Setting Yourself Up for Success: Reactive vs Proactive

Within the fitness industry, there is a lot of talk about setting yourself up for success when trying to reach a goal. Generally speaking, it is often one external cue that creates a ripple effect that ultimately causes someone to want to change something, either physically or mentally about themselves.

More specifically, when talking about fitness goals, the cause and effect goes a little something like this:

Getting tired of your winter belly fat?

You join a gym.

You want to gain weight (because you’re skinny)?

You complain to your coworkers during happy hour about all the food you eat and how you still don’t gain weight.

This exemplifies a reactive decision as opposed to creating a proactive decision to make some physical changes.

So what you have is a disconnect between the long-term goal and the steps required to achieve your goal – ie you need specific actions to achieve a specific goal. Ordering drinks at happy hour may or may not help accelerate your path towards success, and you might react by going for a run on the treadmill for one hour the next day.

More specifically, I was caught up in a conversation with the coaches at Endeavor Sports Performance about how some of our youth athletes complain about how they simply cannot gain any weight, especially when it is imperative to their sport (hockey, joining a specific traveling team, etc.).

So I was relaying my half-GOMAD story to my coworkers, and how I was a pretty skinny kid, and I still have that mentality to this day. To put it simply, when trying to put on weight, just keep on eating.

In reality, I did a lot more than just drink half a gallon of milk daily for weeks on end in order to gain weight:

  • Lifted heavy 3-4x per week. 
  • Ordered two pizzas almost every other night; one for me and one for everyone else in my family (so no one would complain about not having any pizza). 
  • Went to All-You-Can-Eat sushi buffets with my friends and/or family, and made it my own personal competition to beat them.Sushi_Buffet

Recalling all of that just made my insulin levels spike. But my “plans” worked – I gained a significant amount of weight in a small amount of time. Also, the above exemplifies a proactive plan of action, in which I had multiple steps figured out in case one didn’t work out vs another step.

So recanting my weight gaining woes serves a purpose for you. Granted, my plans of action were pretty drastic, but my mentality was to literally eat my way to success, or I would be failing myself as a personal trainer, strength coach, and more importantly as a person. Whether your goals involve shoveling massive amounts of food in your face, or dropping belly fat in time for spring break, keep these points in mind:

1. Create an environment for success.

Surrounding yourself around like-minded people will do more for you than isolating yourself. A great read that explains the power of environment further is the book “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle. It goes on to explain that even in strokes of genius, there are logistical and reasonable explanations for Michaelangelo’s artistry, the success of Brazilian soccer players, along with several other chapters that go in detail about the power of environment and practice.

Essentially you need to surround yourself with greatness (or at least others who are on their path to greatness) because the idea is that cumulative effect of your environment is much larger than the isolative effect of working alone. You will certainly be challenged if you are aiming to lose fat, and all you do is go to the bar after work with your buddies and your buddies smash a few beers.

2. Create plans to fall back on to prepare you for when things do not work out the way that you planned.

I always enjoy understanding others’ mentalities when it comes to success, and Will Smith is a person that I’ve come to look up to, not because he was only the Fresh Prince of Bel Air (and still is), but he has exemplified success across multiple platforms.

My father used to say all the time, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” So if you stay ready, you ain’t gotta get ready, and that is how I run my life. Just stay ready.

Going off the previous example of beer smashing with your work buddies, what is the fall back plan there? How will you “stay ready, so you don’t need to get ready?” There are numerous plans that you can undertake to avoid the physical calories of the beer, but still hang out with your work buddies:

1. Most of the time, “getting a beer” is representative of an expression to socially hang out. If someone is shoving beer into your mouth, something else may need to change, not your physique goals.
2. You can order diet soda.
3. You can order water.
4. You can order unicorn tears.

No harm, no foul – or better yet, no empty calories.

So as you can see, there are tons of things that you can do to create a fallback plan. This is merely one example.

3. Plan to be challenged by conventional thought and obstacles.

Others will want you to NOT change – crazy thought, I know. But one thing that is equally difficult to grasp is that if you do not have a supportive group of people to help elevate you with your goals, then the mere thought of you making a physical change makes those others in your group just a wee bit uncomfortable.

Your previous version of you was merely an identity that they could rely on: you were that person that ordered pizza on Friday nights, went out to the bar on Saturday afternoon, and the person who suggests to go out for sushi buffet on Sundays. Now, if you’re goal is to lose weight, you subsequently drop all of those activities, and everyone knows something is amiss if you aren’t around to help them feel comfortable.


This mere picture is challenging you at this very moment.

A fridge will not always be available on the road, and coworkers will inevitably want to go out for drinks after work. Keep your goals in mind, and be aware that you always have a choice when it comes to your own decisions and body. Offer to drive, or simply do not order any calorie-containing beverages (to keep your fat loss goals in mind), and be proactive when it comes to these types of decisions.

4. Make your goal important to you.

This is an often unheard of point, sometimes being categorized as prioritization. What I am aiming to say is not only make your goal a priority, but attach some meaning to this goal. Gaining or losing 20lbs is easy to say you want as your goal, but what is the real meaning behind your goals?

Whether it is to get huge arms and a nice butt so your confidence increases when you buy new clothes for your vacation coming up, or to increase your performance on the field to help your team in the post-season, make your goal important to you. By doing so, you create better odds of reaching your goals, because you won’t falter at the first sign of any obstacles or challenges that may pop up unexpectedly.

To your proactive success,



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