SMART Weightlifting Goals

I’ve had some goals in mind for my weightlifting, but nothing ever committed to. On reflection, I realized that I am in danger of making this a VAPID goal, not a SMART one.

I had the idea of a set of targets for the three major lifts. For simplicity, I think of it as “2/3/4.” That is, 200 lbs for the bench press, 300 pounds for the squat, and 400 pounds for the deadlift. This gives me a simple 1/1.5/2 multiplier (plus a fudge factor) times my bodyweight.

Let’s check this vs. the SMART criteria:

  • Specific
  • Measurable

Check.

  • Action-oriented

I know the action steps required to meet this goal. The plan is to follow the Starting Strength method, modified as required to train around injuries.

  • Realistic

Aye, there’s the rub. I think this is a realistic strength level to aim for – I won’t be doing any powerlifting competitions, but this is a good baseline for what a strong man ought to be able to do. Hopefully it is realistic given my age, physical condition, and other life commitments.

  • Time-defined

Here is the part I was missing. In my previous thinking about it, I hadn’t set any time frame for actually getting this done. Other than “sometime before I die.”

So I will modify the goal to “2/3/4/20.” That is, have a 200 lb bench press, 300 lb squat, and 400 lb deadlift before the end of 2020.

There, that’s SMARTer.

SMART vs. VAPID Goals

I was listening to the Art of Manliness Podcast #204: How To Be Miserable and got inspired.

Not to try to be miserable – guest Dr. Randy Paterson’s advice is to find ways that you are already making yourself miserable, and stop doing those things. At least, not do them as much.

After all, there is no magic pill or psychological technique that can take anyone from “black dog gnawing on my soul” to “move over, Pollyanna!” in one giant leap. On the other hand, it is possible to make small, incremental changes to make tomorrow suck 2% less than today. String enough of those days together and… suddenly, life may not be awesome but it can be a lot better than it was before.

One of the ways to make yourself miserable is to set VAPID goals. Paterson created VAPID as the opposite of SMART goals. If SMART goals are

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Action-oriented
  • Realistic
  • Time-defined

then VAPID goals are

  • Vague
  • Amorphous
  • Pie in the sky
  • Irrelevant
  • Delayed

I know I’ve set VAPID goals for myself before. Paterson is right, they are a great way to be miserable. I recommend avoiding them.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport is two things:

1. A thorough debunking of the “passion” hypothesis (“follow your passion”, “do what you love the money will follow”).

2. An alternative approach summed up by the title, which Newport calls the “craftsman” hypothesis.

This is a simple but powerful change of perspective.

As Mike Rowe says, “just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it.”

Newport’s advice is instead to first, stop sucking at what you do. Then you may have a passion worth following.

As someone who has struggled with the question of mission and meaningful work, I wish I had found this book ten or even twenty years ago.