Goals vs. Resolutions

The most common question that I get asked around the New Year (besides “how was your holiday?”) is “Are you doing any New Year’s Resolutions?”  The answer is yes, but it’s much more than that.  Instead of resolutions, I’m taking it a step further and setting goals for myself to accomplish this year.  I know your next question, and here’s the difference between the two.  Making a resolution is an expression of intention; setting a goal is an expansion on that intention that formalizes an end result to reach for.

 

I’ll be completely honest with you when I say that I have never successfully completed a New Year’s Resolution.  On the flip side of that, over the past year, I have set challenging goals for myself in many different aspects of my life and have successfully completed all of them.  This difference in success rate isn’t coincidental.  If you point me in the right direction and tell me to shoot an arrow, I’m going to fire away, but I won’t be successful at hitting a specified target if I don’t know what I’m shooting at.  If you point me in the right direction and tell me to shoot an arrow to hit the small yellow circle at the center of the target, I have a much better idea of what I’m trying to work for.

I actually took some archery classes a few years ago. My shots usually weren’t this accurate.

Resolutions aren’t a bad thing.  On the contrary, every goal should start by expressing your intention to make a change or to do something that is important to you.  Statements such as “I want to lose weight” or “I want to complete more volunteer work” are excellent resolutions and great initial points for goal-setting; so start there.  Take a moment to write down five resolutions (or two, or ten) for yourself; things that you truly want to accomplish over the course of the next year.

 

Here’s the next step: Make them into goals.  Before my most recent weight loss endeavor, I made resolution after resolution to “lose weight”, but never set up anything tangible.  This goes back to firing the arrow.  You can point in a direction and shoot, but unless you have a target, you’ll never know how successful you are.  Look over every resolution that you wrote down and turn that resolution into a goal.  A resolution such as “I want to lose weight” can be turned into a goal by saying “I want to lose 30 pounds in 6 months” or “I want to be at a goal weight of 185 by December 31st.”  Be specific with these goals and give them a target date; this way, it’s much easier to look back on your goals to determine if you were successful.

 

Finally, come up with a plan to achieve your goals.  Some of your resolutions and goals will be simple and some may be more difficult, but all of them should come with a plan.  A failure to plan is a plan to fail, so do your homework.  If you want to lose weight, develop a plan that is attainable that you can stick to.  If you want to be a better spouse, figure out how you want to achieve it as soon as you can.  A successful product or business comes with lots of careful and intricate planning; so it should be with your meaningful goals.

 

My next post in a few days will divulge some of the goals I’m targeting for 2014!  I challenge you all to construct your own, and if you feel comfortable enough, feel free to share them in the comments section.  You may be able to give some great inspiration to others who are also looking to improve themselves!

Operation: Winter Warrior

When I started this journey almost five months ago, my goal was to lose 30 pounds before the new year.  As of this morning, my weight loss goal was achieved.  Thirty pounds in five months.  I honestly can’t believe how far I’ve come in that amount of time.  When I started, I struggled to run more than one or two miles at a decent pace, my weightlifting regimen wasn’t happening, and my diet was admittedly poor.

Yesterday, I began to converse with a gentleman at the gym; about the same age, a bit taller than me, similar build. He mentioned how he was trying to lose about 25 pounds and was just starting to diet.  As we kept talking, I subconsciously began keeping track of his workouts.  He began to run on the treadmill – 5.5 mph for 12 minutes before running out of breath; similar to where I was when I started; and his weights were very similar to where I was 5 months ago, too.

Once he left, the realization set in.  That was me; my past; who I was 5 months ago.  At some point, I made a decision at the proverbial fork in the road.  Continue to go down the same path, or start being the kind of person that I wanted to be.  When you push yourself, and I mean REALLY push yourself both mentally and physically, you start to realize that you can achieve a lot more than you may have originally thought you could.

Now alone in the gym, my workout stopped as I slowly approached the mirror, looking straight at the floor.  I closed my eyes and saw a picture of myself only five months ago.  Stressed.  Fatigued.  Drained.  Lacking confidence.   I raised my head and opened my eyes, looking at the present picture of myself.  Strong.  Energetic.  Secure.  Confident.

Whether it be at the gym, at school, at work, on the field, or elsewhere, the battle that we face is against ourselves.  Have you progressed since last year?  Last month?  Could the “you of today” conquer the “you of yesterday”?  When I started, the answer to those questions was a resounding “no”, and that was not okay with me.

Enter my new challenge, Operation: Winter Warrior.  You will be competing against one other person reading this post in a challenge to improve your mental and physical health.  You will win the challenge only if you improve more than your opponent.  If it’s a tie, THEY win.  Here’s the catch – your opponent was sitting where you were sitting 5 seconds ago.  That’s right, your opposition is you.  Remember where you are today, both physically and mentally.  In three weeks, ask yourself if the “you of today” could EASILY conquer the “you of yesterday”.  If the answer is yes, you have succeeded.

Many people make New Years Resolutions, but here we are, three weeks away from the new year.  Why wait?  There’s no better time than now to start achieving everything that you want from life.

To Forgive; Divine

Most of my posts are often inspired by someone in my life or something that happens throughout the course of my day.  I was touched to receive a message on my CC community asking me to write about a specific topic that could hopefully motivate and encourage people.  Thank you for the message Susan (joyful)!

Think back to a week ago; a month ago; a year ago.  Many different people have said many different things to me.  I find it interesting that I remember a lot of the negative things that people have said to me or about me, but can’t remember any compliments that I have received in the recent past.  Negativity directed towards you, specifically from friends or family, can be haunting and put a major strain on even the best of relationships.  There are many people out there who have estranged family members, which could be due to a variety of different reasons.

A tense relationship with a friend or a loved one is stressful.  I’ve been there, as everyone has to varying degrees of severity.  It’s not fun, and as the stress builds up, the adverse effects of the stress will rear its ugly head.  Some people turn to alcohol abuse.  Others turn to other forms of abuse.  For others such as myself, we will rapidly gain or lose weight, often times to unhealthy levels.

If the mind is willing, the body will follow.  If the mind is unwilling, the body will still follow, just down the wrong path.  Can stress lead to eating disorders?  Of course!  How many times have you had a bad day and just wanted to come home and eat a tub of ice cream or a bag of chips in front of the TV?  To find the solution to this particular stress, you need only look at the causes.  Anger.  Fear of getting hurt again.  Resentment towards the negativity directed at you.

This is where forgiveness comes into play; the act of letting go of your resentment and your grudges and working to rebuild your relationship.  This is not to say that whatever wrongs have been committed are justifiable, but rather it’s a conscious decision to let go of your anger and try to rebuild a healthy and meaningful relationship.  What is the point of holding a grudge?  What are you gaining from not speaking to a close friend or family member?  The animosity and resentment is building inside you and building inside them, which doesn’t help anyone.

December is a month where many families gather for the holidays, and as such, here is my challenge to those that read this blog.  If you have a relationship with a family member that includes a large amount of hostility, I challenge you to improve that relationship, rise above the disharmony, and do your best to bury the hatchet.  While you may not see immediate results, don’t stop trying.  Keep at it.  Moving towards a more positive interaction can lift a huge burden off of you and your loved ones.

Let go of your resentment and your feuds and focus on building positive and enjoyable relationships.  Life is way too short to be holding on to grudges.

Bucket List #4: Complete

What once started as a weight loss journey has turned into something different; something more.  Over the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time reaching out to support others; whether it be with weight loss, an overall quality of life, or just trying to find new and creative ways to make life more enjoyable.

One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned since I started is that you don’t have to do something extraordinary to make an extraordinary impact on someone’s life.  You don’t have to stand in front of millions and give a thunderous speech to inspire people.  You can make a difference in someone’s life by being yourself and reaching out.  Whether you know it or not, your actions will trigger a domino effect that will inspire others to reach out.  The lives you touch will touch others, and those lives will touch others.

The fourth item on my bucket list was to run a race for a charity, and Thanksgiving provided a perfect opportunity to do that.  The run was for the Life With Cancer organization, which offers support and education for those who are affected by cancer or who have loved ones that are affected by cancer.  There are millions of people who are living with cancer today, and this organization makes their day-to-day lives a little easier.

Some background: I’ve never run a race before.  Ever.  So this was a very new experience for me.  I did not train for this 5k race and only signed up a couple days before; however, my normal runs are anywhere between 2 miles and 4 miles, so running 5k (3.1 miles) wasn’t a stretch for me.  If you have run races before, you may just want to skip to the end.  If you haven’t run races before, stay tuned; I’ll be going through a lot of lessons that were learned.

I woke up around 5:45 AM for an 8 AM race.  Normally before a morning run (despite most of my runs being in the afternoon), I may have an apple and a swig or two of water.  Today it was 16 ounces of water and a banana, which I drank/ate at 6:25 AM.  I was out the door by 6:45 and arrived at the race site at 7.

Starting line an hour before race-time.

Starting line an hour before race-time.

First lesson: If you’re running a race in November, dress warm!  I feel like I was adequately prepared, but many people brought some of the disposable hand warmers and that would’ve been nice because – IT WAS FRIGID!

An actual picture from 30 minutes before the race.  Yes, it’s below freezing!

An actual picture from 30 minutes before the race. Yes, it’s below freezing!

I’m making the assumption that most races have bathrooms or Port-a-John’s close by, which leads me to my second lesson: For short races, don’t eat or drink anything different than normal.  I was nervous and over-thought the pre-race meal a lot, and as such, I was in the bathroom twice in a span of 45 minutes before the race.  Rookie mistake!

Five minutes to game-time and I’m about 100 yards behind the starting line.  There were over 3,000 people running in the race and I’m guessing I was around the middle of the pack.  Everyone is standing around and talking.  Meanwhile, I’ve got my headphones in my ears listening to “It’s A Fight” by Three 6 Mafia and “Warriors of the World” by Manowar, which aren’t my running songs, but usually precede a general workout.

The horn sounds and we see the front of the pack in the distance start to go.  Lesson three: The start of a race is nerve-wracking and tense, especially for a first-timer, but it’s anti-climactic at best, so be patient.  While everyone at the front was running, everyone around me was slowly walking forward.  I found out later that it took me one minute and 55 seconds after the race started before I reached the starting line.

Fourth lesson: The starting line might not be level to the ground, so be careful.  I tripped over the starting line like an idiot but maintained my balance and started to run.  Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to run better when I’m trying to keep up with someone, so I began to look around for a “pace car”.  In front of me was a woman and her boyfriend?/spouse? running at a decent pace with marathon jackets on, so I decided to stick with them for as long as I could.

Lesson five: Do not be phased by the people you pass or the people that pass you.  Both will happen and happen often, so just run your race.  After the first quarter mile, three younger guys just flew by me, and my initial thought was that I was going too slow and needed to speed up.  I stayed the course.  You’re not competing against 3,000 people or three speed demons; just run your race, I told myself.

Despite knowing that I was still running on pure adrenaline after the first 0.75 miles, I decided to go faster.  I accelerated past my “pace car” and began searching for someone new to keep pace with.  I came up on another couple who both looked extremely slim and fit who were running at a quicker pace than I had been running earlier.  Similar to the last couple, I camped out about 10 feet behind them and just worked on keeping pace.

Lesson six: This may not apply to everyone, but it does to me.  Do scout work ahead of time.  I knew exactly where the mile markers would be and, in addition, despite not having a watch, I knew exactly where I should be in my playlist when I hit those markers.  At the 2-mile mark, I was still with my pace-setter and WELL ahead of where I should’ve been had I followed my normal pace.  I evaluated in my head whether or not I should continue to keep pace with him while wondering how long I can keep up the pace before running out of gas.

The side-stiches came at the 2.5 mile mark, with only 0.6 miles to go.  Not now!  Not when I’m so close!  The pain continued until a couple minutes later when the finish line was in sight.  I heard my pace-setter motivating his significant other, “There’s the finish line.  Keep going.”  The distance between us opened up as I could see them going faster.  I sped up and caught them again, trying to muster every ounce of energy to stay within my normal 10 feet.

At the last tenth of a mile, my pace-setter went into a dead sprint, leaving his partner behind.  I followed as we broke away from the small pack that we were with to cross the finish line.  It was my fastest 5k time that I’ve ever run by a full minute and 45 seconds.

Race Results

Race Results

Your actions, however large or small, can be inspirational to those around you.  Unbeknownst to them,  by just running their race, that couple inspired me to push harder than I ever have before.  Maybe one day, I’ll serve as the pace car to someone else.

Leadership

A few days ago, a good friend of mine and I were discussing the term “leadership”; what it truly meant and the qualities and traits of a good leader.  Webster’s defines leadership as a person who guides or directs a group.  That’s it?  Come on, Webster!   You can do better than that!

Which one can give me a better definition of “leadership”?  Hint: It’s not who you’d think!

What does leadership mean to you?  What makes a good leader?  I’ve been asking a lot of people this question over the last 48 hours, and everyone seems to have a different answer.  However, many of the answers shared some common themes; themes which I will try to express in my extended definition.

Leaders genuinely care about their team.  Leaders realize that in addition to team goals, that each individual has personal goals too, and so the leaders will actively seek out ways for both to be accomplished.  Leaders will clearly articulate the team goals and work with the team on ways to accomplish these goals.

Leaders are open-minded to the ideas of the people on their team, and realize that listening and learning from the team will ultimately benefit the entire group.  Leaders will care more about what is right than about being right.

Leaders have integrity and are fair, honest, and approachable.  Even in failure, a leader will treat their team with respect and will make decisions based on knowledge and factual information rather than emotion.

Leaders are trusted, and they earn that trust by respecting everyone around them.  They also earn that trust by trusting their team.  They will work beside their team and stay focused on “us” rather than “me”.  As praise is handed out, the leader will stand behind their team.  When criticism befalls the team, the leader will stand in front.

One of the best books I’ve ever read!

If you haven’t read this book, I would highly recommend it!  It really highlights the differences between “good” leaders and “great” leaders!

I’m sure there are a lot more characteristics to being a leader, and so I welcome any comments that you have on the topic.  Finally, I’ll leave you with one last thought.  You do not have to be in a leadership position to be a leader.  Leaders can be anyone.  A leader can be a small child with a learning disorder and an incredible and inspiring zest for life.  A leader can be a friend who helps another in need.  A leader can be you.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” -John Quincy Adams

I Want to be More

Over the last few weeks, my absence from this blog can be attributed to the fact that your humble author has been in the doldrums.  Whether it’s the SAD that I discussed in my last post or something else, I can’t seem to shake the feeling of despondency.  There are things that I want out of life that feel so far away… so impossible; and the feeling that those goals and aspirations are so far out of reach is driving me further and further down.  I want more.  I want to be more.

Stop!

A few posts ago, I went on a 5.5 mile hike through part of the Appalachian Trail called “Raven Rocks”.  Over this past weekend, I decided to challenge myself on a more difficult Appalachian Trail stretch.  A 9.25 mile hike with 3,000 feet of elevation gain over harsh rocky terrain.  The goal I set for myself was 4 hours.  While that may seem slow, take the rocky terrain into consideration.  This isn’t road running, and considering the 5.5 mile hike took about 3.5 hours with less elevation change, this was going to be a challenge.  In my head… almost an impossible challenge.

Time started to tick and I started to run.  With leaves piling over the trail, and most of the trail covered by rocks, there were only certain stretches where running was an option.  But every chance I got, with every ounce of strength I had in my body, I was going to push.

Similar to this, except worse rocks… and in the forest… and a less buff SharkStopper (yeah, that’s not me).

I reached the halfway point at 2 hours and 3 minutes. At that point, the reality of the situation set in. My pace was good – this COULD be done. From that point on, every time I could run, I ran. Every time I ran out of breath, I forced myself to keep going.

The last marker was positioned 0.75 miles away from the finish line with 29 minutes before the 4 hour deadline and the largest ascent still left.  I honestly can’t remember how many people I passed in that final 3/4 of a mile, but the adrenaline rush of being so close to accomplishing what I thought was impossible kept me charging forward.

Restart!

To be honest, it didn’t matter if I won or if I lost, and it didn’t matter HOW I played the game.  What mattered, is THAT I played the game.  The day you stop believing that your goals and aspirations are worth fighting for is the day that you’ve been defeated.  Nothing comes easy, especially the goals that seem so ridiculously far out of reach.  Don’t give up on it.  It’s amazing what your body can do if the mind is willing and ready.  You will see abilities that you never knew you had, and eventually, you’ll realize that there is no limit to what you can be.

Today is your opportunity to be great!  Fight for it!  Take it!  Then never look back.

Finishing Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes, 49 seconds

Operation: Autumn Aggression

The winter puts a lot of people into a funk, and many people can suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is basically a fancy term for the winter blues.  I have to admit, my motivation level has been extremely low over the last few days as it’s starting to get colder and darker every day.

When I was younger, my friend and I started running in November when the soccer season ended to prepare for the next season.  We ran 1.4 miles every day before school.  Sometimes, motivation can be found when you have someone who is battling the same fight that you are every morning in sub-freezing weather.

So it’s time to issue a challenge – a week-long “operation” – to myself and to others in the world who are impassioned enough to join me.  I plan to issue a different operation every Sunday to challenge and motivate all my friends, family, and readers out there.

Katniss knows a thing or two about overcoming challenges

Operation Autumn Aggression:
There is no “can’t” this week.  For those that are working to eat well and stay in shape… do you remember why you started?  Remember it now.  You wanted to better yourself, because you’re worth it.  So do it!  This week ends one month and starts another, and so we’re going to leave October with a bang and come out firing in November!

Primary objective: Workout harder than you did last week.  If you’re like me and struggled last week, get back on track and push yourself!  If you killed it last week, kill it even more this week!

Secondary objective: Hit your calorie targets this week with healthy foods.  Halloween candy may tempt you, but don’t let it consume you.  You don’t have to completely shut it down, but make moderation a priority.

Feel free to join me in Operation Autumn Aggression.  Monday through Saturday – LET’S DO THIS!  If you leave a comment for me, I WILL respond back, and will absolutely follow and support you as closely as I can during the entire week.

 

Good luck everybody!

-SharkStopper