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How To Smash Absolutely Any Physical Goal

Your goal has to matter, as you'll need to dig deep when you're working towards it. If your goal isn’t sexy, big and meaningful, you’ll probably quit.
Max Cotton

Photo: Me and my friend Russell after we finished the Cheviot Goat Ultra Run (55-mile winter trail run)

What follows is a process I've used in the past to help me achieve some things I'm really proud of and a process that I'm still using now for both physical and non-physical goal setting.

In the past, I didn't even realise I was following a process. But looking back on the things I achieved, such as winning my pro-MMA debut years back or shaving 6 hours off my previous time in the Cheviot Goat ultra marathon, I can see what I did, how it worked, and now I can turn it into a process anyone can follow.

Conversely, if I look at the times I failed in hitting a goal - many, many, times - I realise I didn't follow this process. So here it is:

I’ve since read about similar processes in books like ‘Will It Make The Boat Go Faster’. You can probably read about it in 50+ other books or hear it on podcasts. It’s not a new idea; I’m just giving you my perspective and how I do it.


Step 1: Define your goal

Your goal has to be defined. It has to be something you can tangibly identify so that you're able to know when you've achieved it.

Have a good think, and think big. It should be something that excites you and will make you feel amazing when you’ve smashed it. This will help when it gets hard. Winning my pro MMA debut was the most important thing in my life at that time, which made it easier to endure the brutal training and stay in the fight itself when I was getting hurt.

Some examples of defined goals:

  • Run a sub 45 minute 10km
  • Complete 20 full press-ups
  • 2x bodyweight deadlift
  • Compete in your first boxing match
  • Lose 5kg of fat
  • Gain 5kg of muscle

It doesn't matter if you are ridiculously far from achieving your goal at this point in time, because you will get there.

Step 2: Break it down

Your goal is big and scary. You have to break it down into manageable chunks. Let's take the example of completing 20 full press-ups and assume you can't complete one full rep right now. How do you do it?

The first milestone is one rep unassisted - no knees down, full range of motion.

So now you have a micro goal that will help you hit the big scary goal. You'll get that first rep through hard work and learning to press up regressions. After that, you'll aim for five, then ten, and so on. It will be hard and take consistency and discipline, but you'll get there.

For a fight or a distance race, you start your training unfit and woefully underprepared for the challenge (were it to take place there and then). Through weeks and months of building up your training volume, you'll gradually get where you need to be to complete it. Whatever it is, don't let how unprepared you are right now put you off starting. Break it down into smaller goals, and get attacking those first.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.” - Mark Twain


Step 3: Get help

"I honestly believe there is no such thing as self-made. I believe that is a term that does not exist. For me, it certainly doesn't. The people who have been around for my whole career have helped shape this moment. This night and this moment is for them."

- Conor McGregor UFC 189 post-fight speech (after winning the interim Featherweight title).

Going it alone makes it infinitely harder. Instead, leverage the knowledge and experience of someone who knows more than you and can hold you accountable. This is why in the past few years, I've worked with: an accountant, a financial planner, a psychotherapist, a business mentor, and I have an online coach for training too. I love efficiency, I acknowledge that I don’t know everything, and I truly value accountability.

A professional out there can get you from A to B so much quicker than trying to do it by yourself. They will not only help you, but they will also be someone you can share the journey with and celebrate with when you hit your goal. So keep an open mind and don't be too proud to seek help.


Step 4: Be prepared to work f*cking hard

There is no substitute for hard work. Yes, work smart, but don't see that as an alternative to working hard. Work smart and hard. This is why your goal has to be meaningful to you, as you'll need to dig deep frequently when you're working towards it. Sometimes it'll be hard. Sometimes it'll be disheartening. Sometimes it'll be boring. If your goal isn’t sexy, big and meaningful, you’ll probably quit.

This is also why it's important to follow steps 2 and 3. By knocking off smaller goals and having someone to keep you going, you'll find it so much easier to stay the course when it gets tough. Whatever it is, you are capable, and you can do it; you just can't do it overnight. So follow the process, stay the course, and you'll get there.

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