Stop Setting Goals
Last New Yearâ€™s Eve I was sitting around a backyard fireplace at with friends. The ladies were discussing their New Yearâ€™s Resolution with about as much fervor as a sloth discussing getting out of the tree. â€œEh. I want to lose weight this year,â€ one friend muttered. â€œYeah, me too. I might join a Zumba class or something,â€ said the other friend.
They both turned to me and said, â€œHow about you?â€
â€œMe? Oh, no. I donâ€™t have a resolution.â€ That was true. I never have a resolution. Resolutions are forced words that we think we have to say in order to leap into the New Year. Like a secret code or password. Resolutions are the Santa Claus for adults. We know they are fictitious, yet we believe in these goals for a good week or two after the first day of January comes and goes.
Neither of my friends did anything they discussed. They didnâ€™t even step foot in a fitness class. Coincidently, I did everything I said I would doâ€”and actually accomplished many things I didnâ€™t mention that night. In fact, I think 2012 was my best and most accomplished year yet.
I finished a 600 page manuscript. I set a new hip thrust record of 365 pounds for a perfect rep. My glute bridge is nearing 400 pounds. I made more money. I started online training that is still going strong. The list goes on an on. But I didn’t set any of these goals. I eased into the accomplishments over time by building up them through a series of successes.
How many of us had these conversations:
â€œIâ€™m going to finally lose that lingering 30 pounds.â€
â€œThis year I will take up running. My goal is to run 3 miles a day.â€
â€œIâ€™m going to stop swearing unless itâ€™s damn necessary.â€
â€œMy low carb diet begins tomorrow. Well, after I get all of the cookies out of the house.â€
Sound somewhat familiar? How do you feel when you blurt out things like this? A little gut wrenching, isnâ€™t it?
I know. I used to do the same thing. Every year. Several times per year.
The problem with these goals is they are negative and kind of painful to think about. The purpose of a goal is to improve your life in a positive wayâ€”make it more enjoyable.
When you set goals that you donâ€™t really want to do or that arenâ€™t fun, you quit pretty soon. If youâ€™re not a runner, on day 3 of running you feel achy and miserable. Three miles is a long way. Heck, running up the street is a long way for a sedentary adult.
Anything that has to do with stopping, losing, dieting, quitting, giving upâ€”well, that will make you miserable. Humans seek instant gratification. We want to see results yesterday. Big goals hurt our egos because they take a long time to reach.
So rather than setting big, lofty goals that could take months or even years to achieve, keep it simple. Make it enjoyable and painless.
Rather than â€œrunning three miles a day,â€ try â€œimproving your heart health.â€ Go for a 10-minute walk at first. Then build up speed and distance over time. Once you feel good walking, add in short stints of jogging with your walk.
These incremental, minimal changes keep things positive. They are bite-sized doable actions that donâ€™t take a ton of thought or planning. Habits form through layers. Start small, get used to that change, and build upon it over time with more challenging changes.
Along with instant gratification desires, humans also have a habit of only see what hasnâ€™t been done. Now is a good time to start altering this mindset. Rather than only seeing how far you have to go, always take the time to look at how far youâ€™ve come.
Tracking these changes and accomplishments in a journal is a good way to do this. That way you can see that even though you have yet to run 3 miles at once you covered 40 miles of walking in the last month.Â Thatâ€™s 40 miles more than you walked the previous month.
Tracking your progress encourages you to keep going. Celebrating your progress keeps things in perspective because you realize, â€œHey, I am doing great things for myself.â€
This year as the clock strikes midnight on the last day, donâ€™t make a resolution. Wake up the next day and do one small thing. That will lead to something bigger the next day. Then just keep on going.