From time to time, I enjoy playing the piano. Some weeks ago I downloaded this particular piece of music (Ludovico Einaudi – Melodie Africana IV ) and tried it out. I was hideous. The piece was pretty complicated and I sucked.

But persisted. I broke it down, I did one hand at a time. I drove everyone crazy repeating the same 8 bars over and over. And eventually it started coming together.

Fast forward 6 weeks or so, and after playing for 5-10 minutes a day, most days, I can now more or less play it proficiently.

And also, I realised yesterday, I’m not actually that interested in playing it anymore.

What’s it got to do with health and fitness I hear you say?

Well, I was trying to figure out, to articulate my motivations for playing this piece. What had driven me to be so consistent? So motivated?

Because I could think of a number of other areas in my life where 5-10 minutes consistently would make a massive difference. Like my core strength or my hamstring stretches.

Which led me to the answer: the challenge was the challenge.

The piece was soooo hard. The initial progress so rewarding. And the endpoint so tangible. Plus I had a constant visual cue (the keyboard in the corner) to remind me to do it.

Compare it to lots of other things we “should” do in life. Stretch, work on shoulder mobility, do core work.

They are  not particularly challenging. In fact, you could say they are pretty boring. The progress is intangible. How d’you know if your core is getting stronger? Is it because you can hold a plank for ages. (It’s not, because holding a plank for ages is not a sign of strength, especially if the form is poor.) And when are you done?

So it got me thinking, what are the other ways we can set out goals so that they are more of challenge?  So here you go: goal setting 101!

How to Set Good Goals
  • What’s the specific measurable objective? “strong core” or “flexible hamstrings” aren’t really measurable. So what’s an alternative?
  • How will you know when you are done? What does “strong” look like? When is the goal complete?
  • Is it challenging enough? What are the intermediate steps?
  • Have you got a visual cue/ reminder to get you to do it?

And I’ll admit – I don’t have the answer to all of these. And it’s also worth noting that in some cases, a challenging goal might be the wrong approach. Sometimes you need a goal that is so simple that you never have a reason not to do it. But that’s for another blog.

But here’s one I’m gonna set for myself. I need a stronger core. And one of the hardest ab exercises I can think of is the ab plank rollout. I haven’t done it since before the kids. So, this will be pretty challenging. And I want to be able to do 10. From a pike position.

And I intend to leave the ab roller in the corner so that I have a constant visual reminder.

So that’s that then. Who wants to see my progress?