In the wake of a new year, goal setting and resolution advice is inescapably flooding social media (and hey, we’re guilty of it as much as the next blog). It’s easy to fixate on everything that you have yet to accomplish. It’s not easy to forgive yourself for failing to achieve goals that you previously set.
Take a moment to reflect on what you want and why it’s important to you. Focus on the why. Think about how you react to achieving or not achieving your goals. If you’re anything like me, you might downplay your accomplishments as things you should have already been doing and assume that any shortcomings are due to lack of willpower or drive. If that sounds familiar, consider adapting your mentality about your 2019 goals as a goal in itself.
I’ve failed a lot of goals, such as avoiding processed food for a month, getting into medical school, and snatching 135 pounds. I’ve failed goals recently. In fact, I set the goal of snatching 135 pounds in June of 2018 after achieving my original goal of 130 for the year. I remember hitting 130 and thinking that “I’m stronger than this, I should have set my goals higher.” I didn’t even stop to acknowledge that I had done something that I had never done before. Instead I trained for and frustratingly attempted 135 pounds countless times. I still have not lifted that number.
You’ve probably heard of “SMART” goals; they’re specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. I think that creating SMART goals is important in order to prove to yourself that you can accomplish what you set out to achieve. However, I think that it’s more important to stop and ask yourself:
Why do you want any of those things at all?
Why did I want to not eat processed food? I thought that it would symbolize control over my nutrition and mark the end to my disordered eating. Why did I want to get into medical school? I wanted a career in helping people that was recognized as being “successful.” Why do I want to be able to snatch 135 pounds? Because I love training the Olympic lifts and I believe that I should be improving given how much I train them. The reasoning for me wanting to accomplish many of my goals was to finish something that I started or to say that I did it. Upon making this realization, I started asking myself:
So what if I eat an Oreo-Rice Krispie treat a week and a half into my month of non-processed consumption? It doesn’t mean the rest of the month is ruined and it certainly doesn’t mean I should feel guilty for eating it.
So what that I didn’t get into medical school? I love helping people, but I truly do not think that I would have been happy in a career path with so many steps laid out for me.
So what that I haven’t been able to snatch 135 pounds yet? I know that I’m strong enough to do it, so now it’s time to figure out what I can improve to get there.
My mindset prevented me from enjoying the process of achieving goals and from setting goals that added value to my life upon accomplishment. My fitness goals are not to become a professional athlete. I train because I love the process of improving my athletic ability. So what is the point of letting a bad lift or training day dictate my happiness? Why dwell over a job or school application that didn’t work out if you have other opportunities that excite you?
My reaction to failing used to consist of a lot of expletives and asking myself “what’s wrong with you?” There are days when that’s still my emotional response to failure. If you care enough about something, that reaction is inevitably going to happen. That is okay. What matters is what you tell yourself next.
What do you say to yourself if and when you fail?
Focus on the positive, especially when you’re unhappy with yourself. I’m sure anyone can recall a time that they looked in a mirror and self-critiqued something about their reflected image. It happens. Recognize when it happens and if you can’t find anything else positive, celebrate the recognition itself.
If you’ve already made 2019 goals, take a second to ask yourself why those things are important. Ask yourself how you’ve responded to achieving goals or falling short in the past. If the thought of making or accomplishing goals at all makes you stressed, start with trying to become aware of your self-talk. You may be surprised at how many opportunities you have to be more supportive of yourself.