Ditch the resolutions – here’s why setting standards is so much better

Learn how to set yourself up for success this year.

Chase Morlock

One of my favorite parts of my job is sitting down with people and hearing their goals. What do I enjoy even more? Helping them to lay out tangible action steps they can take in their life to help them achieve those goals. Enter: Standards

In the beginning of the year like this, there’s all kinds of content out there for how to set goals for the months ahead. Things like Word of the Year, bucket lists, in/out lists, more of/less of lists, standard SMART goals, and on and on. These different types of goal setting tactics are all well-intended, and if they work for you, that is great – stick to it! However, if you’ve found yourself super inspired and motivated when setting New Year's Resolutions or any of these other types of goal concepts, but then a couple of months in, you’ve fallen off the wagon, fizzled out, or maybe have even completely forgotten that you set goals in the first place… there may be a couple of reasons why. 

Why sticking to traditional goals can be so dang hard

Many of the goals people set are outcome goals, which typically end up being out of your control (Ex: I want to win the city pickleball tournament). In reality, you don’t really have a ton of control over winning that tournament because you can’t control what other teams are doing. While outcome goals are not bad to have (I’ve set some for myself!), what I’ve found to typically be much more fruitful and transformative in a person’s life is choosing process oriented goals, because you can control the exact steps you’re taking toward your goal (Ex: I will play pickleball for 20 minutes every day and train at my gym 3x/week).

Another reason goals, specifically nutrition and fitness goals, can be so difficult to stick with is because of the homeostasis your body loves to keep you at. When you disrupt the routine it’s used to by introducing increased exercise or by decreasing calories/sugar/soda/etc., your body can feel like it’s kicking back at you, and it can be really challenging for a little while if you’re going at it alone. There’s lots of research on this topic, and while I won’t dive too deep into the details of how this “detox” or “adjustment” period works on a biological level, it’s very clear that this is usually also the period of time when people consciously or subconsciously decide to drop off from their goals or resolutions.

Why I believe standards are better than goals alone for actually making a change

No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, I believe that the key to sticking to and actually achieving goals is to set standards around them. Your standards will drive you to your goals. When I was playing football at NDSU back in 2013-2016, we had a performance coach who had a saying that’s stuck with me to this day – “Standard over feeling.” It’s one of those sayings that’s simple and straight to the point - my favorite kind. There are two steps to living this out:

  1. Set your standards for your life.

  2. No matter how you are feeling on any given day, you stick to those standards. 

I’m sure I don’t have to convince anyone of this as I’m guessing you already know it: Once we’ve lost motivation to do something, it is incredibly easy to make excuses as to why we can’t get it done. Setting concrete standards for your life makes it a lot harder for us to feel ok with our fluffy excuses. 

Goals can often be easy to lose track of, forget about, or get bored of, but setting standards surrounding your goals create non-negotiables that you stick to no matter how tired or unmotivated you’re feeling. For example, if your goal this year is “I want to lose 15 pounds,” one great standard for this goal would be: “I strength train 3x/week and walk 20 minutes daily.” Suddenly, this standard becomes part of who you are and drives your day-to-day decision making. It becomes a non-negotiable for you. You find a way to get it done no matter what.  

While you adjust to new standards you’re setting for your life, here are a few tips to help keep you on track:

  1. Accountability, accountability, accountability. We were not made to do this life thing alone! Tell a close friend, coworker, family member, or a trainer about your standards and ask them to hold you accountable to them.

  2. Write them in a place that you’ll see them every day, multiple times a day. A sticky note in your bathroom is a great place. I personally have a whiteboard in my closet with my goals and standards that I see every morning when I’m getting ready.

  3. Make things easier on yourself by being prepared. If your standard is to spend no more than 20 minutes on social media per day, then set a time limit on your social media apps to have your phone block you out of them after your limit is reached. If your standard is eating 100 grams of protein every day, commit to meal prepping protein-rich meals and snacks every Sunday to have convenient, healthy food options on the ready-up.

What standards are you going to choose this year? What standards do you need to implement into your lifestyle that will drive you to what you want to accomplish? 

I’ll start it out. 

My Standards for 2024

It’s funny, I used to be very dialed into my day-to-day processes and standards. It all changed when my wife and I had twins in 2022. I definitely lost control of some of the standards that I’d been trying to live by the last few years. Having children, especially two right off the bat, was a big shock to our lifestyle. As all parents know, it changes your routines, your free time, and your life overall – in a truly amazing way, might I add! To get some areas of my life back to where I wanted them to be, I had to take a big step back and set standards that fit into the season of life I’m currently in, while still holding myself to a level that I am proud of.

My kiddos Leo and Lucy
My kiddos, Leo and Lucy

So here’s a look at a few of my new standards after having children. Remember, your goals and standards will likely look different than mine - but hopefully this can be helpful in getting the wheels turning in your head about what standards you can set for your life.

  1. Strength train 3x/week and run, bike, or ruck 1x/week

  2. Drink minimum 100 oz water/day 

  3. No snooze button

  4. Read a minimum 10 pages per day. 

  5. Plan my day the night before

  6. No junk food or alcohol on weekdays. 

After having kids, I recognized that my training regimen, my commitment to waking up on my first alarm, and my reading habits all got put on the far, far back burner. So I decided to do something about it. You’ll notice all of these standards can be tracked and are in my control. One of the biggest tricks to actually being able to sustain any standard is to understand that when you have an off day and fall off track, that you get right back on track and go for it again tomorrow. 

I once heard Jocko Willink say, “Preparation is not the same thing as procrastination, but it can turn into it if you’re not careful. Figure out what your priorities are and then execute.” 

So make sure you don’t get stuck trying to create the perfect plan or standards. Make it simple and then spend your energy executing! 

For some of us, we may have already fallen away from the goals we set out for ourselves for the New Year. But the year is still very new and if you’re reading this, now is the time to set standards for your year. Let’s make sure we are prepared for whatever lies ahead for us in 2024 by setting standards that set us up to win. Take some time to pick a few simple goals and then set some non-negotiable standards to get you to those goals. Execute the plan one day at a time. 

If you need help setting goals and standards that will stick, reach out here. I would love to sit down with you and chat whenever you are ready. Rise Training and Fitness is here to help adults take back control of their health with fitness and nutrition. We want you to feel good, feel strong, gain muscle, lose fat, and have energy. 

Our team can help you establish the standards you need to do just that. 

Coach Chase, CSCS, B.S.