As many of you know, I struggle a lot with achieving many of my goals. Some of them are prevented by physical barriers, such as the aches and pains I get from my Fibromyalgia, or more recently a completely immobilised neck! Some of them are mental barriers, such as procrastination, which may as well be scheduled at the start of each of my study sessions. And sometimes, the problem is with the goals themselves.
I have been thinking about these things a lot recently, and was prompted to share, as my lovely friend E reminded me that falling off the horse isn’t a problem, it’s getting back on that counts. That has really motivated me over the last few weeks, after a semester where my diet and health hit pretty near rock bottom, and I managed lose all my fitness gains, while putting on more than 6kg over only a few months. My university experience was characterised by stress and panic attacks; my poor health was being triggered by a terrible diet and lots of stress on my body and my mind; and I didn’t have the time or the energy to fix any of it.
I was thinking about it, and I realised that I am never going to have more time. Sometimes saying “I’ll do it later” or when you’re less busy; less stressed; less over-worked; less under-paid; in the holidays or whatever can be a relief. It takes the pressure off you for a moment and makes you feel like it’s okay. But no one who ever achieved any of their most important goals did it by continually saying “I’ll do it later”.
Do it now.
1. Assess and refine your goals
Is your goal something really important to you? Is it vital to your happiness? Your health? Your relationships? Many of us, especially us Gen-Yers have been brought up being taught that we have to set goals. We always set goals. We have TV, Magazines, and the Internet all telling us what we are meant to be like. How can we not have goals? If you’re anything like me, your goals list likely consists of many scraps of papers with points like “Save $5000 by the end of the year”, “Lose 10kg”, “Get to Size 8”. I’m going to go ahead and admit something really embarrassing. In the past, I even made goals of who I wanted to be friends with, and some people featured on there probably for the wrong reasons.
Take a step back from your “I can do it all!” super-productive self that is writing all these goals, and ask yourself what ones you really need to keep. Here are some handy questions to help pick the golden ones from the heap:
-Is this goal integral to my happiness?
-If I was to die tomorrow, what would I want to be recognised for doing?
-Is this goal achievable?
2. Break your goals down- with direction
We’ve all heard how important it is to break goals down into small, achievable bites. I definitely think this is an important aspect of the goal-setting process, but I want to add a few things to this. When you’re breaking your goal down, make sure you are breaking it into steps that are not only achievable, but that will actually lead to your success. This is a little hard to explain, so for example, if your goal is to be healthy, you may want to reconsider whether “Lose 5kg” is a good sub-goal to have. Is losing weight necessarily the best measure? You can lose plenty of weight but not be healthy, so would it be better to look at setting a goal like “Get to under 20% body fat”? or “Be fit enough to run a marathon”.
Taking a step back and analysing the steps to your goals is so important, as we sometimes can buy into these “sub-goals” and lose sight of our end goal. It’s easy to get caught up with counting calories and kilograms lost rather than counting the minutes you can run without stopping; and whether you can bench press your own bodyweight.
3. Every Little Bit Counts
Life can be really hard. Surprises come up; unexpected injuries; unexpected bills; extra work and sickness can all contribute to nudging you off the path to your goals. The important thing is to remember, that no matter what your positive and motivated self says, you need to be able to chip away at your goals when you’re not. If everyone only ever exercised when they really felt like it, no one would ever get fit. Do the small things that you can do with little effort, and most of the time you will end up wanting to do more in the end anyway!
On Sunday I woke up with what is called “Wry Neck”, and what appears to have been caused by my Fibromyalgia. Basically I literally woke up unable to move my neck and upper back without excruciating pain. I hadn’t done anything to it, there was no trauma, I simply woke up like that after sleeping on my side, as I do almost every night. One hallucination-filled Ambulance Ride, Two medics, Four nurses, Six hours in hospital, Multiple shots of tramadol and morpheine, Two migraines, Approximately 60 pills, Three Physio Sessions, and Eight acu-cups later, I still have a limited range of motion in my neck, and my neck and head constantly hurts.
I was so annoyed, because I had to get cover for all my Zumba classes, and I was planning on really knuckling down with my fitness goals this week, plus I wanted to lose another kilo before Uni starts back and free-time slots are few and far between.
However, I realised that there are always going to be challenges, and that I have to do what I can, in the time that I have. So since I was able to walk (Tuesday) I have been doing little exercises to keep myself moving, and to chip away at my fitness goal. Today I had my physio at the gym and I decided that I was going to do a small legs session, just some squats and lunges. Lo and behold, once I got going I managed to add in some leg-press, leg extensions and more squat sets than I had thought I would be able to manage! Oh… and I’ve managed to drop more fat despite it all!
Start now and do whatever you can, no matter how little it may seem, and these will all add up to help you achieve your goals!
4. Learn to be your own motivation
There is something to be said for seeing all those inspirational stories online. Usually they’re great videos that have been put together with tear-jerking music, and they work. They make you want to get off the couch and go and do something amazing. The problem is that they usually only work short-term. While I’m definitely not saying don’t look to others for motivation or inspiration at all, you need to look within yourself to find what drives you. This can be tricky, because sometimes this is covered up by layers of what we think the answer should be.
-Set some time aside to sit and think about the times you have felt really proud of a success, or when you have been happy of an achievement. Brainstorm if you need to.
-Ask yourself what about that achievement made you happy. Was it that you overcame a big obstacle, like an illness or the loss of someone close to you? Was it because you stuck at it and really persevered over the long run? Was it because you were happy about the results you had in the end? Was it because of what others said about your achievement? Think about the kind of person you are, and what drives you.
-Set up triggers and reminders to help you along the path of achieving your goals. For example, if you are results orientated then you may want to keep a chart that keeps track of how far you are able to run in a certain amount of time; or you may want to use an app such as MyFitnessPal to track your nutrition so you can see how your diet has improved. However, if your happiness in past successes has come from knowing how you persevered maybe you want to keep track of the days that you went to the gym, regardless of whether you only did a half-arses ten minutes on the cross trainer or whether you did a massive weights session followed by a cardio class.
5. Surround yourself with like-minded people
While you should learn to be able to motivate yourself to a degree, that doesn’t mean you have to achieve things in isolation. Surround yourself with people who understand and appreciate your goals, and who you can learn from or turn to when you’re not feeling capable of achieving them.
Most of my closest friends share a passion for health, fitness and life. We naturally surround ourselves with people who share common interests, or reflect certain parts of ourselves, but the same can be true of negative aspects. We all have some doubt, and as the saying goes “misery loves company”. While sometimes you just need to have a vent and get frustrations off your shoulders, be wary if you only seem to interact with some friends in times of misery. Be selective about who you allow in your life, and under what circumstances. Surround yourself with people who will support you and you’ll be that much closer to reaching your own goals!