Setting Realistic Goals for the Journey
By Don Otis
What is on your “bucket list?” If you saw the film starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, you know what I mean. What do you want to accomplish in life? What habits do you want to change? As the old saying goes, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” In fitness, as in any area of our lives, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, change must be intentional.
As a personal trainer, I know how important goals are. We need to define them so there is no ambiguity. For example, I reached the summits of two 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado this weekend. My long-term goal is to do all 54 of them in the state. While it is a lofty goal (pun intended), it is achievable. Maybe your goal is to lose 15 pounds or to finish a 5 K run. Whatever it is, start now, start slow, and be realistic.
In two weeks, I will tick off another item from my own bucket list. It is the Pikes Peak Ascent. Ever since I first read about this race, I wanted to do it. It is a 13.3-mile race to the top of 14,110-foot Pikes Peak. I realized earlier this year that if I was ever going to get it done, I had better sign up for it now. What do you want to accomplish? Write down some goals for yourself. Then, tell someone who will hold you accountable.
Bigger goals take littler steps. For example, if you want to run a marathon, you have to start with what you can do–shorter runs. You need a plan. You need direction. Because we live in an instant-everything society, we want our success to be easy. The things in life that mean the most to us rarely come easily. They take work. They require sacrifice.
A week ago I did a 10-mile training run at 10,000 feet in the pouring rain. It was no fun. I was cold and muddy. My knees ached. My quadriceps screamed. In reaching for any goal, we learn to push through discomfort and excuses. There will always be distractions. Expect resistance. Expect setbacks. Expect to feel lousy some days. Keep your eye on your goals. No one will ever care as much about whether you reach your goals as you do.
To get you going with goal setting, keep these principles in mind:
1. Your goal must be achievable. If you set your goals too high, you will become discouraged. It is better to set realistic goals that you can meet within one to three months. You can always revise and rework your goals.
2. Your goal must be measurable. Be specific. For example, “to lose weight” is not specific. It is better to say, “To lose 10 pounds in two months.”
3. You must have a plan. How will you lose 10 pounds in two months? Write it down. This can be as simple as saying, “I will walk 30 minutes a day five days a week.”
Be patient. Be consistent. Remember that anything new takes time getting used to doing. Our lives are short. Our bodies are wearing down, but God calls us to be stewards of this marvelous machine.
Don S. Otis is the author of Staying Fit After Forty and a personal trainer living in Canon City, Colorado. He can be reached at Don@veritasincorporated.com © 2009