Why Goal-Setting Doesn’t Work

Yep, you read that right. Coming from one of the biggest goal-setting freaks you’ll meet.

Goal-setting, the way most people approach it, simply doesn’t work. Not in the quantum-leap, overnight-success way that most first-time goal-setters assume it should.

This, of course, is where most people go wrong with their New Year’s resolutions — they expect that they’ll suddenly have willpower they’ve never had before, and they’ll use that willpower to get immediate and dramatic results.

Most people — and I’ve been one of them — think that once they’ve set goals, magic should happen. As if that’s all you need to do to: set the goal and write it down, then visualize, visualize, visualize, and untold fortunes will soon come flowing your way.

Or, slightly less airy-fairy but no more true, that the simple act of writing down a goal and committing to it virtually guarantees that you’ll find a way to make it happen.

I’ve got some bad news: setting a goal just isn’t enough.

What Makes Goals Work When They Do

Don’t get me wrong: I strongly believe in the tremendous power of goal-setting, when it’s approached from the right mindset. So what’s that mindset?

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33 Rules I Strive to Live By

iStock 000004705762XSmallToday — December 26th, 2013 — is my thirty-third birthday.

Everyone always assumes having a birthday right after Christmas is no good because you get short-changed on presents, but I’ve always loved it — having Christmas, my birthday, and New Year’s (still my favorite holiday) all in one week is pretty sweet. And writing this post is the closest I’ve ever come to working on my birthday, another plus.

I like what Leo did for his birthday post a few years ago, so here’s my version. This list of “rules,” of course, leaves out many obvious ones like “be a faithful husband,” “tell the truth,” etc. And I’m by no means perfect with the ones I’ve included here, but I’m happiest when I am doing well with them.

I hope you find one or two that might be worth adopting in your own life.

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Cold Therapy & Weight-Loss Expert Ray Cronise: The Optimal Diet, and Is Exercise Unnecessary?

Podcast Radio2From his appearance in The 4-Hour Body to an ABC Nightline interview to his TEDMED talk, Ray Cronise is making waves in the nutrition and weight-loss worlds.

Ray is the guy whose ideas led to what in many people’s eyes was the most memorable part of Tim Ferriss’ epic fitness bestseller The 4-Hour Body — that cold stress, in the form of cold showers, ice baths, and cold packs, can play a significant role in aiding rapid fat loss.

Back in 2008, when it was reported that swimmer Michael Phelps ate 12,000 calories a day, it was Ray who noticed that something was amiss. Phelps might have trained harder than anyone, but he wasn’t doing the 10 hours of continuous butterfly per day that under the traditional “calories in / calories out” model would have been necessary to avoid weight gain, when so many calories were coming in.

The missing part of the equation? That the pool was cold, and Phelps’s body had to expend an enormous amount of energy just to keep itself warm.

So Ray, a former NASA scientist who himself had put on some extra pounds over the years, used his scientific training to dive headlong into the study of nutrition and health — and in the process, lost 50 pounds.

And as it turns out, the diet Ray chooses — the one he believes is optimal for weight loss in the short term, health and longevity in the long term — is 100 percent plant-based.

Like any good scientist, Ray is skeptic; indeed, his mindset of questioning long-held assumptions and dogma is what’s primarily responsible for his history of disruptiveness wherever he turns his attention.

But (warning!) this approach means that when you listen to Ray, you’ll likely hear a few things you don’t want to hear: along with his belief that some beloved health foods aren’t so healthy, Ray has recently begun to question whether exercise is really necessary — for weight loss or even long-term health.

In this interview, Ray and I talk for well over an hour to dive deep into his understanding of nutrition and health. He’s not afraid to stand apart from the crowd, and if you listen with an open mind, I promise you’ll learn something new and foundation-shaking.

Here’s what Ray and I talk about in this episode:

  • Ray’s background of disruptiveness with NASA and Zero-G
  • The role cold stress plays in weight loss
  • How Ray got started with a plant-based diet
  • What Paleos and vegans have in common
  • Why it’s utterly ridiculous to label foods as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats
  • Should we avoid added oil and salt altogether?
  • The optimal diet for health
  • Do we really need to exercise at all?

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On Turning Pro — One Year Later

What a year.

On January 4th, 2013, I wrote a post called On Turning Pro, about my plans to overcome debilitating anxiety by “growing up and turning pro” in just about every area of my life.

I was not in a good place, coming off the most worried and powerless six months I had ever experienced. But the new year had brought me the first glimmer of light at the end of that dark tunnel, and in this post I wrote about my plans to navigate the rest of the way out.

Here’s the last paragraph:

January 1st has passed. Another year of your life is gone. And before you know it, this one will be over too. My challenge to you — before another day goes by — is to find the place where you need to grow up and turn pro. And then do it.

I hope you’ll join me.

Fast forward 10 months from when I wrote that post …

It’s October 30th and I’m in San Francisco, sharing a stage at Samovar Tea Lounge with Jesse Jacobs, the owner and founder of Samovar, and Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits and one of my personal heroes.

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My ‘Eat to Live’ Challenge

eattoliveFive years ago, a 10-day challenge led to my eventual decision to go vegetarian (and to start this blog).

A few years later a 30-day vegan challenge, which I completed successfully, actually taught me that I wasn’t ready to go vegan yet. But when I was ready six months later, that month-long experiment was probably to thank.

Why should we do uncomfortable challenges like these, with food or anything else? For me, the answer is clear: you might just discover something you love, when you learn that actually doing the thing is easier than worrying about how tough it surely must be.

But even if your experiment doesn’t lead you to change your life, a challenge around something so near-and-dear as food will almost certainly teach you something about yourself.

And so …

My Latest Challenge

For several years I’ve long been intrigued by the “don’t eat extracted oils” philosophy. Because if I’m honest, oil isn’t a whole food, and I’m fond of saying that I eat whole foods.

I also knew that I ate a lot of salt, woke up every day with an urge for a small, strong cup of coffee, and enjoyed a single (usually strong) beer almost every night.

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Crazy Goals, Running, and the Plant-Based Diet: A Live Recording of My Book Tour Talk

Podcast Radio2What else is there to say? The book tour is done (today is the final event), I’ve written what there is to write about the adventure, and I’m pretty well stoked for the next chapter for No Meat Athlete.

2014 holds some major changes for NMA, the biggest in the five years since I started this little blog. While there’s a lot I can’t unveil quite yet, I can tell you that one change, for me, is a big shift in what I personally do. A shift away from the roles of managing, emailing, accounting, and more emailing, and a return to the simple job of making things — blog posts, podcasts, ebooks, webinars, and a lot more that Doug, Susan, and I have in mind for the next year and beyond.

And what has brought about the desire to make that change is, of course, the experience of the past two months … meeting literally thousands of readers from all across the country, listening to their stories of change, and being inspired to focus again on the things that really matter for this blog. And for this movement.

So in this final post about the tour — and trust me, it’s been amazing but it’s with great pleasure that I move on — I’m pleased to share a live recording from our event at Bearded Brothers in Austin, Texas. You’ll hear me and co-author Matt Ruscigno give what became our standard talks, so that you can get a small taste of what the events were like, in case you couldn’t make it out to one.

Hope you enjoy it — and even better, I hope you use it.

Here’s what to expect in this episode:

  • The best parts of the book tour
  • Matt Ruscigno’s talk at Bearded Brothers in Austin, TX
  • My talk at Bearded Brothers in Austin, TX
  • The “easy” trick for becoming comfortable with what scares you
  • How Doug actually took my advice and put it into action
  • Doug’s plans for his 100-miler
  • The importance of “burning desire” when it comes to habit change

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Make December Your Best Month

With Thanksgiving  finished — and I hope you had a great one — we move into what for my entire life has been my favorite season of all.

No, not the “Black Friday through Cyber Monday” shopping season. Not even just Christmas. But instead, the entire final month of the year, as we head towards a brand spanking new one.

Why December is My Favorite Month of the Year

It’s only since I’ve been an adult that I’ve come to realize that New Year’s Eve and Day are my favorite days of the year. But, considering the total geek for goal-setting I’ve grown into, this isn’t surprising at all.

While I used to spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s reflecting on the past year and putting plans in place for the next, I’ve in recent years expanded those behaviors and that mindset to stretch through the entire month of December.

To me, it seems natural, primal, and in tune with nature — take time during the cold, barren months of winter to plan, so that when it comes time for massive action in the spring and throughout the summer, you’re ready.

Sure beats overeating and getting loopy at holiday parties (though I won’t say I never do those …).

Having treated the past few winters this way, it seems a habit has been formed, and now when the chill enters the air, a sense of possibility is what comes to mind.

If you’re into New Year’s “resolutions” — and I’ll of course remind you that January 1 is arbitrary and that the “clean slate of a new year” effect is almost meaningless — I do believe you dramatically increase your chances of success by using December as a month to get a head start on those resolutions. If not by action, then at least by serious planning and anticipation, so that when the calendar changes, it brings with it a feeling of importance rather than the sense that this resolution will meet the same, silent end so many others have.

So that’s why I love this time of year. And while I’m not saying you need to go into a special goal-setting cave or shun the occasional overindulgence of the holidays (I watch almost no TV throughout the year, then suddenly become a fiend for awful ABC Family movies like Holiday in Handcuffs), I encourage you to start thinking about your goals and the changes you’d like to make now, instead of waiting until the afternoon of December 31st to start thinking about how next year will be different.

And so with that, in hallowed Black Friday tradition …

Special Deals to Get You Jump-Started

Here’s what we at No Meat Athlete have for this weekend, through Cyber Monday — aimed at helping you get a head start (or just a boost of extra inspiration) on whatever big changes lie ahead for you in 2014:

book bundle1. Book/ebook combo packs at over 35% off — a signed copy of the new No Meat Athlete print book + either the Marathon Roadmap or Triathlon Roadmap, priced at over 35% off the combined total regular prices. And as a bonus, you’ll get access to the special goal-setting workshop described below.

2. Exclusive goal-setting workshop when you buy 3 copies of No Meat Athlete: To encourage you to gift the new No Meat Athlete book this holiday season, just buy 3 copies of the No Meat Athlete book (from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooksIndiebound, your local store … anywhere EXCEPT the No Meat Athlete store) and you’ll get access to a special live webinar at the end of December, where I’ll walk you through the goal-setting process I use each year to tackle big, “unrealistic” goals — plus answer any questions you have (about anything at all). Just forward me a copy of your receipt (matt@nomeatathlete.com) and I’ll give you the details!

(And by the way, ebooks work too — the NMA book is available as an ebook, on Kindle, Nook, and iBooks. Amazon even has a special program called Matchbook that allows you to get the Kindle version for $2.99 if you’ve bought the print version!)

3. 25% off everything in the No Meat Athlete store. Shirts, magnets, stickers, ebooks, and even signed copies of the No Meat Athlete print book.

Have a great weekend! And amidst all the shopping, if that’s your thing, take just a few minutes and start to think about what you’d like to change and what you might accomplish next year if you’d let yourself believe that you could … and go into 2014 with engines fired up and raring to go, rather than playing catch up from the very start.

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40 Cities, 50 Days: My U.S. Book Tour Recap

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The 3-foot tall poster my wife and kids used to keep track of me. :)

Just like an ultramarathon, it was both exhilarating and exhausting. There were times when I looked at how far I had left to go before I could sleep again in my own bed, and — feeling completely overwhelmed — I did what dozens of ultras and marathons have taught me to do.

Focus on the next step. And then the next. And then the next.

And, just like that, I went from city to city for a month and a half. Instead of aid stations, they were hotel rooms. Instead of long hikes up hills, they were 8- and 12-hour drives. And instead of downhills, the fun parts that ended too quickly were the events themselves, where I met hundreds and hundreds of No Meat Athletes and felt anything but alone.

I’ve been back home with my wife and kids for two weeks now. I’ll hit the road next week for two more events nearby (Raleigh and Charlotte, NC), but it sure feels like I’m done. And like every ultra I’ve finished, while I’m glad to be done, I’m especially glad to have done it.

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