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Why It Is Better To Focus On the PROCESS Instead of the End Goal

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 14 May 2020
Hits: 4385

Getting in shape is never easy and in the early stages it may seem like you are getting nowhere. Today’s modern world is moving so fast and technology has allowed us to get things at the click of button that we have come to expect instant gratification in just about everything we do. And when it doesn’t happen people become discouraged very quickly. Most health and fitness experts will tell you the best way to overcome this is to set specific goals you can measure that keep you on track and accountable. For a long time I preached this method too, and while I had some wins with this approach I had many more losses. I came to realise that success has more to do with the process of getting in shape instead of fixating your mind on what you want. Instead of focusing on the end goal of how much weight you want to lose, or how fast you want to run, I found it was more important to focus on the system you were using to get there. In this article I am going to share with you how this change in mind-set can be a complete game changer to the way you approach everything to do with health and fitness.

In one of my articles from earlier this year, how long does it take to get in great shape I explained there are 3 reasons why people often fail when trying to get fit.

  1. They base their entire plan on poor knowledge that is never going to work.
  2. They do not have a plan and apply a random approach of hoping it all comes together.
  3. They have an unrealistic understanding of how long it is going to take.

I would now like to add a fourth thing to this list and say they forget to enjoy and cherish the journey of getting in shape.

In the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear he provides a great analogy that left a good impression of why we should change the way we think about goal setting.

“The goal in any sport is to finish with the best score, but it would be ridiculous to spend the whole game starting at the scoreboard. The only way to actually win is to get better each day. If you were a basketball coach and ignored your goal of winning the championship and focused only on what your team does at practice each day, would you still get results. I think you would.”

For many years I have not paid much attention to regularly weighing people on the scales or doing skin fold measurements like so many other trainers and dieticians. The reason for this is that I find people become obsessed with what the scales would say and use extreme measures to make the number lower, even if it was at the at the expense of their health.

The bathroom scales is not an accurate measurement of health for I have worked with many skinny people who were extremely unhealthy. The health and fitness industry, and even the medical world needs to change their beliefs around the philosophy that losing weight instantly means you are in good shape. Health and fitness are not the same thing.

Instead of focusing on what the scales say or what your skin-fold measurements are, I prefer to measure my client’s progress by how well they execute the PROCESS to lose weight. What exactly do I mean by the process?

This is where I will look at things like their exercise log, how much sleep they get each night, the quality of food they eat, or how often they eat. All of these things are processes required to obtain health, and consequently lose weight and improve fitness. If each one of these improves to a level better than it was before then they will achieve their ultimate goal.

To quote James Clear again - "instead of focusing on the outcome of what you want to achieve, focus on the person you want to become". This is a powerful way to approach health and fitness if you have never had success at sticking to anything in the past.

How Do I Measure The Process?

I will start with exercise.

To be perfectly honest exercise is by the easiest component to measure any improvement you make, whether it is with strength or fitness. Some people like to use specific tests to guide them such as.

  • Maximum push-up test
  • Maximum chin-up test
  • 2km running time trial
  • 500m rowing time trial

These are just some simple examples and there is endless tests you could use. There are no good or bad tests, they just have to be relevant to the person's goals and needs. I myself tend not to use these basic tests as they often become irrelevant as time passes and there is always a point you will reach where improvement will be minimal.

You can see a video below of a detailed assessment I use for sporting athletes that shows several tests I use for strength, speed, power, balance and agility to give you an idea of things I might refer to for measuring improvement.

 

For the average person who just wants to lose a bit of weight and improve fitness my approach is much simpler. I prefer to use every workout as a test and look for small changes within each session. Obviously if they lifted more weight or ran faster that is an improvement but there are many other things you can change and measure. It could be adding a few extra reps, or doing maybe doing 4 sets instead of 3. Other times it might be improving their range on the squat, or perfecting a new exercise. I always make an effort to tell them that their aim to make at least one small change every workout and let them know if they have improved so they can see the change.

Their improvements do not have to be massive they just have to be constant.

For tons of workout ideas and ways to keep progressing with exercise make sure you grab a copy of our Functional Training Report and the Little Black Book shown below.

  

But what about the other factors like nutrition and lifestyle habits. How do you measure those?

I use a simple questionnaire that I learned from my studies as a CHEK Holistic Lifestyle coach 11 years ago and this gives me a good snapshot into the daily habits of my client. This enables me to very closely into the specifics of their lifestyle to find where their self-sabotaging habits are hiding and guide them through the process of changing them one step at a time.

I stress to them it is very important to make only small changes and keep them simple so that they can be easily transformed into new habits! Trying to change too many things at once will only serve to overwhelm them and make a mess.

The important thing to note here is that they will see small signs of progress with this questionnaire really quickly and well before they see any physical change on the scales! And this is where people think it is not working and begin to give up.

Take a look at the picture of one of the questionnaires I use.

The visual representation of a traffic light colour coding gives instant feedback of where they need to place most of their focus. Green is good, yellow is not too bad and needs some attention and red is a high priority. Some people it may be more the nutrition that is the big factor whereas others it could be sleep or stress. In the example above the problem here is more with the food timing and the possibility of a fungal or parasite infection. As it turned out this client did in fact have a parasite infection and once this was addressed her health improved significantly.

Their mission now is to begin making the small changes needed to bring their scores down to the green section. They do not need to be perfect, they just need to be in the green section where the body is happy and healthy. It is in this green section that the body will begin to make serious changes to your muscles, body fat and overall fitness levels.

If you are in the red section your body will not make any changes until health is restored.

5 Ways to Tell That You Are On Track to Reaching Your Goals

Instead of focusing on the scales focus on these five indicators

1. You Have More Energy

Eating quality nutrition has a profound impact on your energy levels and how you feel throughout the day. Here is some of the things you can measure to see improvement with this.

  • You DON'T have trouble getting out of bed.
  • You DON'T need coffee or sugar in the afternoon for energy.
  • You feel like working out more often.
  • The INCREASE in your energy levels will come from the nutrients in the GOOD NUTRITION choices that you are now making.

I know how great I feel when I am consistent with my training and it gives me a real energy boost. I will make much better choices with my food and also at work for I feel so good.

2. You Sleep Better

 

Quality nutrition and regular exercise play a vital role in helping us to sleep better. We need our sleep to repair all the damage to our body and digest our food correctly. It is a massive part of the health process and cannot be neglected.

Stress, hormonal changes, coffee at night, alcohol, late night TV or phone watching, aging & jet lag, are all examples of why we may sleep poorly which will have an impact on our results.

When you begin to eat better and exercise regularly the right quantities of protein, carbohydrates & fats will keep your blood sugar and hormones stabilised, which in turn will allow for better sleep. As you sleep better you gain more energy and do more allowing you to lose weight and reduce your body fat.

Other health problems such as sleep apnea and heartburn will also improve, leading to improvements with fitness.

3. You no longer over-eat or have CRAVINGS for junk food

When you stick to the process of eating well for long enough the bad habits that used to ruin your health begin to disappear. Processed foods are high in energy, salt, sugar, and fat that cause all types of health problems.

These foods have little nutritional value and are very addictive.

For some people, being able to get rid of this destructive habit is arguably the best form of measurement to see improvement with their lifestyle. I don’t know anyone who wants to eat junk food, for we all know deep down that it is not good for us and only ruins our waistline.

Most often food cravings, and particularly sweet cravings, are the result of a complex hormonal reaction, one that is often triggered by the very same foods you crave.

Here's how this works:

The hormone leptin has been shown to target taste receptors on your tongue, thereby increasing or reducing cravings for sweet foods. It is believed that leptin is a sweet-sensing modulator (suppressor), and therefore a contributor to the process that regulates food intake. It is likely that either a lack of leptin, or your body's failure to respond to the hormone due to defects in your leptin receptors, contributes to the so-called 'sweet tooth' or sweet cravings that affect so many people. If you eat a diet that is high in sugar and grains, the sugar gets metabolized to fat (and is stored as fat in your fat cells), which in turn releases surges in leptin.

Over time, if your body is exposed to too much leptin, it will become resistant to it (just as your body can become resistant to insulin). And when you become leptin-resistant, your body can no longer "hear" the messages telling it to stop eating, burn fat, so you remain hungry, you crave sweets, and your body stores more fat. Leptin-resistance also causes an increase in belly fat, sending you on a vicious cycle of hunger, fat storage and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, etc.

For more ideas of how to beat food cravings read the article – Prevent Food Cravings & Speed up Your Metabolism

4. It feels more like a LIFESTYLE than a diet

Diets are boring and hard work. How many people do you know that have tried many diets only to quit after a while because they never really changed other destructive habits in their lifestyle. Before you know it they are back to where they began, and more often than not worse off than where they started.

By focusing on the small changes across many areas as we have discussed so far there is no need for any calorie restrictive diet. This is where you have changed your entire lifestyle and not just one factor.

When this happens you begin to notice key changes like.

  • You naturally gravitate toward healthy foods for they make you feel good.
  • You eat a chicken salad because it tastes great not because it is low in calories.
  • You choose seafood rather than a pasta meal at dinner.
  • You enjoy planning your weekly meals.
  • Treats are just an occasional part of enjoying life.

These are all signs that you are beginning to change your identity to the person who is healthy. Your whole life will change forever and you will not find it hard to stick to this new lifestyle.

5. Your Clothes are Fitting Better

This is a great way to measure progress and much more accurate than any skin fold test. We all know that awful feeling when you try on your favourite pair of jeans and they don’t fit you anymore. For some people this may be the last straw and the catalyst to begin making healthy changes to their diet and exercise regime.

But this is where something weird happens when a person gauges their success only by what the scales say. Often after a month and the number on the scales hardly moves this person thinks all their efforts are not working, they feel defeated and begin to give up on their change.

But, wait a minute, their jeans may actually fit better, even though their weight has not changed! They also have more energy, are sleeping better than ever, and feeling great about themselves. None of this can be measured by the scales, and more importantly none of this has changed yet if you continue to stick to your plan.

For more information about getting your nutrition make sure you grab a copy of our special report below that explains how to adjust your lifestyle and eating habits specific to your needs.

Summary

There is many ways we need to change the way we look at health and fitness and placing less emphasis on losing weight should be at the top of the list. I know it sounds crazy to say it like that but I firmly believe if we talked more about the things you need to do to lose weight we would find it so much easier to achieve great results. We would also find it much easier to stay there as we would be more in tune with our bodies and how we feel.

Remember the journey is more important than the destination.

If you would like to know more about our Personal Training programs click here to request a FREE consultation and I will be in touch within 24 hours to schedule a time.

About The Author

Nick Jack is owner of No Regrets Personal Training and has over 15 years’ experience as a qualified Personal Trainer, Level 2 Rehabilitation trainer, CHEK practitioner, and Level 2 Sports conditioning Coach. Based in Melbourne Australia he specialises in providing solutions to injury and health problems for people of all ages using the latest methods of assessing movement and corrective exercise.

References:

  • Atomic Habits - By James Clear
  • Heart foundation
  • CSIRO
  • Precision Nutrition 
  • Nutrition & Physical Degeneration - By Weston A Price
  • Big Fat Lies - By David Gillespie
  • How To Eat, Move & Be Healthy by Paul Chek