I’ve been thinking about goals quite a bit lately.
Our society loves to talk about goals: setting goals, working towards goals, reaching goals. Short-term versus long-term goals. Define benchmark goals on the way to the larger goal. Plan the steps necessary to help reach the goal. Organize your life in a way that gets you closer to the goal. Once you reach the goal, set up the next goal.
(Did you notice how strange the word “goal” starts to sound when you say it that many times in that short a space? Or is it just me? Anyway…)
Weight loss and “getting in shape” are huge goals for millions of people, with a multi-billion dollar industry devoted to helping people reach that goal in a myriad of ways, from the reasonable to the ridiculous.
When I first came to Ludus Magnus in 2014, weight loss was not my goal. Seriously. I had been on and off the gain-lose-regain roller coaster so many times, I was incapable of focusing on weight loss. I wanted to feel better. I wanted to not be in pain all the time. I wanted to not feel like a thirty-something woman with an eighty-something body.
But articulate a specific weight loss goal? Did not have it in me; I simply could not bear the thought of going down that road yet again. It was nowhere to be seen on my horizon of possibility.
This is my problem with the way we are typically encouraged to set goals: we start by defining the result. And we assume that the result we define is the best possible outcome.
That may seem like a no-brainer. Of course we start with the result in mind. Isn’t that the point? But consider this…
I think goals sometimes give us tunnel-vision. We become so married to a specific result, that we miss potentially wonderful opportunities along the way. We can’t see them because we didn’t know to be looking for them. I did not have a preconceived vision for most of the amazing things that have happened in my life. I never even imagined they were possible until they became reality. If I had to define all of my best outcomes, I would have sold myself way short.
“So what are you saying, Jennifer? Never set goals? Goals are bad?”
Not what I am saying at all. Goals can be a positive, motivating force. Goals can inspire us to take much-needed action. Someone wiser than me told me a long time ago that I’m responsible for the actions I take, that the footwork is up to me, but the result is out of my hands. I need to plan my plans, but not my results.
I did have a goal when I came to Ludus, a goal that seemed somewhat tangible and moderately attainable: less pain and more strength. And I took action towards making that goal a reality: I committed to training two times per week and implemented small dietary changes a bit at a time like I’ve discussed in my other posts. But from that original plan of action, events materialized that were beyond my ability to foresee in the beginning:
- Increased confidence, first inside the gym, then outside.
- Increased willingness to try new things and get outside my usual routines.
- Decreased self-consciousness and insecurity around strong, fit women.
- Gained a whole new community of friends and support system.
- Developed a base of knowledge and experience I can now use to help others.
- Lost ninety pounds (and counting).
I put weight loss last on that list intentionally. I know in my heart that it only happened because of everything else. It was a side effect of change, not the initial motivator for change. If I had started out with the stated goal, “I am going to lose 90 pounds,” I really believe I would not have achieved that result, AND would have missed out on all the rest. I would have stayed stuck in my old plans of action.
If I could not even imagine significant weight loss for myself, I sure as hell could not foresee becoming a coach and helping others make changes to better their lives.
And yet, this week I had my first session with my very first client (or “Victim #1,” as he has requested I call him). We had a great meeting, and I took him through an introductory lower-body workout at Ludus. He is fabulously motivated, and has committed to two sessions per week. What once seemed so impossible it wasn’t even a conscious thought, is now reality.
The truth is, I often have no clue what is best for me. Things happen, and I judge them as good or bad, and I am often wrong. Like I said in my earlier post, “Patient Zero,” Workmen’s Comp denying more treatment for my back injury was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me. It was the motivator that made me willing to take a different course of action. In the moment, it felt like a disaster, the worst possible outcome. How little I knew.
I have had some unspeakably dark moments in my life centered around weight, and food, and my body. But ultimately, maybe the whole purpose of that struggle has been so I could help somebody else get through the same thing.
Whatever your goal may be, there is bound to be some unexpected scenery along the way. Remember to look around, or you might miss it.
If you are ready to plan some plans and see what results may come, give me a call at 614-517-2520 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started!