Goal Setting Series Part 1: Goals That Are Too Loose

Feeling The Burnout?  It Might Be Coming From Somewhere Unexpected

Mary Elizabeth Brown – Fitness Competitor and self-professed Lover of All Foods Containing Cheese or Gravy.  Sometimes Cheese and Gravy.

This blog post is brought to you by that Taco that has a taco shell made out of chicken.  Seriously?  This is a “thing” now?

Most of us know the general statistics, or at least the idea of them.  Millions of people join the gym in January.  By Mid-February, many gym-goers are paying top dollar (that we don’t notice leaving the bank account because of “convenient” auto-withdraw fees) to keep a lonely treadmill at the gym empty.   Though we insist each New Year that we will not join that side of the statistic, let’s just state the obvious, here.  Consistent workout schedules can be a drag.  Maybe those five extra holiday pounds are gone, and it’s not quite swimsuit season yet…so that dessert at Valentine’s dinner won’t affect the waistline that much, right?  Neither will delicious cheese fries at Happy Hour, and while we’re at it, a bag of popcorn at the movies sounds like it will hit the spot.  At this point, who cares?  The diet for today is already out the window.  Might as well make the most of it.  Have a glass (or 3) of wine.  Don’t say it’s never happened.  I may or may not be speaking from experience.

This is the easiest time of year to slide – and slide permanently.  On the surface, it’s easy to point the finger at a few scapegoats.  Too many office donuts brought in by a kind co-worker, Girl Scout Cookie Time, (Hello, Samoas…), office deadlines cut in to gym time, cold weather shouts “Stay inside in elastic-waisted pants!”, Super Bowl parties, green beer, Peeps…the roadblocks are endless and it’s simplest to say, “It wasn’t my fault.”   However, the real reason we lose steam mid-stream is far more subversive – and more destructive to achieving a desired fitness level:  Powerless Goals.

It’s obnoxiously easy to set Powerless goals with the best of intentions.  As the Cheshire cat says, “If you don’t know where you’re going then it doesn’t matter which road you take.”  Further, without knowing exactly what you want, it becomes disgustingly easy to focus on what you aren’t getting, rather than what you’ve accomplished.  It’s human nature to operate from a deficit mindset, and powerless goals will open wide the door that allows a deluge of doubt and negativity in to chip away at your progress.

When the doubt and negativity wedge in, those cookies in the office get much easier to eat, that half cup of heavy whipping cream in the Alfredo sauce gets easier to put in the pot, and happy hour seems like a far easier option than the weight room on a Friday afternoon.  (Who am I kidding?  Even the most solid goals are a fierce match for half-price potato skins with bacon and ranch.)

Powerless goals hide in many forms.  In this post, I’ll talk about the first kind of Powerless goal – the goal that is too loose.  By tightening up your goals, you can be sure to fend off the late winter/early spring slide.

Powerless Goal #1:  A Loose Goal

Let’s start by thinking about what’s getting in the way of your goals.  Think for a minute about what your goal was at the beginning of the year.  Did you say, “Lose some weight?”  If you did, your goal is too loose.  If you lose one pound, are you happy?  You lost some weight.  You’re done.  Pass the Cheetos.  See the problem, here?  “Some” weight isn’t strong enough to keep you motivated.  A particularly successful trip to the bathroom helps you lose “some” weight.  So how much is “some”?  It’s important to attach a number to your goal.  “Start going to yoga at lunch” is far less potent than, “I will take the lunchtime yoga class with Fit Pros 3 times per week.”  If you miss three times, you’ll know you need to examine what got in the way of achieving that goal.  If you go four times, then you can feel like a rockstar!  (Just don’t go running to the half-off happy hour margaritas to celebrate!)

Even if you have a number attached to your goal, it may still be loose.  Ask yourself, “Does your goal have a deadline?”  Losing weight as a fitness goal is challenging enough on its own.  It gets horribly worse without a finish line in sight.  This is where the curse of middle-of-the-journey weight loss wheedles its way in to your mindset and tries endlessly to crack the foundation set back in January.  If you knew how much weight you wanted to lose and when you wanted to lose it by, you now have a finish line in sight.  In addition, just “losing weight” means it could take you six weeks, or six months without a timeframe set to it.  When does the madness stop?  Without a set time frame, you’ll be slogging away on the treadmill, well…forever.  If you know you want to lose ten pounds in six weeks, it gets more urgent to accomplish that goal.  Only having so much time to accomplish a goal makes it much easier to turn down the office birthday cake.  Now, that’s not to call in to question the idea of the “lifestyle change” associated with fitness goals, but there will come a point in time where you feel confident enough in your habits that one half-off happy hour deal won’t derail you for the whole of the week.  Knowing when you want to meet your fitness goals is far more important to identify than the number you want to see on the scale.  Otherwise, you don’t have any reason to work with urgency toward achieving them.  If you’re going to take six months to lose six pounds, you have no reason to work with urgency towards doing so.  What’s worse, if you never chose a deadline to begin with, then you will never really need to finish working toward your goal.  Now it doesn’t make a difference if you stick to your diet, because you don’t ever have to finish what you’re working on.  See the issue?

Help!  My goals are too loose!  What do I do?

If you’re discovering that your goals are too loose, add it to your surely exhaustive “to-do” list to tighten them up.  A strong fitness goal requires specifics – whatever they may be – and more importantly, it requires a deadline.    Here are some steps to “tightening up” that loose goal.

  1. Decide on an end date. Not sure how far to set your end date?  That’s fine!  Just pick one!  If it’s not working, you can always adjust it.  Still feeling apprehensive?  I’ll help you.  Pick the date on your calendar twelve weeks from today.  It’s always been a workable jumping off point for me.
  2. Decide on a number. This can be any number to meet your needs.  It might be a scale number, a body fat percentage number, a grams of sugar per day limit, a number of workouts per week number, or a number of minutes to meditate each day.  Whatever you are dedicating the time until your end date, find a number and go with it.  If it doesn’t work, you can change it.  No one is making you sign any contracts, here.  Just start with something.
  3. Begin tracking your progress. There are plenty of apps on smartphones, DayTimer planners, a spreadsheet, or even sticky notes on your computer.  Don’t make a lot of of extra work for yourself, but start writing down your numbers to see if you are actually making headway on your goals.  I write with a Dry Erase marker on my bathroom mirror to track my weight.  Simple as that.  Every morning after I weigh myself, I put the first letter of the day on the mirror, my weight, and my body fat.  When the mirror fills up, I take photos of everything and erase and start over.  It’s not fancy, but it sure does the job well.   Tracking your progress in a visible (to you) location helps you see right away if you are making the strides you hope to be making.

If you feel like your goals fit in to these parameters but you’re still feeling the Springtime slide, check back next week for the second installment of the Springtime Burnout – goals that are too restrictive.



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