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Motivation Through Goal Setting

Posted Feb 24 2011 10:00am
I may be in the minority, but I'm the type of person who is very motivated by goals.  I need a big, scary, seemingly unattainable goal to get myself motivated. Put me in front of a mountain to climb, tell me it's impossible, and I'm suddenly crazy to climb the damn mountain and prove you wrong.  This is how I'm wired. I don't know why and I don't really care to know why. I just know that I'm very unhappy when I have unstructured time and no goal on the horizon.  I am very happy when I have a goal.

I remember the last time I set a big fitness goal for myself.  It was 2000, and I had first seen the ads for the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk.  Walk 20 miles a day for three days straight? While the idea of camping out with a bunch of strangers was scary and unappealing - as well as the campaign's requirement that I get over $1,000 in pledge money or something like it - it was the goal of walking 20 miles a day that really motivated me.

I bought a step pedometer. I began taking my sneakers to work. I worked only a few blocks away from Central Park at the time, so every lunch hour I would walk for 45 minutes and then eat at my desk.  I walked in the evenings too and on the weekends we did long training walks.  My daily totals were about 2 miles at lunchtime, 2-3 miles each evening, and on the weekends we did 6-7 mile training walks on Saturday and Sunday.

I never did do the Avon walk but the summer of 2001, we planned a walking vacation and I walked 23 miles in one day on a trail in West Virginia.  My feet were really hurting at the end of that walk, but I did it - and I felt like I had really trained for it. What a great feeling that night when we stumbled back to our cabin and unlaced our hiking boots.  23 miles in one day. I can walk 23 miles in a day!

Lately  I have been feeling very at sea, goal-less. I get depressed and cranky and bitchy when I don't have a big goal to work on.  For so many years, I had big goals: finish the writing master's degree, finish the MBA.  Publish magazine articles. Buy a house.  Well, I've done all that and I am so grateful to have done all that but - no more goals on the horizon.  What can I work for?  I felt lost, cranky, rudderless.   I started telling my husband about how I felt and then he asked me when I had felt that way before and what I had done to fix it.  I was reminded on that winter and spring of 2000-2001 and training for the West Virginia hike.  I told him and suddenly the light dawned: I needed another exercise goal.

We just bought a vehicle that can take our mountain bikes in it easily (I won't have to fuss with the bike carrier which never really fit my old car and which always seemed as if it would spill my bike onto the highway).  We have a 30 mile biking train less than 5 minutes from our house.  Suddenly I thought, "I am going to train for and plan a bicycling vacation."

I googled biking vacations and found several adventure tourism companies that have combination walking and biking tours.  I immediately sent away for the brochures for inspiration.  Even if we plan our own vacation, which we will probably have to do given that we have elder care issues and two pets who will need to come with us, I now have something to work towards....something to look forward to!

It has been cloudy and rainy since making my goal, but I have begun pushing myself to walk further every day, extending my half hour walks to 45 minutes.  Shadow (my dog) is quite pleased with this and I am, too. I bought two new pairs of sneakers and updated my food plan from the nutritionist I worked  with back in New York.

I feel so happy to have a big goal!  I don't know what shape or form the adventure vacation will take, but I do know that my mountain bike and I will log many happy miles on trail in preparation for it.
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