Lugging away on the treadmill at the gym last night I did a lot of people watching while jamming out to some Phil Collins (yes, this happens to be a typical Wednesday night for me). I love being able to just put the headphones on and getting lost in the music and the miles. This is usually when most of my best thinks happen.
As I was running the miles away I couldn’t help but notice the influx of people at the gym. It really was a typical early January evening at the gym. Pretty much any gym. Whether it’s Gold’s Gym, Planet Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness or any plethora of local gyms the scene is always pretty much the same. And, then comes the about third week of January and early February and it eventually dies down to normal.
It’s a fairly normal occurrence and it is sad that it happens. Well, during my running think last night I kept on wondering why it happens that way. What is it about New Year’s resolutions, new commitments, new goals that leads us to failure? I’ve been down that road. Fat Josh was very much that person and sometimes I find myself still doing the same thing. So what gives? What makes us sabotage and ultimately defeat our best intentions year after year?
After thinking about it for mile or two, I came down with a few reasons I think we derail ourselves and putter out sooner than later. They include —
The goals are too vague
In the past this was a big one for me. I can’t tell you how many times I started off the year wanting to lose weight. So my goal was to lose weight. Not, how much I wanted to lose, when I wanted to lose it … just that I wanted to lose weight. And, for someone that needed to lose 100-plus pounds it’s hard to quantify what’s reasonable or possible, because of how much of a daunting task it is.
That’s why now whenever I make new goals I use the S.M.A.R.T. criteria – Smart, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related. I’ve found that by using that approach your goals become more focused, definitive and possible. They are not longer mere wishes, but doable tasks that will carry you well past the middle of January.
We expect a high level of perfection from ourselves
I’m guilty of this. Heck, I’m probably still guilty of this at times. But, how often do we shoot for the moon and then get overwhelmed even before we make lift-off? We get carried away with absolutes, musts and undeviated courses that will get us to our destination, that even one slight deviation can easily derail our course.
Our expectations should be high, but to expect perfection is foolish. I strongly believe that in order to find long term success you must embrace and expect imperfection. You need to realize that we’re all going to fall short at times, we’re not going to always want or give 100% and it won’t be easy, especially if it’s worth it.
Instead of expecting imperfection we need to embrace resiliency, tenacity and everyone’s love for a comeback. I find those qualities much more realistic and growth promoting than any other quality we can expect from ourselves.
Because, everyone else is doing it
How often do we make goals for ourselves simply because other people are doing it too? Everyone wants to lose weight, everyone wants to make more money, everyone wants to break certain habits and live a more enriched and wonderful life. Those are good goals. But, are some of those goals what you really want … or … are they your goals because others made them as well?
It is good to follow other people’s example, but it’s just as important to pave our own paths and trail. I find it important to constantly ask myself “what do I want?” when something new comes my way, because it is me who makes the final decision on my destination no one else.
It should also be noted that this excuse also works with not going to the gym after the first of the year. Just because your significant other, best friend, sibling or parent stopped going doesn’t mean you have to stop either. Sometimes by you consistently going will encourage that needed system to get back on track.
You lack the support system
Having a support system is crucial to not just goals, but any undertaking in life. I couldn’t have gotten here if it wasn’t for an awesome support system. My parents, family and friends have all been very supportive of my journey, from the weight-loss to the obsessive running. I hold myself accountable to them and they’ve all taken vested interest in what I am doing.
The support system doesn’t have to be just like mine. But, it’s important to have something holding you accountable. If it’s not your family, than confide your goals to a close friend, co-worker or even find a local group that can provide that support for you. One of the reasons why I started blogging about my weight-loss and running was not just to share my journey, but to hold myself accountable as well. For a while I tracked my daily and weekly weigh-ins, I talked obsessively about my food and even tracked my daily mileage as I trained up to a marathon.
I found sharing those details with the world really helped me stick to my goals and bred success and enthusiasm. A little online community was made and I didn’t want to disappoint them whenever I felt the urge to eat a whole pizza followed by a carton of ice cream. Blogging is a lot more than just about writing things, it can be a lot more.
You’ve got to see and believe in the end result
This is probably the biggest determinant in whether or not you are going to have success with your goals. I didn’t really have success conquering my weight issues until I fully painted a picture of the kind of person I wanted to be and look like. I had to create that person in my mind and quite literally run toward him. Creating that vision gave me something tangible to reach for, because it was something real that I created. It wasn’t a wish or desire … it was real.
We do a great disservice to ourselves when we skip this step in goal making. Even before writing down goals I think it is important to take the time to envision where we want to see ourselves in three, six or 12 months, if not years. Having and creating a lasting vision will carry us throughout much of the doubt and difficulty that comes when striving for something worthwhile. Without that vision our goals really don’t have a final destination.
I hope that you keep and reach your goals and resolutions that you’ve made for 2014. But, even more importantly, I hope that you have the courage to challenge yourself and not be afraid to change course if needed, even if it is simply the need to clarify those goals better.
I love this time of the year and I love the excitement that comes with creating new goals and directive in life. And, that’s why it kills me to see the crowds in the gym die down come mid-January and early February. There’s so much that life gives you when you are resilient in striving for your goals and dreams.
It’s just a matter of seeing, reaching and doing it.
See what happens when you put me on a treadmill in a room full of strangers?