Goals! I love goals! Obviously by my frequent mention of morning PTG! Goals have always been my main form of motivation and determination for how to get what or where I wanted, but what I have realized is that goals can also quickly change into a vehicle for comparison, frustration, obsession and disappointment, ultimately ruining their purpose and turning them from a positive tool, to one that absolutely ruined things I once loved.
I always start with the best intentions, believing in myself, and having high expectations, like the time Ryan and I entered in our first 5K. To that point I hadn’t run more than half a mile consecutively since high school. (Lets face it, cheering does not require immense amounts of running) Of course I walked everyday, at least 3-4 miles so I felt like I wasn’t totally out of shape, and determined just under a 10 minute mile pace was appropriate. My goal was to finish the race in under 30 minutes.
When the race day came I was super nervous because the fastest I had done it in was around 28 minutes on a treadmill, meaning I knew the speed I was going at all times. I lined up with the rest of the people within my pace group and the gun went off. Every mile there was a clock to tell you the total time, but I tried not to look just trusting that I could make it in my time aspiration. At the finish I was so happy to see I ran in under 28 minutes! This was awesome!
The accomplishment gave me the itch and I told Ryan we needed to sign up immediately for another, and from then on I would run EVERYDAY to get better, faster, and stronger. And because I am pretty good at doing something once I put my mind to it, I did run every day, rain or shine, inside and outside, sick, well, any condition, just because I felt like I had to in order to become the best.
As Caitlin mentioned in her Four Rules of Running last week, this is NOT the way to get better. This is the way to injure yourself, burn out have your body just feel tired, but since I had told myself, you must run every day and get faster every run, that meant I had a goal for every morning and I needed to do it or I was a failure.
So here is where the point of this post comes in. Goals are wonderful for many reasons. They are an easy way to measure success. They provide security and “control,” as well as motivation for some to better themselves, but especially if you are setting numerical goals (how much you want to weigh, how fast you want to run, how much money you want to make, or even how many hits you want per day on your blog!) it can often lead to negative-self talk and disappointment if the goal is not accomplished. Not to mention, it can cause people to go to unhealthy lengths to see more progress, makes up lose sight of what is reality, and makes us compare ourselves to others in a way that really isn’t fair.
I have fallen victim to all of these things. For a long time calories were my mechanism of control in life. They were my security blanket and I had a goal, or number of calories I felt I could eat a day to still stay “ok.” If I was hungry and went over this number, my entire day was ruined and I felt like I had to punish myself for being such a failure, whether that meant an extra long gym session, more restriction the next day, a lack of sleep, anything to make up for my “inadequacy” in accomplishing my goal. If I did stay at, or even better, below, my caloric goal it was a reason to restrict even more! If I can only eat this amount and still be ok, tomorrow I can make it 50 calories less! It became a game…a game where in theory, I could control the outcome, but never, EVER, won.
But then came the other aspect of my game…the scale…the ultimate determinant of whether or not my caloric goal was appropriate. I would hop on at first, once a week, then every few days, then EVERY DAY, and if the number went up, I would have to plan my entire day around how to lose the extra! Lets just discuss how silly this is. We all know the scale can fluctuate up to almost 10 pounds on a daily basis, especially for females. So really, if the scale was up .5 lbs should I have freaked out? NO! Absolutely not! At that point I should have been estatic if it went up at all because I was deteriorating my health with every second! But even with the slightest change in the wrong direction I would freak out. I had a goal, and even though I was meeting it, still felt I could do “better” taking it to an unhealthy extreme that could have ultimately cost me my life.
Obviously this does not just apply to my ridiculous weight goals, but almost all things in life…
I did it in school…I must get an A in every subject! Well I am sorry, but God did not give me the gift of Statistics. I got a B for the semester and was devastated because I spent all my time studying, getting tutored, re-doing homework, etc. to get better at Statistics! I did well in all my other classes. In fact it was one of my only B’s in college, but it is still the only grade I really remember because I was so disappointed with my performance.
So after reflecting on the HLS Panel discussion about goals I got to thinking. How can I change the way I look at setting goals? And what are ways to make them a healthier measurement of success?
Here is what I came up with:
1. Make sure the ambitions you have are attainable but not too small. If the goal is miniscule, or too easy, it gets boring and really isn’t a goal at all; merely a continuation of a behavior you were already “sort-of” doing. Ultimately, you are selling yourself short.
2. Don’t make them too big! This only leads to frustration and disappointment if not accomplished. I am a firm believer in a sequence of goals. Have a LARGE goal for the big picture, but set up baby steps to get there…
For example: “I want to have X amount of dollars in my savings account by the age of 30”
Step 1: Get a job that allows you to make enough where you can save a portion of the paycheck, or get a second income.
Step 2: Determine your budget and how much you can actually save per week, per month, etc.
Step 3: Look at ways to cut expenses or alter your lifestyle if needed and start implementing.
Step 4: Save X amount per week within the next six months, increase the amount by 12 months, etc., etc.
-Obviously this is just a generic example, but if you need further clarification, please let me know!
2.5. Evaluate your limitations. If you don’t have to skills to get a job in finance, but you want to work in finance, make your goal to get the skills, or go back to school. Do not make your initial goal “GET A JOB IN FINANCE!” This will just lead the negative thoughts and feelings, which ultimately hold you back anyway.
3. (This is also similar to 2 and 2.5) Allow yourself adequate time to accomplish goals. Do not say, “Oh I want to lose 50 pounds in a month!” This is both unrealistic and VERY unhealthy. It works the same way with savings and other things, as well. You cannot save a million dollars in a year if you are working at McDonalds (unless you win the lottery or have some other crazy lucky situation). Without patience and understanding, you may start to feel discouraged and wont want to continue with any of your goals.
4. Evaluate yourself frequently. Give yourself a reality check and look at WHY you have set this goal. Is it for you or to make others happy? I NEEDED TO DO THIS! I should have taken a step back to see the deep hole I was digging myself by altering my lifestyle so much. I lost my health, a lot of friends, interests, I even quit a job. I needed to realize my goals were not right and were actually causing me way more harm than good.
5. Do not compare yourself with others. Running or fitness is what comes to my mind when I think of this. Especially in the blog world you may see people who are running marathons or are just super fast on their weekend jogs, and you get jealous. DON’T! Exercise at your own pace. Be proud that you are even out there working out, moving your body. Who cares if you are as fast as the next person, you are still out there, way faster than the person sitting on their couch (ha! I read that in a comment on Julie’s blog, and thought it was the best line ever!)
6. Set goals without using numbers!!!! This is my new favorite because many of you know I stopped counting calories recently. I used to have to hit a certain number of calories a day to be considered following my dietician set meal plan. Well that just gave me something new to obsesses about! Now I try to follow my intution and eat when I am hungry, but also eat more whole foods. Instead of “how many calories did I get at that meal!?” I think, “Did I get all my nutrients I needed? Was there enough fat, protein, carbs, fruits, etc” My body feels so much better this way and my mind has a bit of a rest from the hampster wheel of thoughts!
I also set behavioral goals for HLS weekend. I will make friends and enjoy my time; not, I will make 6 friends! What if I hadn’t have made 6 friends? I would have felt like a loser because I didn’t accomplish what I had set out to do, when really the weekend was about fun, health, and learning.
Behavior goals work for me, and if you tend to get a little obsessed with numbers, they might just work for you too!
Remember these tips tomorrow when you are doing your morning PTG!!!!