Let’s set the scene. You’re walking into the gym and you know it’s a big day: max out day. In theory, you’ve been training for a while with some semblance of an intelligently designed program and now it’s time to show off your hard work. You get through your warm-up sets and things are feeling good so far. As the weight gets heavier, you’re starting to feel the butterflies creep up from the bottom of your stomach. You get to your top set.

“Dreams and Nightmares” by Meek Mill blasts into your ears. You’re ready. You unrack the bar and then you hear “HOLD ON WAIT A MINUTE YA’LL THOUGHT I WAS FINISHED?!” Now’s the time.

The weight comes down and with all the strength you can muster you drive the weight back up but it stalls. You struggle, but you know that in your heart of hearts it’s not going to happen. Your spotter peels the weight off of you and together you re-rack the weight.

Disappointment and fury ooze from your pours. You thought you worked hard and though that weight should’ve been tough, you thought it was doable. It’s not fair and you are thinking about mailing in the rest of the workout. 

Let’s examine the totality of the situation. I’m going to tell you that you don’t get to be pissed about not accomplishing your goal. Why? Well, because you didn’t hold yourself to a standard that would meet your personal expectation. 

Set The Standard

Using our above example, let’s say the training session in question occurred on a Monday. You spent the better part of Friday night and Saturday getting trashed with the boys/girls. Your diet consisted primarily of cheetos, light beer (because that’s healthy right?), tequila, and take-out. The parties went on till the early hours of the morning because nobody wants to be that person that goes home first. You spent the remainder of the weekend eating greasy food and popping migraine pills in an effort to stave off the crushing hangovers. Then Monday happens and you failed to accomplish your goal. 

Unfortunately, you don’t get to have a bad attitude about it. You single handedly sabotaged yourself the three days prior. What makes you think that you’d accomplish the goal you set out to achieve when you didn’t uphold the standard it takes to get there? You just told me in that example that going out on that weekend was more important than the goal you set for yourself in the gym. That’s perfectly fine but don’t be pissed when you don’t reach your expectation. 

There are reasons standards and guidelines are put in place. In theory, if you attach yourself to them then the deed you set out to accomplish will get done. 

Expecting to accomplish something without pulling your weight through the entirety of the journey is wishful thinking at best.

What Gets Us In Trouble

During our everyday lives we set standards for others. Our kids, our coworkers, our partners all receive some sort of subconscious or conscious standards from us. How many times did we hear as kids “as long as you live under my roof you will be/won’t be…” That’s a great example of a  standard we’ve all been privy to. So, if we set standards for others then we must set standards that are equal or more difficult for ourselves. 

We’ve all had those days where we felt less than optimal, maybe well below optimal and despite feeling this way we were able to fulfill what we set out to do that day. On the flip side, have you ever wondered what you could have done in that timeframe if you were in peak condition? What if I did everything I could to put myself in the best position possible to fulfill this goal? I certainly have. 

What gets us in trouble is relying on our ability to push through despite the self-sabotage we partake in. We set standards for others all the time but often have a difficult time adhering to our own standards. Having that extra glass of wine or can of beer won’t be a big deal because I’ve trained and gotten through it before.

Self-sabotage turns your goal into a moving target and each new negative factor you incorporate pushes that target further from you. Eventually, you get to a point where you’re walking on a proverbial treadmill. You’re moving but you’re not going anywhere. 

Expectations Dictate Standards 

In order to get off that treadmill you have to have a clear understanding of where you are currently and the expectations of where you want to go. Mapping out a plan starts with the expectations you want to set. 

Here’s an example. 

One of my goals is to lose 10 pounds. First, I must know how much I currently weigh. Let’s say I weigh 210lbs and want to get to 200lbs. 

I’ve established the goal or in other words the expectation. I expect to lose 10 pounds. I expect to now do the things that’ll achieve this goal. Now I need to put in place the standards. 

In order to get to 200lbs, what are some things I need to do? Again, I need to establish where I am currently. The easiest way of thinking about weight loss or gain is to think of calories in versus calories out. What is my total caloric intake for a day and week versus how many of those calories I’m actually using. 

It seems simple enough. Now, do I know how many calories I’m taking in on a given day(s)? Probably not, so now I need to track those calories. That in turn becomes a standard. There is now a standard set that I will track my calories every day. 

In addition, I pledge to step on a scale and look at how much I weigh once a week at the same time and on the same day. I have to do this because I can’t fix what I can’t measure. 

Furthermore, I know I have to do some sort of activity in order to burn calories so I make a pledge to workout 2-3 times a week. That’s another standard I’ve set for myself. 

There’s a start. I now know how many calories I’ll be taking in per day and how many times I will workout per week. After each week, I assess how I’m doing and what my numbers look like on average. 

So there are three standards at work here. Tracking calories, weekly weigh-ins, and exercising 2-3x/week. These are all simple and convenient strategies that I can put in place that are repeatable week in and week out. 


Within a matter of a few weeks I should start to see changes. If I don’t, then I need to reassess. Am I tracking my progress everyday like the standard dictated? Am I exercising like I said I would? If the answer is no to these then I cannot get upset at the scale for not showing me what I wanted to see. I cannot get mad at the situation. I didn’t fortify my standards with measurable action so how can I expect anything to change? 

All I’m pointing out is another way to think about goal setting. You must first set standards that you will live by from now on. Once those standards are in place for ourselves everything else will fall into place. 

Harkening back to the example from before, if I did uphold the standards I placed on myself then I can allow myself to be a little annoyed. It’s natural to be upset if you do all the right things but the goal doesn’t get accomplished.

However, I shouldn’t hold onto that feeling because it will not accomplish anything other than giving me a light emotional reprieve. Now I must reassess the situation and see what other standards I can put in place that will be beneficial to me and accomplish my expectation. If the goal doesn’t get accomplished then all that means is there’s still some work to do. 

The thought of more work should be exciting.