The punishment of achieving your goals
This is going to be the week that I eat right. It should be easy because obviously I know all the things I need to do, how to do it, why to do it. Monday morning comes with sunshine and the little singing birds from Cinderella helping me get dressed and “do” my hair. Today is the day.
And it starts off great, a good cup of coffee and a banana. A salad with grilled chicken at lunch. As the afternoon goes on I am really hungry but I will figure out dinner when I get home (and a cloud comes in front of the sun). As I eat an apple on my way home, no sign of those pesky birds anywhere, I settle in to all the reasons why tonight is probably the best night to have pizza and wine. I mean, after all, pizza and wine are delicious and today at work was REALLY tough.
One night of pizza and wine doesn’t matter, this eating healthy thing is too much work and there is no guarantee that in the long run I will lose weight, or get rid of the joint pain and headaches, or be able to sustain it anyway.
And the goal of eating to support a healthy weight, being an example to my kids and my patients, and getting rid of pain go up in a poof of smoke.
My Monday morning sparkly coach has turned back into a pumpkin…(maybe I could make a pie, with ice cream).
Maybe your goals are different but the story has the same theme. Maybe you want to spend more time with your family, or get out in nature, or make more money, or start a new hobby. Maybe you want to get out of debt, or redecorate your house, or have time to relax, or learn a new skill.
What is the thing that you say, “if I could just…” about?
Do you feel like you have gotten to that spot where you don’t have an end to that sentence? Have you given up on making a goal or a wish list because you are too busy, or it’s not the right time? It could even be that you are so fearful of not following through or disappointing yourself that you stay stuck where you are.
You fail ahead of time.
Saves a lot of trouble.
This experience is not just yours. Everyone struggles with this same uncertainty one way or another. What if we decided it was no big deal to achieve the goal? What if we decided that working toward the goal wouldn’t have to feel like torture, every step a punishment for not doing it sooner?
What if a goal was like a vacation? Planned and paid for.
When a vacation is planned and paid for we are 100% certain it is going to happen. We organize our time and pack our stuff. We don’t dread putting our bathing suit in the suitcase, we don’t put off packing for another day. We prioritize it and get ready because it is something we want and something that is on the calendar. We don’t pack before we pick the destination. We pick the destination and then we FIGURE OUT THE STEPS to get there.
Sure some of the steps aren’t as fun as picking out what book to read on the plane. But yet somehow we do the laundry and buy the travel size toiletries at a super inflated price because that is part of the process. It’s just part of going on vacation.
We don’t feel guilty that maybe we can’t have a leisurely dinner with the kids because we have to get to the store for water shoes before it closes. We do what we need to do…. for vacation.
So what would happen if we treated our goals with the same importance, the same non-negotiable focus and excitement? Even the parts of the process that have the same thrill as doing laundry before vacation. I can totally do some things I don’t love for an amazing end result.
We don’t dread vacation just because it takes work to get there.
The truth is, making goals and getting started on achieving them doesn’t have to be awful, it doesn’t have to come at a cost that is too high to pay. Some parts of the process can actually be enjoyable if we let them be.
Step one: Pick a goal, any goal.
Step two: Bask in the glory of having a goal.
Give yourself a minute to imagine actually achieving it. Smile if you need to. What does achieving this goal mean for you? Why do you want it and how will you feel when you get it?
Step three: Plan any step that will start you toward the goal.
If you want to be successful you can’t skip the planning step. But planning doesn’t have to be awful, it can be fun to plan a way to get to your goals.
Pick a time to plan and do not negotiate when the time comes to do it.
Of course this is when you have to deal with all the mental chatter. You sit down for an hour on Sunday and all of a sudden there are 20 better things to do. You lie to yourself that you want to be spontaneous, that planning is punishment and you are not going to be a slave to a schedule…
so instead you choose to be a slave to whatever comes up in the moment.
We aren’t trading a life of bliss for a schedule, we are trading lack of progress for a plan.
Trust me, once you see this work it is so exciting that it perpetuates more planning and more progress. And you don’t have to have a whole syllabus, just a first step.
Take the example of wanting to spend more time with your family. This seems impossible,
I mean, you’re busy, right?
The first step could be looking at how you are spending your time now. Make a list of all the things you do, install an app on your phone that tracks your “online” time. Before changing everything and getting frustrated when it doesn’t work, gather some data (gather data not judgement of your current reality). Is there anything you can arrange in a different order to streamline your time? Is there anything you can delegate? Is there anything you can just give up, something that you are doing that you really just don’t want to do anymore?
Step four: Anticipate setbacks. Plan an alternate route ahead of time.
What about things that come up? What happens when my plans go down the toilet, when the freezer door gets left open and I need to throw out all my pre-made healthy dinners? What happens when I am ready to go to a social event with friends and my kid throws up all over the kitchen, or worse yet, all over the car? Or maybe something more serious comes up, like a diagnosis, or a financial crisis?
Things ARE going to come up. I guarantee it.
This is when you either figure it out or you throw in the towel.
If your washing machine breaks before vacation do you cancel the trip? Do you say, “the hell with it, I knew this was a stupid plan!?”
NO! You brainstorm an alternative so the goal can stay the same, you use a neighbor’s washing machine, or a laundromat, or maybe you buy all new clothes that are already clean and have amazon ship them to the hotel. You certainly don’t choose to just put it off to another day, or next week, or never. You have a vacation to go on!
This approach can be very helpful for reaching our goals even if our original plan doesn’t work out. If you plan to walk everyday to achieve a goal of fitness and you wake up to a monsoon you need to be willing to look for alternatives. These can look like many different things, maybe you rearrange your schedule to clean the house now and walk later. Maybe you drive to a big box store like Home Depot and walk inside there. Maybe you decide to challenge yourself to do the stairs in your house 50 times over the course of the day. Maybe you put on a raincoat.
It’s not a punishment, it’s one of the challenges that is built into the goal. Let the desire for the end result spark some imagination.
Instead of telling yourself,
“Once again I'm sabotaged, I just can’t do it”
“I am practicing figuring this out.”
Some days will be better than others. Just keep practicing figuring it out, that’s really all it takes, no punishments needed…
and let me know when you blow your own mind by achieving another goal.