The 7 Step Approach to Achieving your Physique and Strength Goals

The self-help industry is booming nowadays, and the advent of the Internet help spread the advice of every one under the sun, reprised by glossy magazines who give you “smart” tips to change your life… with about no measurable effect whatsoever.

( My very popular podcast with Tim Ferris starts with this quote of mine: “The rule is: the basics are the basics and you can’t beat the basics.” Why did Tim Ferris choose that quote to start the written part of it ? Because, people are always looking for the flashy spinning back kick instead of the good old finger in the eye technique.

This applies to any sort of goal you have in life, but in this case the examples will be focused on achieving a better body composition and performance. The steps I’m about to outline are nothing new, but they are tried and true and have made their proof with Olympians as well as average people from all walks of life. The important point is that they are simple. So simple, most will under-estimate them and miss the wisdom of simple, consistent work.

  1. Determine a goal that is measurable and specific to you

You need to come up with something that means something to YOU, that is of unique value to yourself. The key point is to make the goal specific about what you want to improve. Men tend to think with numbers; hence saying losing 10 pounds of fat or lifting 10 kg more on a lift is specific to them. Women tend to have harder to define goals on a quantitative scale:  more energy, better quality sleep.

The final key in how to set up your goal is wording it so that it is not only meaningful and specific, but also measurable. Measuring progress is an important part of the process and will make you stick to it.  This will also help cope with goals that seem too big or unrealistic.

Of course, using the first person when writing it down is a no-brainer. This goal is yours, so own it. This is directly tied to my philosophy that Discipline is a myth. Change requires self-love and this is a skill anyone can develop. It is the starting point of real change

  1. Evaluate your starting point

Where are you at exactly in terms of performance, body composition, health habits? I’m also keen on having a complete physiological assessment at the start, as it can provide objective values of your progress that might not show on the outside yet. Lowering your glycated hemoglobin from 6.4% to 5.4% is great for your health, even though it might not be reflected by your fat loss just yet. Raising your RBC zinc will help with testosterone production, but your strength might have gone up… yet.  What goes on inside matters.

I usually like a comprehensive metabolic profile complete with an adrenal stress test and a hormonal panel. Those will start you on the right path to physiological assessment. If money is not an issue, a food intolerance test and an organic acid test will speed up your results as well.

  1. Failing to Plan Means Planning to Fail

You now have a destination written down. It is specific, measurable and it matters to YOU. You have a starting point.  You know where you are standing now. To progress and reach the bigger goal, you need to establish steps along the way, like steps in the ladder when each one will bring you one step closer to the objective.

Each step has to be tied to an action step you can take to enable you to progress further. Example of these are:

  1. Eat 2 cups of veggies with each meal
  2. Take 5 ml of fish oil 6 times per day
  3. Go to bed before 10h pm

The idea here is to break down the larger goal into landmarks that will act as a map to your success. Each of them needs to be a habit or behavior. This will ensure you have the control over the process but making conscious choices and careful planning.

  1. Tie each step to actions that lead to success

Having a plan is good; having a good plan is better; having a good plan with actions for each component is best. The steps you identified in point # 3 are behaviors and habits you need to develop to reach success. Each of those need to be associated with actions that you can take regularly to make sure they become a part of your daily life. With some practice, they’ll become effortless and won’t feel like you’re straining yourself into something new or uncomfortable. Having them broken into smaller actions will also help since each of them represent a minor change, instead of one major goal that will turn your life upside down.  A good example for the steps seen in point 3 could be:

  1. Eat 2 cups of veggies with each meal
    1. Shop for enough veggies for a whole week
    2. Prepare enough veggies (steam, cook, sautéed, etc) to make sure you don’t run out
  2. Take 5 ml of fish oil 6 times per day
    1. Buy a large enough container of liquid fish oil for fridge at home
    2. Buy a couple bottles of fish oil capsulesand leave them at work or other key places
  3. Go to bed before 10h pm
    1. Set an alarm on cell phone 30 minutes ahead
    2. Write down a pre-bed ritual to prepare to go to sleep (brush teeth, turn off lights in the house, read for 15 minutes, etc)

Just as in point # 1, those need to be realistic to YOU, specific to the habit you want to develop, measurable and time-sensitive.

  1. Fail-safe your action plan

Point # 5 is directly in relation to the last sentence of the previous step:  realistic to YOU, specific to the habit you want to develop, measurable and time-sensitive.  Each of the steps represents a part of the larger process of reaching your goal, but it can be easy to lose track of this in all the small details. So use a few of the strategies to make each action fun, and you’ll grow into a series of habits and behaviors in no time, making reaching your goal feel like a breeze.

  1. Challenge yourself: make this action a fun challenge between you or a friend/spouse/loved one. A good example of this is making bets with your training partner
  2. Bring friends and family on board: Talk about the action you need to do with your friends and family and make accomplices out of them. This could be telling your co-workers to remind you of taking your fish oil caps at dinneror sharing your pre-bed ritual with your kids
  3. Choose a reward for each success: of course the reward can’t go against your main goal (i.e. splurging at Krispy Kreme for 3 hours does not exactly go in line with a fat loss goal), but find something rewarding to do for each success. For example, completing this membership by deadline time is being rewarded with a trip to the Galapagos Islands with my daughter.

Those are quick examples of what you can do to motivate yourself using pleasure or pain to push you toward your goal. Remember the famous line said by Denzel Washington in the Equalizer movie: “Progress, not perfection”.

“ Being compassionate with failing is not the same as being complacent.  Take this into account when you choose your mean of motivation, and make good use of your imagination.  One important note is to banish shame. I don’t do shame as it is detrimental for the individual and keeps one from trying again.

  1. Select a deadline for each action steps

The action steps form a behavior, but in order to do so, you need to stack them like bricksto build the new you. This can only be achieved if each habit has a deadline for acquisition. A wise man once said that the place where you find the most people who said “tomorrow”for their reaching their goals…. is the cemetery!

It takes between 18 up to 66 days to acquire a new habit, but each one should have a start date and a reassessment date. This does not mean you will stop this behavior or habit, but only that you will proceed to point # 7, which is re-evaluate.

  1. Reassess your goals

Once you acquire a new habit, you need to re-evaluate them periodically. Did you reach them? Good, while you keep practicing what you integrated in your life, progress to another one. Did you fail? Only partially or miserably? If so, again: NO SHAME! Look objectively at what you did and find ways to put actions in place that will lead to the skill, the habit or the behavior you need. Break it down into smaller steps if need be.

There you have it, the distilled knowledge of everything you need to know to move forward, set your goals and achieve them.  While they will require tweeking and hard work on your part, nothing is so immense that it can’t be achieved

To your continued success,


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