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Why Setting Goals For Your Clients is Making Them Fail

Picture this: Your client comes in to meet you for the very first time. They’re excited. They want to make a change in their lives.

They have heard all about you. The results you have gotten for others. How hard you can train people.

And then you set goals. Big, hairy, ostentatious goals like you have heard you have to to get amazing results.

You just failed your client. Big time.

Want to find out why? Read on…

Every single client coming to the gym has a goal. That is a fact. They all have a reason for coming to the gym, paying you for your time and expertise, expending energy while training and changing their lives.

And we fail them because we focus on that.

This sounds like a total oxymoron and a massive contradiction. Of course we have to focus on their goal at all costs. If we don’t hit it we have failed them. We suck as a trainer and our careers will plummet into the depths of mediocrity.

What I mean by this is if we focus on the big goal (the outcome goal), we generally totally neglect the importance of the process. The process is far and away the most important part of achieving any result for the client and for you to achieve long term business success. Lets unpack this topic and delve a little deeper.

Goals can be divided into two categories: Outcome Based and Process Based. The general rule is that the ability to achieve outcome based goals is dictated by the process based goals you set but this is not always the case. For example, some people will never be able to get to 6% bodyfat. There job, lifestyle and unique physiological profile may preclude that from happening. Some others will never hit a 3x bodyweight deadlift. Their levers just don’t work to make that possible. What we need to be be aware of is sometimes the achievement of outcome based goals is often beyond our control.

We see this taken to the extreme with athletes. The Olympics is the goal. However they cannot control if someone else is bigger, better, faster or stronger than them. We all have seen an athlete who is totally invested in the outcome be totally shattered if they don’t make it, leading to a cycle of despair and depression.

We see something else when we observe athletes who are more dedicated to the process. Of course they still get upset if they don’t make it, its a very natural and understandable reaction. The difference is how they use what has happened to move forward.  A process based athlete will use this as an opportunity for reflection, to identify what they can possibly improve upon to get better and succeed in the future.

We need to implement the same strategies with our personal training clients. By creating a series of process based goals, we can help carve out habits and behaviours for our clients to implement that are going to help them achieve their goals and improve their lives for the long run. It also allows us as Coaches to see what works and doesn’t work for each individual which is exactly what we need to do.

How to do it:

When you sit down with a client to work out what they want to achieve, help them figure it out. This can be drop a dress size, 5% bodyfat, whatever they want.

Then ask them this question: “What behaviours do you think you need to make this happen?”

The goal with this is to move from a model in which we dictate the decisions for a client to one where they have most of the input. This is called Client-Centred Coaching and is something we will be exploring in much more depth soon. In this process we can guide them to better decisions (for example, if donuts are part of the plan…) but they can decide on what they feel that they can achieve. This will empower them and give a sense of control of the entire progress which is awesome.

An example of three process based goals for a first time client looking to lose 10 kgs could be:

 – Train 3x per week

 – Eat vegetables with every dinner

 – Drink 1 litre of water daily.

On first glance this doesn’t sound like much. What we need to keep in mind is where this client began and what they are ready for. Doing this is something that they can definitely achieve and every single time they succeed they build momentum. In 2 weeks time you can reevaluate, measure the efficacy of your changes and then develop your next steps from there.

If you want to succeed as a Personal Trainer, your clients need to succeed. This is your first and foremost objective. Become a believer of process based goals and watch your clients results, retention and satisfaction skyrocket. You’ll be glad you did.

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