck in the same place, you may end up falling behind without even noticing it (until it’s too late). Progression and development are necessary for a meaningful life. This is why people often regret things they don’t do, as opposed to taking action and making mistakes, from which lessons can be learned.


Fear Setting


Fear setting is a term coined by author and serial entrepreneur Tim Ferris, who took the philosophy of stoicism and created an actionable framework, which can significantly improve your decision making. Once you’ve decided on a goal, and applied the SMART principle, you need to be willing and able to take action. 


Fear setting is a reflection exercise, used to clarify your goals and understand what is holding you back from achieving them. 


What you need:


  • 3 pieces of paper
  • A pen
  • 30-60 minutes.


At Common Purpose, we love goal setting and goal achieving even more! Applying the SMART principle helps us set goals that are explicit, measurable and achievable, which is a great start.


Many of us however get stuck in a state of ambivalence when it comes to putting our plans into action. In our minds, we often overemphasise the negative impact of decision making and underestimate the positive impacts they may have. Writing down our fears and performing a cost/benefit analysis can help clarify these discrepancies and helps put things into perspective so that we can get the ball rolling!

If you’re interested in starting your health and fitness journey with us…


Disclosure: This is article is not to be used as medical advice. If you are currently experiencing physical or mental health issues, please seek professional advice from a fully qualified Nutritionist, GP or Physiotherapist.