Guest Post: Goals Are Hard
This post is written by Susan Lacke. She asked me to write a post about Becoming a Vegetarian for No Meat Athlete. Which I did. And now she’s returning the favor. Don’t tell Susan, but I think I get the better end of the deal.
As humans, we’re programmed to keep improving, to always be looking for ways to fulfill our wants and needs. There’s always a dream, whether it’s a dream to learn French cooking skills, lose ten pounds, or experience hot yoga in all its sweaty goodness.
Dreams are good. Dreams are fun and whimsical and amazing. But many people are scared to turn those dreams into real, true goals. Goals really are everything dreams aren’t. It is one thing to wish you could lose ten pounds; It’s something entirely different to actually do the work to lose ten pounds.
Goals, simply put, are hard.
Many shy away from goal-setting because they feel they’re setting themselves up for failure. This doesn’t have to be the case.
It’s time to stop dreaming and start doing.
Make your goal achievable, but not too achievable.
Don’t use the word “goal” unless it’s deserving of such a word. If it’s something you can achieve with relative ease, it’s not a goal. It’s a task. A true goal, when you write it down on paper, should strike you with equal parts excitement, fear, and bewilderment. Make your goals at least one step above what you think you’re capable of.
If you’re really ballsy, go beyond that. I signed up for my first Ironman triathlon, a race where athletes swim 2.4, bike 112, and run 26.2 miles, after only running a half-marathon (13.1 miles) as my longest race. Was it stupid? Of course it was. But it also turned out to be one of the best goals I’ve ever set.
Break it down in chunks.
At some point, a good goal will make you feel a little bit overwhelmed. That’s normal. Hardly anything happens overnight. Once you accept the fact that the goal will take time, patience, and elbow grease, it becomes easier to see one goal as a bunch of little sub-goals.
Take Emily’s “32 Things” list. Do you really think she looks at it, shrugs, and says, “Huh, simple enough” to herself? Doubtful. Though she’s almost always cool and collected, I’d bet my next paycheck she’s looked at that list and cried, “Oh, <bleep>, how am I gonna DO this!?”
Those moments are normal, and, let’s face it — they’re awesome. Those moments are the proverbial boot in the butt.
Here’s the thing about Emily’s goal: when she wondered aloud how she was going to accomplish it, she forced herself to break it down into manageable portions. Perhaps she set certain benchmarks, committed to completing a certain number of “things” per month, or identified ways she can accomplish multiple goals simultaneously. When you break your goal down into smaller chunks, it suddenly doesn’t seem as overwhelming.
Identify speedbumps & their solutions.
Speedbumps are things we have to slow down for. They’re not blockades or barriers or dead-ends of any sort. If you run into a barrier, take a close look at it. Most of the time, it’s not really the barrier itself stopping you from achieving your goal – it’s the fact that you’ve chosen to interpret it as a barrier.
Try to plan ahead. When you set your goals, identify speedbumps which might come up along the way. How will you avoid these speedbumps altogether, and how will you address it if it can’t be avoided?
Case in point: I’m deaf. I’ve spent most of my life being told I can’t do a lot of things because of my disability. I guarantee you, it hasn’t stopped me from doing a single thing…except (maybe) hurt my chances of ever becoming the next “American Idol.” But I’ll be damned if I don’t sing off-key in my car anyway.
Make it public
Whether you choose to shout it from the rooftops or only tell your close friends, you need to tell other people about your goal. The mere act of saying your goal out loud makes it real. It’s a pretty big step.
If you keep a goal to yourself, it makes it easier to justify sleeping in when you should be getting up to run, or to stop at a fast-food joint when your secret goal is to eat nothing but healthy food for a month. If no one sees it, it didn’t happen – right? Riiiiiight. (Wink.)
Don’t fall into this trap. Tell other people about your goal. It can be one person you know intimately, or thousands of close-friends-you’ve-never-met reading your blog. Just tell someone.
Have a partner in crime…
Though the responsibility for achieving your goal falls on you, a partner in crime is critical. This, ideally, is a person who knows you well enough to distinguish between what you want and what you really need. They should be your drill-sergeant-head-cheerleader-psychotherapist. They should be the giver of both constructive criticism and anti-stress massages. They should be equally adept at saying “Quit being a baby” and “Aww, you poor baby.” This person will care about your goal just as much as you do, and will celebrate with you when you achieve it.
(By the way, your partner in crime should be thanked often. And loudly. With baked goods and wine and hugs and anything else you can think of to show just how grateful you are.)
…and a nemesis.
It doesn’t matter what shape or form this takes, but when an opponent comes into the equation, your goal takes on a higher level of importance.
When I set my goal to do an Ironman triathlon, someone I admire responded with such incredulity I became even more inspired to do it, just to prove him wrong. Maybe your push will come from trying to meet or surpass another person’s level. Sometimes, you might be your own adversary. Self-doubt or negativity can be a powerful, destructive thing.
No matter what shape or form it takes, that struggle can inspire you to stick with your goal when things get hard. When you accomplish your goal, the victory will be even sweeter.
Celebrate like crazy.
Do a Snoopy Dance. Pop a bottle of champagne. Get a massage. Go on vacation. Treat yourself to a piece of chocolate cake. Drive around the block in your friend’s convertible as part of a mini-victory parade. Whatever it is that makes you feel like you finally took that dream and made it a reality…do it.
You’ve earned it.
This post comes from the witty and fabulous Susan Lacke, No Meat Athlete‘s Resident Triathlete. She likes long walks on the beach, rainy days, and cool mornings. Ironically enough, Susan lives in the 118-degree desert of Phoenix, Arizona. Check out her monthly column in Competitor Magazine, weekly blog on Competitor.com, and random thoughts on Twitter: @SusanLacke.
[image found over at Cid Tyer's blog]Posted by Emily Levenson | 3 comments