“An archer cannot hit the bull’s-eye if he doesn’t know where the target is.”
The Summons and Failproofing Your Goals
The greatest diet in the world – no matter how much research you’ve done; no matter whether it incorporates a holistic lifestyle approach or not – will end in failure if it’s not properly implemented.
This is the practical side of human behaviour that transcends the science – and it’s something we’ve learnt over and over at Real Meal Revolution, both in our own personal stories and in the many stories of those who have Banted with us.
The first thing you have to do is set a goal – not that hard. Then you have to lock yourself into that goal and give yourself no option other than succeeding – and that is hard.
If you’re comfortable with your own goal-setting techniques that’s a good start. Use them properly. If not, we recommend RMR’s battle-proven two-part goal-setting process, which uses a very specifically structured set of goals and a locking-in method we call The Summons that’s designed to create accountability and motivation.
We talk about our diet and our lists a lot, but we rarely talk about what it takes to actually stick to the diet and the lists.
Changing Your Lifestyle is Breaking up
Overhauling your health and weight is about lifestlye, not just diet, so when you do it there are going to be secondary effects beyond your kitchen.
It’s complicated. In fact, it’s like breaking up.
It’s not just about the two of you (you and your food); it’s about who you used to hang out with (eat and drink with) too. No-one who isn’t absolutely involved in your life is going to sympathise much. Your friends’ lives are going to carry on as before.
They’ll eat what they want and you may hate them for it. When you complain about your new stupid diet they’ll ask why you broke up in the first place, and when the dessert order comes you’ll feel like you’re watching all your friends hook up with your ex…
I’m painting a depressing picture here to illustrate just how tough a change of lifestyle can be, and what it takes upfront to give yourself the best chance of success.
The first thing to realise is it’s very unlikely to work in isolation, so you’re going to have to make some (non-dietary) changes in your life.
You’re going to have to involve the people who matter to you in your goal, and if necessary you may need to see less of certain people who don’t share your approach to food and eating – or see them in different ways. A friend you usually have tea and cake with might become the new friend you go on walks with, for instance.
To do this effectively, we call on The Summons, which uses different tiers of accountability to assist you in the process locking yourself into your goal.
Let me explain…
A summons is a document issued by the courts; it details the particulars of a claim someone has made against you. Once the sheriff serves you with a summons you immediately have two tough options to choose between: you can spend time and money to defend yourself in court or you can do nothing, in which case, the court enforces the charge and puts the might of the law on your tail. You have no other option; you are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Whatever path you take it’s going to be a difficult one. (Of course, we recommend defending yourself!)
Similarly, in committing to your diet you need to issue your own summons to give yourself two difficult tough options, rather than having one difficult one (stick to your new eating plan) and an easy opt out (quit).
The first tough option is established: following a new diet and lifestyle.
Now you must make the second as important: locking yourself into the diet with a commitment that is more painful to endure should you fail than following the diet itself.
My Case Study
When Thane and I swam the 460km Mozambican channel, we were lucky enough to inadvertently issue our own Summons.
By the time we hit the water, we had two corporate sponsors who had invested money in us. We had a swimming coach and swim school that had spent time and offered facilities to train us for free. We had approximately a hundred friends and family between us who had been told in great detail over a rather lengthy period what we were attempting to do.
We had a committed crew on the boat who were taking a month out of their lives for the sole purpose of supporting us. We also had thousands of children who would benefit from the money we hoped to raise because we were swimming in aid of Operation Smiles.
The weight of expectation on our shoulders turned out to be more daunting than the months of training and weeks of actually swimming 459 kilometres to Madagascar.
There were so many just-throw-in-the-towel moments on that trip that we lost count, but we were so desperately locked into our goal that dying seemed preferable to failing and then having to face everyone. Letting down the people we had invited into our adventure would have been far more painful than any amount of swimming we had to do.
In issuing your own summons you need to place yourself in a similar situation: between the rock of trying to start a difficult new phase in your life (it gets easier!) and the hard place of letting down those you had committed to. (The good news for you is you don’t have to worry about sharks and jellyfish.)
This step takes great courage it is worth it.
“If you’ve ever had a goal or dream that you thought people might laugh at if you told them, I feel for you. But there is a paradox in not telling them. Because, one of the best ways to increase your chance of success is by including and engaging with others.”
Meet Mary and John
An example to illustrate my point:
It is exactly one year until a specific ultra-marathon. Two people, John and Mary, have decided to run it next year. Although they are of equal fitness and the idea of a marathon is terrifying for both of them, they each adopt a different approach.
On the day that entries open, though it is a year until race day, Mary goes online and buys an entry. She tells her friends and family she’s doing it. She joins a running club and tells the coach what her goal is, and asks him if he can give her pointers. She spots runners in the group who have the same goal and asks them questions about how they’re going about it. She also tells these runners what she’s doing. She even approaches her friends and family to sponsor her run in aid of a local charity, and she encourages her running buddies to do the same.
On the flip side, John tells himself he’s going to enter at a later date because there are always spots available. He’ll hold out until the day before to buy his ticket.
He doesn’t tell any of his friends and family what his goal is because he’s worried about being that guy. He thinks groups are lame and doesn’t fancy himself as a joiner.
He also isn’t sure he wants to be seen as “a runner”.
He decides he’s going to go it alone and train himself. He doesn’t ask for help. He doesn’t like to put anyone out of their way and he also feels a bit silly asking advice on a simple thing like running, so he also avoids any kind of coaching.
It also doesn’t occur to him to run the race in aid of anything or anyone.
Imagine John and Mary six months later. It’s the middle of winter. It’s pouring with rain outside. John and Mary’s friends are out having a great time drinking gluwein and playing board games, but they have this marathon to train for so they’re trying to stay on the straight and narrow.
They’ve each suffered a few injuries and they’re missing their families as a result of all the time they’re spending running.
As the winter endures, who do think would find it easier to cop out of the race?
The answer is simple: John. Right?
Because John is not accountable to anyone to complete the race.
- He hasn’t told anyone what he’s doing.
- He hasn’t joined with anyone for support.
- He has asked no-one for help, so no-one has invested time and effort into helping him.
- He also hasn’t thought to do it for a good cause.
- He hasn’t even paid for his entry yet. He’s basically left the door open.
Was there just something about Mary?
No. Mary almost has no choice but to succeed.
- She’s already paid for her entry.
- She has asked her coach for extra help on the side, creating an expectation on his front for her to succeed. Remember, coaches succeed through their students’ success: Mary’s completion of the marathon means almost as much to her coach as it does to her.
- Mary has also told her friends and family that she’s training. They’ll give her a hard time about not spending time with them but they will respect her for putting in the work.
- Mary also has a group of peers she has been training with who are going through the same thing. So even though it’s really tough to leave the party early, when she gets up early the next morning to make her running group she’ll be among people going through the same thing as her.
- She’s also doing it for charity which has changed her focus from herself to the worthy cause she supports, which will motivate her further.
As a result of the steps Mary took at the start of her journey, she has locked herself into a much harder shell of accountability to break out of than John has. In fact, it would take a major injury or life event to knock Mary off track.
Mary’s approach can be broken down as follows:
- She committed long before she was ready (by paying and entering the race).
- She told people.
- She joined a group.
- She asked someone for help.
- She made her goal about helping others.
If we take Mary’s approach to creating accountability around our goals, we have a far higher chance of success. Here is why.
Mary, You champ!
The people you tell
Occasionally those closest to you may not be as supportive as you would expect or like them to be. When you declare your ambition to do something that they feel might be bigger or better than them, you challenge the belief they have of themselves, and that may trigger a negative response. When you tell someone about your goal and they talk it down, laugh or try to discourage you, it’s often because they are feeling threatened or insecure.
Quite often the people who are closest to you will make it easy for you to quit because you quitting will make them feel better about their own health choices. In addition, nobody likes to see their friend struggling. They will make excuses for you to drop out so they can be the friends who “helped you”.
Unfortunately, the accountability you have to your loved ones is often bittersweet and may only return dividends once the post-achievement dust has settled.
The people who you join
When you join any support group you become part of something that you benefit from, just as the people in the group will benefit from your participation. When you look to your left and your right and see people suffering next to you, you will naturally feel more motivated.
Likewise, the people to the left and the right of you will look at you and feel the same sense of motivation knowing that you are suffering with them. When you feel great, it’s easy for you to attend a group and it’s likely that your group will benefit hugely from you being there. Equally, when you’re feeling terrible, you will benefit hugely from being with other people in your group.
You might not think it, but you are just as important to the group as the other people in it. Watching others succeed is a source of inspiration and motivation, and when others see you succeed you will be a source of inspiration to them.
The person you ask for help
When you ask someone for help, you are asking them to invest a precious commodity – their time or effort – into you as a person. Regardless of whether or not you are paying for the help, your positive results will give both you and that person satisfaction.
Asking someone who is trained to help people feeds that person’s purpose. There is nothing more flattering than being asked for help, even if it is your business. There is also nothing more rewarding than giving help that yields results.
When you ask someone for help, you might think you are making them accountable, but you are actually making yourself accountable to them to achieve what you set out to achieve. If you don’t achieve your goal then the person who has helped you has effectively failed – and that’s on you.
The people you commit to helping
When you make your goal about helping other people, you become accountable to the people you intend to help by Goal Setting.
Being motivated by charity is the obvious way to help others when you set yourself a goal – whether it is a local pledge at the office or online, or a bigger event with corporate sponsors – but you needn’t look that far afield. It may be a promise to climb a mountain with your family or simply go on a hike with your child on her birthday. Whatever you choose, the gesture of offering your help – your promise – to another puts an onus on you to come through for them.
The web of accountability thickens.
In the end you are accountable to everyone: yourself, your friends and family, your training partners, your coach or adviser, and the people you’ve offered to help.
Setting Your Goal and Goal Setting
Goal setting is easy if you follow some basic rules. If you don’t it is a big waste of time.
Goals that are likely to remain unachieved might be:
“I want to eat healthily and lose weight” or “I’d like to feel comfortable in a bikini this summer”. These are worthy aspirations but they are not really goals.
Much like an actual goal, you actually have to articulate what the net is and what the ball is.
At RMR we suggest adopting the SMART goals model. SMART means:
Specific Is it clearly explained?
Measurable Can it be measured, and what is the measurement?
Achievable Is it actually achievable and realistic?
Relevant Is it relevant to what you want out of life?
Time-bound Is there a specific date and time that this goal will be achieved by?
Specific, Achievable and Relevant are generally straightforward when it comes to dieting, but give them due thought.
Are you aiming to lose weight or get healthier or get fitter or look more attractive – or all of the above? Are you being realistic and sensible? (Remember, sustainable health and weight loss don’t happen overnight.)
Are your goals relevant to you and the life you lead? (We believe that most weight- and health-related goals are, but consider the specifics.)
Measurable and Time-bound are absolutely critical too.
Setting a SMART goal requires clear-headed forward thinking. There must be a tangible number or result that you can visualise, day in and day out, as you head towards it. Nothing must be left to the imagination.
What is the measurable achievable thing that will make you happy?
- Is it a certain number of centimetres off the waist?
- Is it a particular blood reading – your blood-insulin levels, for instance – that will signify better health?
- Is it a specific time for a race or running/cycling/swimming distance?
- Is it a bench-press weight or the number of pull-ups you can do in a minute?
- Is it the disappearance of back pain when playing golf or bloating after meals or foggy head in the morning?
- Is it the number of times you poo in a day?
- What is your deadline?
- On which day does summer start for you? Pick a date and time.
Once you have those answers, define your goal in the form of an “I” sentence – a sentence about you – that is written in the first person, as though it is happening now or has already happened.
“It is 1 December 2017 and I have a 34-inch waist.”
Now, you have a date in the calendar and a number you can continuously repeat to yourself or visualise while you are going about your day. Notice that there is also no emotion attached to it. In time it will simply become a destination.
To achieve greatness – or Awesomeness – of any sort you need to start with a very specific goal. Visualise the goal and lock yourself into achieving it to such an extent that the possibility of failure is more painful than the process itself. If you commit without being ready, tell people, join people, ask people for help and commit to helping people, your odds of success are drastically improved.
Here are the five elements to goal-setting and achievement, using The Summons technique:
- Commit by writing your SMART goal in an “I” sentence.
- Tell people.
- Join people.
- Ask people for help.
- Help people.
“You can’t be ready to commit. You must commit to be ready.” – Jonno Proudfoot