Are You Setting Realistic Goals?

First off, I fully get it that everyone wants to be the best version of themselves that they can be.  Some would almost kill to look a certain way or be able to do a particular feat or task.  So, with this in mind, I’ll kick off this article with one simple, truthful statement…

Most people who exercise, strength train or compete in strength sports, will never make it past the level of intermediate…and that should be totally OK!

Somewhere along the way, the standard for what is considered “normal” has risen in the strength & conditioning and fitness industry.  There is no question that the popularity of being physically active has increased over the years, and even more so within the time frame where instant access to virtually everything became a click, tap or scroll away.

Seeing the highlight reel of others started to play an unconscious part in how many people set their own individual goals as well as what they think is attainable if they just do what they see or assume the other person is doing.

This is where the unfortunate truth has to be revealed, or more so, the reality has to be explained and laid out.  I am going to highlight some of the major reasons that some people achieve their goals, while many others start off strong, but come up short.  It should also be understood that even the term “came up short”, could be heavily shifted to have a more positive meaning, if more realistic goals were set that better coincide with the actual EFFORT that someone is willing to CONSISTENTLY put in and the ACTIONS they are prepared to take to get there.

It is the larger and more challenging goals that create the real separation.  As a coach for well over a decade, I have had the pleasure of seeing clients coming from all walks of life achieve major lifetime goals:

  • Win World and International Championships
  • Squat 500lbs
  • Lose 100lbs over the age of 50

These are just 3 examples of goals that required a lot of very consistent effort and the commonalities between them couldn’t be more clear.

I feel if more people allowed themselves to set their sights on goals that match their true willingness to commit and take action, far fewer people would quit part way through and would instead make steady improvement.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in aiming very high and pushing the hell out of your comfort zone, however not everyone is up to that task.

Here are a few reasons that should make it OK to accept being average:


  1. Are you being realistic about your starting point

You need to take a legitimate look at where you are now.  If your base is low, you can’t set a goal that is 10 levels above you.  Start with a goal that is within reach and carry that momentum towards new goals you can set later.  If you can’t do 1 proper push up, you likely won’t be benching 350lbs right away, and if you can barely make yourself get up in the morning, a full marathon is likely not a solid first goal just because your friend motivates you and you want to be just like them.  Start with something short and increase as you go.

Know where you are at, then take the necessary steps to create a plan of action to get you moving forward.  Being at a low level doesn’t make you less than someone else, it just makes you who you are now, at any given time.


  1. Be sure to consider the obstacles you are going to be forced to work around

Many people see only the goal at the end.  There are going to be obstacles along the way, and your willingness to encounter and problem solve will be a huge factor in achieving higher level success.  This can be seen to be true when someone starts a business with an excited idea and enough money to action it.  Once things get tough, and I mean real tough, the strong ones will find a way, adapt and do what is necessary.

Others however, find refuge in excuses or accepting less that they set out to accomplish.  The failure may be enough to stop them all together, which means the goal was not appropriately chosen to begin with, or at least not with all aspects considered.

Things are going to get in your way, and when life punches you square in the mouth with a shitty day at work, a teenager who won’t listen or a fight with your partner, you still need to take action and do what is necessary.

Champions in all aspects of life know this, and they tackle obstacles with vigor.  If that is not your jam, that’s cool, but know that it will continue and something always gets in the way.


  1. Advanced and Elites Make a Ton Of Sacrifices 

The lives of those at the top in fitness and sports performance involve a lot of personal sacrifice.  Giving up social time with friends or family, training on weekends instead of a weekend getaway, making sure to get more sleep and planning meals for a busy week are just a few things that may need to be done to succeed.  If your hopes are to train Monday, Wednesday, Friday and take your weekends off to socialize, relax and enjoy some casual drinks, that works too, but don’t expect advanced results with minimal time and effort invested.

Beginners will make tons of progress like this and quickly move to the level of intermediate, however higher level results will require more effort to be put in somewhere and some other sacrifices to be made along the way.  Knowing this in advance makes the process a lot more clear and expectations can be set more realistically.


  1. Your comfort zone is too small

Above average athletes and others who succeed in life accept the simple fact that life is going to be really uncomfortable sometimes.  Achieving high level fitness means you have to accept that training will not always be a walk in the park.  You are going to have to deal with aches and pains, sore hands, and full blown injuries that may occur.  It is all part of the game, and if you take a soft approach, high level achievement just won’t happen- it is what it is.

The good news is, it doesn’t make you better or worse than anyone.  Maybe you don’t like the feeling of a heavy bar on your back in a squat, or a callus being ripped off your hand on a deadlift or snatch.  A lot of people don’t.

If you are not willing to accept a sometimes significant amount of discomfort, and then keep going anyway, then following an average training program and working towards average results is perfectly acceptable and probably more along what you are seeking anyway.  The word average gets a bad rap, but literally more people are average that they are above average (that’s why it is an average…lol).  So, for a lot of people, this should be an OK place to hang out.

We are not all built the same, and what is normal for one person can be dramatically different from another.

The sooner you allow yourself to be the one who drives your decisions and not a pre-determined standard for what you should be doing or able to accomplish, then better off and happier you will be.

I’ll end this by saying that I absolutely believe in high intensity and being an animal in any goal you attack.  However I work with so many walks of life, that I know that health, more energy and being able to do the things you want on a daily basis is 100% the goal of many people.

The problem comes when goals or expectations are not set in a way that allows the process to achieve them to be positive and steadily moving forward.  Select your goal and consider what it would take to get there.


Keep training simple and push to be your best version of what is right for you, not someone else’s standard.