I recently read a book that talked about “stretch goals.” That’s setting a goal and then moving the target date closer to the start date by a bit to see if you can stretch yourself to reach the goal sooner.
I’m a goal setter. Unfortunately, not a goal achiever. But that’s just the story I tell myself. Everyone can achieve a goal they set for themselves. It’s not the goal that’s the problem. It’s the steps we take to reach the goal. And that’s where I fall down.
I make big plans with giant steps and get discouraged early on that I’m not achieving what I set out to achieve and my goal keeps getting farther and farther out of my reach.
There are tons of books on this subject (and I’ve read a lot of them). Some of the theories work for me for a while. But as so often happens…life takes over. Except when it doesn’t.
I track a lot of my progress in my journal (sometimes I’m not writing about my progress, though, as much as I’m lamenting my laziness and how far away my goals seem). I can look back and read about how far I’ve come or analyze how many times I whined about my progress/goal/busy chaotic life/barriers to achievement/and more. Trouble is, I don’t like looking back. I won’t like what I see because I know it’s a lot of excuse making. But sometimes…
Sometimes it’s different. Every now and again, a goal and its plan will stick. These are usually small goals, simple tasks, not mentally taxing to plan for or do, and I achieve these goals.
For example, I decided at the beginning of July to follow the advice of some author I’d read about just setting an intention. Don’t do anything else; just set the intention. So my intention was to put on my running shoes and to go to my gym in my basement every morning, every day. Just put on my runners and go downstairs. Once I got down there, I could turn around and come back up if I wanted to. I gave myself permission to do nothing down there. But once I laced up my runners and went downstairs, it seemed silly to me not to lift a few weights or walk on the treadmill. So I did a bit of a workout. Ten minutes, that’s it. And the next day I went downstairs before my kids woke up and did the same thing. And the next day and the next day. The next thing I know, here we are at July 31st.
Halfway through the month, I printed off a yearly calendar and started making an X over each day that I went downstairs; not each day that I worked out, just that I went downstairs to my gym. But every day, I did a workout, and every day I got a bit stronger and a bit more enthused about exercising. And I started to push myself a bit harder. (I’m not talking Schwarzenegger here, just a couple more reps or a slightly heavier weight or one extra minute on the treadmill. I pushed past my comfort zone, cozy and small though it was.)
I didn’t even realize that I was sticking to this little plan that I had set in motion because during that time I had stopped journaling quite so regularly because I was trading in a bit of my writing time to stay in the basement and use my exercise equipment. I still wrote almost every day (because I always have; that habit is well-ingrained), I just didn’t spend as much time at it. I wish I had now; that’s something I would have gone back and read. What I was discovering though was…
Going down to the basement every morning and subsequently working out was making me think more clearly. And I realized that what I wanted and what I needed was to write more and be more healthy. I’d known that for a long time, but now I felt it at my core. And that clarity of thought and my improved strength and mobility translated into better eating habits and better mental habits (I am no longer beating myself up when I indulge in delicious, rich foods and drink on the weekends with friends; I’m simply enjoying and appreciating the moments of indulgence for what they are: moments of indulgence.)
And with all that self-awareness, I’m improving my meditation practice, my writing practice, my emotion management and my overall sense of well-being.
All of that just because I decided to go down to my basement every morning.
I’ve read extensively on this method of goal setting: focusing on the “how” not the “why” or the “what.” I’ve tried the method before. I’m not sure why I decided to stick with it this time. I’m exploring that now. And with each morning workout, I know I’ll get closer to the answer.