During the last couple years, I've seen a very welcome change in the mindset of many guys and gals entering the gym. They have a plan! Shit is put down on paper, into phones, and on apps to help record the sessions. I love that the general public now knows what they're going to do that exact day at the gym.

Because of guys like planning guru Jim Wendler and his already legendary 5/3/1, people suddenly have started to appreciate good planning. I also plan my clients' workouts and record their achievements, but I started wondering why. Why do we do the things we do? What is our goal with this "balls to the wall" training? To get healthier? To get stronger? To feel better? To look good?

All good reasons but oh so general...

How healthy and what bodily system needs to get pimped up? How strong and what are the weakest links that need the most attention? What will make you feel better? How good do you want to look, and what is your definition of attractiveness?

If your only goal with training is to look better and conquer women, you had better reconsider. You would probably succeed better with a good education and, consequently, a boring job that pays a shitload of money. But if you change your take on training to contain concrete goals—written down, said over and over again, turned into mantras, and carved in rock—your chances increase tremendously!

One theory to describe the motivational process of sports and training is the so-called "achievement goal theory" (AGT). This theory presumes that the individuals need to show an important skill or behavior. What is perceived as success and defeat?

The AGT divides goal setters into two groups:

  • Task-oriented goal setters
  • Ego-oriented goal setters

Those who are task-oriented goal setters are recognized by those who show skill by learning, progressing, developing, and mastering that specific skill. The evaluation of success is through comparison with yourself. Ego-oriented goal setters are more concerned with measuring up in comparison to others (and boosting their ego by that).

I'll leave the validity of the theory and how it measures up with other theories to the guys who know their psychometric research. What I want to show you are the personal characteristics describing the two groups.

Task-oriented goal setters:

  • Focuses on mastering his craft
  • Continuously measures up to himself
  • Has high motivation over a longer period of time
  • Believes in the notion that effort will give progress
  • Cooperates easily with others
  • Experiences flow in work/training more easily
  • Solves problems and doesn't skip or avoid training or tasks at hand
  • Is highly task-oriented and has great respect for rules, referees, and opponents
  • Has high moral values

Ego-oriented goal setters:

  • Has high motivation over a longer period of time
  • Is occupied with measuring up with others
  • Believes that being skillful gives higher social status
  • Experiences more anxiety because he puts his ego at risk each time he participates in his skill
  • Gives up more easily when experiencing defeat
  • Believes that if you succeed with less effort, you are superior to others
  • Wants to show his skill to others and isn't perceptive to feedback from coaches and other authorities
  • Will more easily cheat and show aggression
  • Has lower moral standards
  • Has a higher tendency of burnout

Looking at the two, most of us want to be the task-oriented goal setters, but I believe that most of us have a tendency to at least sometimes be ego-oriented. We want to be better and more superior than the mainstream, or at least better than the guy next to us in the gym. I don’t believe that most of us have to change in order to be better individuals and succeed in our quest for elite fitness. We all just have to make our goals suit the task-oriented lifestyle.

In order to do this, I recommend that everyone read Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 masterpiece. It’s all there! It isn't defined as task and ego-oriented, but it’s all turned to task, task, and task: well-defined, always measuring up with yourself, and over and over again repeating the mantra, "Leave your ego at home!"

Really wanting to be a better you and not caring about other idiots is the only way to continuously improve and never quit. It isn't a lifelong process. It's life itself! Be the best you can be by constantly beating yourself.

What I find is that of all my clients, the ones who can totally engage in this mindset are the ones with the most success. They don't just do it by constantly setting new PRs. They also have this mindset in aesthetics, health, and life. If your main goal is to beat your own PRs in all aspects of physical effort (strength, aerobic and aerobic endurance, speed, and flexibility), all the other "side effects" will come along.

You will have better health. You will be stronger. You will feel better. You will look good. You will be a better you!

What is important to you?To slim down, to bulk up, to have more confidence, or better health? Write down these aspects on a piece of paper and put it somewhere safe and out of sight.

Test your physique!

Most of you should seek out someone who knows what they're doing because most of us are pussies when it comes to this point. Find someone who will test your VO2 max if you hate cardio, or will make you suffer a five-rep max back squat test if you never do any good leg work. Test your endurance, speed, flexibility, and strength.

After this, you're left with a handful of stuff you pretty much don't master, don't know much about, or have never done before. By setting concrete goals within those things, you will experience progress like you've never seen before.

Don’t strengthen your strengths

I just want to mention this because it's one of the most common faults you'll see as a result of poor goal setting and poor exercise planning. The ones who do this are definitely ego-oriented. A guy walks into a gym. He has a huge chest, his shoulders are rotated forward, and he has tiny legs compared to his upper body with a nice beer belly. What does he do two to three times a week at the gym? Cardio? Nope. Squats? Maybe once a week. He lays down on the bench and keeps on doing the one skill he has mastered.

It takes an incredible amount of dedication, work, and good genes to take a huge bench (or any other compound lift) and make it world class. On the other hand, turning a “normal” lift into something extraordinary takes only good planning and dedication.

Making the effort

Follow your plan. Go to the gym, execute your main lifts with total focus, get your assistance work done as good as you possibly can, and go home. After one cycle, think about what points are on the weaker side (the stuff you hate to do). Do that stuff even more and kick ass!