Key Elements of Success in Open-Ended Goals

Key Elements of Success in Open-Ended Goals

I often come across the question, "How do you stay motivated?" Specifically, these athletes are wondering how to stay motivated bodybuilding without a clear, defined end goal, such as a competition date or deadline? For me, while having an end goal is valuable, it has never been the sole driving force behind my commitment to diet, training, cardio, and all other aspects of achieving my physique goals. I've always maintained that I don't require a competition date to adhere to the day-to-day routine of a bodybuilder because I find enjoyment in the journey itself, rather than solely focusing on the outcome. Today, I'll delve into the key factors that can help you stay focused and motivated, regardless of whether you have a specific end goal in sight.

In the realm of fitness, motivation is the lifeblood that sustains progress and success. Whether you're a casual gym-goer or a serious athlete, maintaining bodybuilding motivation can be a monumental challenge, particularly when your goals are open-ended and lack a clear endpoint. However, understanding and harnessing the principles of the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) of motivation can be the key to unlocking your inner drive and achieving your bodybuilding and fitness aspirations with gusto.

At the heart of SDT lie three fundamental components: 

  1. Competence
  2. Relatedness
  3. Autonomy 

These elements are not only crucial for fostering enjoyment in the fitness journey but are especially vital when your goals are open-ended and indefinite.

In this article, I’m going to lend my advice, experience, and knowledge gained from my professional career and personal fitness journey to inspire you to set limit-pushing but achievable bodybuilding goals. In the process, I’ll aim to answer these crucial questions:

  1. How to stay motivated bodybuilding?
  2. What motivates bodybuilders?
  3. How to make bodybuilding goals (that are realistic)?
  4. Why is it important to set realistic goals?

  1. Competence: Mastering Your Craft

Competence is the cornerstone of progress, encompassing the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to excel in your fitness pursuits. When your goals are open-ended, the journey becomes more about self-improvement and personal growth rather than reaching a specific destination. Think of it as taking a road trip but being able to stop and see all the sights along the way with no pressure of reaching your destination. 

In the context of open-ended bodybuilding goals, competence takes on heightened significance. It's not just about achieving a certain body weight or lifting a particular amount of weight but about continuously refining and expanding your skill set. This may involve experimenting with new workout techniques, honing your understanding of nutrition, or exploring different training methodologies to discover what works best for you.

When we study what motivates bodybuilders on a journey with no destination, it’s clear that by focusing on mastery rather than milestones, individuals pursuing open-ended goals can derive fulfillment from the process itself, finding joy in the journey of self-improvement and exploration.

  1. Relatedness: Connecting with Others

In the pursuit of open-ended goals, the journey can sometimes feel solitary and isolating. That's where relatedness comes into play, emphasizing the importance of forging meaningful connections with others who share your passion for fitness.

Learning how to stay motivated bodybuilding often comes down to learning to build a supportive network of like-minded individuals. Having a tribe, so to speak, can provide invaluable encouragement, accountability, and camaraderie along the way. 

A few weeks ago I spent a seriously motivating weekend in Columbus at the ANIMAL cage. The camaraderie I experienced there gave me a deep sense of fulfillment. I had the opportunity to speak with so many athletes and fans, all with varying goals but all so hungry to succeed. Whether it was swapping workout tips, sharing progress updates, or simply offering words of encouragement, the bonds formed through this type of relatedness can fuel bodybuilding motivation,help you stay the course, even when the path ahead seems daunting, and prove instrumental for decoding how to achieve goals that are mostly undefined.

For those with open-ended bodybuilding goals, the sense of belonging and community fostered by relatedness can be a source of strength and inspiration, reminding them that they're not alone in their journey and that their efforts are part of a larger collective pursuit of self-improvement. It isn’t just foundational for bodybuilding motivation, but for a healthy, sustainable bodybuilding mindset.

  1. Autonomy: Taking Ownership of Your Journey

Autonomy serves as the engine behind intrinsic motivation—the type of drive that originates from within and propels you forward even when external incentives or pressures are absent. When your bodybuilding goals lack a defined endpoint, autonomy becomes especially pivotal. Autonomy grants you the freedom to navigate your journey and define success on your own terms. 

Recently, during my fat-loss phase spanning several weeks, I encountered a week filled with setbacks upon setbacks. Instead of progressing, I found myself gaining weight. In case you’re wondering, setbacks and plateaus don’t exactly top the list of what motivates bodybuilders to keep pushing themselves. Had this occurred during a competition prep phase, it would have undoubtedly induced a considerable amount of stress, as each week is crucial in such a scenario. However, given the open-ended nature of my fat-loss phase, I remained unfazed by the setbacks. I focused on the aspects within my control, and before long, I found myself back on track, even surpassing my previous weight loss achievements.

Having the freedom to make choices regarding your fitness routines, dietary habits, and overall health goals is another component to the bodybuilder mindset, allowing you to tailor your approach to align with your unique preferences, values, and aspirations. Rather than conforming to external expectations or predefined benchmarks, individuals with open-ended goals can embrace the autonomy to experiment, adapt, and evolve as they progress along their fitness journey.

Especially in bodybuilding, cultivating autonomy can cultivate a sense of ownership and agency over your fitness pursuits, empowering you to stay motivated and committed to bodybuilding goals, even when faced with challenges or setbacks.

How To Set Goals: 

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about open-ended goals. In bodybuilding, these account for the majority of goals since the majority of individuals don’t have competition in mind, and many have achieved generally healthy fitness levels.

But open-ended goals don’t mean eschewing specificity altogether. In fact, specificity can be just as powerful for open-ended goals as clearly defined ones. Setting SMART goals has been shown to be incredibly advantageous for mastering both how to set goals and how to achieve goals strategically, as well as how to sustain bodybuilding motivation indefinately (or in any goal pursuit, really). [1]

SMART, is an acronym for:

    • Specific: define a metric of progress. Having a target in mind is incredibly helpful for maintaining bodybuilding motivation. If you’re a little confused on how to set goals with no end-point in mind, consider that specific metrics of progress can be on-going and progressive in nature. “Specific goals” can be approach-based, like strength, weight, or form progression. Or they can be avoidance-based, such as not allowing yourself to hit a specific weight or body-fat percentage. Keep in mind the potential benefits of approach-based goals over avoidance-based goals for many individuals. [2]
    • Measurable: track your progress. Just as you can still track miles on a road trip with no itinerary, you can likewise track gains with undefined bodybuilding goals. In fact, measuring your progress over time is incredibly helpful for maintaining bodybuilding motivation in the long run. 
  • Achievable: ensure your goals are realistic. Why is it important to set realistic goals? Because when we achieve a goal, we feel rewarded. If your goals are unrealistic, you’ll likely wind up continuously disappointed and unmotivated. Individuals with unachievable goals aren’t likely to continue trying for very long.
  • Relevant: make it meaningful to you. This is where relatedness comes in noticably. When sitting down for some bodybuilding goal setting, consider what makes sense for you and your values. Avoid overly focusing on goals that don’t bring you joy (that’s no way to stay motivated) or don’t contribute positively to who you want to be as a bodybuilder. 
  • Time-Based: set ambitious but realistic dates. Open-ended goals may have no end date, but they can certainly have check-point dates. Autonomy also plays a significant role in measuring progress over time. For instance, you may elect to measure your progress on a month-by-month basis.

  • How To Achieve Goals: The Role of Discipline and Routine in Sustaining Motivation

    When honing your skills for how to stay motivated bodybuilding, competence, relatedness, and autonomy can lay a solid foundation But there will inevitably be times when motivation wavers. That’s when discipline becomes paramount.

    Discipline involves committing to your goals even when motivation is low, relying on habits and routines to carry you through. Another aspect of the bodybuilders mindset, routine is an essential factor for how to achieve goals in the face of faded motivation. By establishing consistent exercise habits and prioritizing self-care, it’s possible to navigate periods of low motivation with greater ease and success. 

    Creating a structured routine can provide stability and accountability, helping individuals stay on track even when faced with challenges or setbacks. Whether it's scheduling regular workout sessions, planning meals in advance, optimizing your health with foundational supplements, or setting aside time for recovery and relaxation, a well-defined routine can support long-term adherence to bodybuilding goals.

    Final Thoughts

    In conclusion, competence, relatedness, and autonomy are essential pillars of motivation, particularly when mastering how to set goals and how to stay motivated bodybuilding. By embracing these principles and incorporating discipline and routine into your approach, you can enjoy the journey towards better health, performance, or physique development by finding fulfillment in the process of self-improvement and growth. So, seize ownership of your fitness journey, cultivate connections with fellow enthusiasts, and dare to explore the boundless possibilities that lie ahead. Your motivation will thrive, propelling you toward your open-ended goals with unwavering determination and purpose.