Goal setting: The Six Years’ War


Time to get serious about my powerlifting goals!


The year was 2013. I had just finished my undergraduate degree and was on my way to North Carolina to start grad school. I didn’t really know anybody there, I just knew that Abbie Smith-Ryan was there, she was doing cool stuff, and I wanted to be on her team.

It was around this time that I set four goals, with a six year deadline. It didn’t matter when I accomplished each, or what order they fell in, they just needed to get done by May 2019. They were as follows:

1) To establish myself as a proficient, productive researcher

2) To get my pro card in natural bodybuilding

3) To achieve an elite total in raw powerlifting

4) To earn my PhD


Four years in, it’s time for a progress report.


Overall, I’d say I can cross off #1, although it is admittedly vague in nature. You could always be more productive, but I’m very proud of the amount of quality research our lab group has completed and published within the last four years. We’re far from done and have plenty more research to do in my remaining time at UNC, but the wheels are absolutely in motion and we’ve accomplished a great deal so far. If you’re interested in seeing what we’ve been up to, much of our work is available at my PubMed and ResearchGate links.

As I recently posted, #2 has also been completed, as I recently took home pro cards in bodybuilding and classic physique, and subsequently made my pro bodybuilding debut. As far as #4 goes, a lot of progress has been made. Completing a PhD takes time, and there isn’t much you can do about that. But, at this point, my coursework has been successfully completed, comprehensive exams are quickly approaching, and I have secured a research grant to fund my dissertation. So, I am still on track to meet the self-imposed deadline for graduation in May 2019.

That leaves #3. I’m so incredibly far from an elite total right now, it’s a joke. But on the bright side, I could have said the exact same thing about #1, 2, and 4 at various times throughout the last four years.

I’m writing this post for a few reasons. First, it’s important to put your goals in writing, and to make them known. This can help reinforce your commitment and accountability, and it makes them feel a lot more “real” and tangible. I’m being facetious with the title of this article- I’ve always found in humor in the duality of strength and physique goals; they mean the world to us, but are so trivial in nature. It’s common to see athletes take themselves way too seriously and drastically inflate the importance of what they’re doing. I’m not one to give unsolicited advice frequently, but I would encourage you to find the middle ground. Let your goals mean a lot to you, pursue them enthusiastically, but don’t lose sight of the relative triviality of pursuing a lean physique or a huge bench press. It’ll help keep you rooted in reality, keep your priorities in line, and make you more robust to the speedbumps along the way.

Second, this post serves as a quick update to contextualize my upcoming focus. After a long, arduous contest prep, it’s time to figure out what the next step or transition is. I’ll be focusing on regaining as much lean mass as possible in the immediate post-competition period, then transition toward a more powerlifting-oriented approach to my training and nutrition. Of course, I’ll be updating this website along the entire way to keep everyone posted with regard to what I’m trying to implement and how it’s going.

But third, and probably most importantly, I want to use this post to reinforce my belief that setting and reaching goals is, more than anything, a battle of attrition. From the outside, it’s easy to look back after someone else accomplishes one of their goals and say, “I knew they’d do it eventually.” I do this all the time when I see others reach their goals, and I think it’s a fairly natural response when we believe in the abilities of our peers. But as I cross one of my goals off the list (pro card) and switch gears towards another (elite total), I want to document my first-person perspective here, and highlight two facts:

The goals I’m currently working on are numerous years in the making, and there have been times that I’ve strongly doubted my ability to complete each and every one of them- including those that have since been accomplished.

Like I said, I’m weak as hell right now. I’m standing at the foot of a very large mountain that I fully intend to climb. Based on my current numbers, it’s a really stupid goal, almost impossibly out of reach. But as I’ve learned from pursuing my other goals over the last four years, where you start isn’t really that important. What really matters is identifying the route to achieving it, putting your head down, and grinding it out. There will be times when the route takes detours, when it’s necessary to slow down the pace, and possibly times when it’s necessary to hit the “pause” button. But like I said, it’s a battle of attrition- I don’t need to be superhuman to finish off the list, I just need to make sure I don’t give up, and I don’t move backwards.

I don’t consider myself “successful” yet, so I’m not the guy to dish out tips on achieving success. I am still working on the climb, and I have a long way to go. I’m happy about the progress I’ve made so far in a variety of pursuits, but I’m a work in progress that has much to prove and achieve. But the more I meet and talk with successful people- academics, physique athletes, business owners, and otherwise- the more I observe the same thing, over and over: These are, typically, very average people. You don’t need to be born with it, made for it, or possess some exceptional talent that no one else has. You just need to identify the goal, focus, and always keep moving. So as I gear up to tackle the rest of these goals by May 2019, I hope you’ll join me in identifying some goals, putting them down in writing, and chasing them like crazy.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s