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.

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

Bucket List #12: Complete

Senseless acts of violence are absolutely terrible, but it hits much closer to home when it’s in your own neck of the woods, and I cannot even imagine what it must be like for the people and families who are tragically involved.  From 9/11 to today’s events at the Navy Yard and everything in between, I just can’t understand why things like this happen, and what logic people follow when they commit these horrendous crimes.  My heart and prayers go out to everyone involved in this incident at the Navy Yard.  I wish nothing but the best for you and your families.

 

When something that is overwhelmingly negative occurs, it is extremely difficult to maintain faith.  When a tragedy occurs such as this one, it’s tough to maintain faith in people.  If someone goes through a bad breakup, it’s easy to lose hope in finding love.  Even something as little as seeing a higher number on the scale can cause a difficult strain on your psyche.  Today, I was determined not to lose faith in society just because of one nut case.

 

For those of you that haven’t read my “Bucket List 2013”, I welcome you to do so.  I didn’t start the day thinking that I was going to complete one of the “pay it forward” items, but my hope was to spread just a tiny bit of good will to someone, even if I didn’t know who that someone would be.

 

I pulled up to the drive-thru at Wendy’s and ordered the usual… two Grilled Chicken Go Wraps.  Considering the fact that it is fast food, it’s actually somewhat healthy at only 500 calories for the meal, and I usually can mix in a fresh apple for variety.  It was a little after noon and I saw a packed line behind me.  As I pulled up to the window, the gentleman told me the total with change already in hand.  I gave him the money and told him that I wanted to pay for the car behind me.  He looked a bit confused, and after completing the first transaction with my full change, he then told me the total of the car behind me: $6.91.  I paid for that as well, after which he handed me my food.

PIF_photo

I don’t know who I paid for, or whether it was a man or a woman (they had very tinted windows).  I didn’t look back.  I didn’t see a reaction.  To be honest, I didn’t want to.  My hope is that I was able to give whoever it was in the car behind me a slightly better day.  My hope is that six dollars and ninety one cents made one person see that the world may not be as messed up as it sometimes seems to be.  My hope is that even the smallest good deed will inspire good deeds elsewhere.

 

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” -Jane Goodall

Complimentary Breakfast

Actually, this isn’t a post about breakfast or food, so if you were looking for a free bowl of cheerios… sorry, I got nothing for ya.

Rather, this post is about the true power of a compliment.  Has anyone ever gone through a time in their life where they’ve felt a lack of motivation, confidence, or drive?  All hands should be up.  Everyone has their subtle insecurities; questioning your ability to do something, questioning your self worth; questioning your self-image.  On occasion, those insecurities will pile up to the point where your motivation, confidence, and drive will exponentially suffer.  For me, it sometimes feels like quicksand.  Sometimes the harder you fight, the deeper you sink.

But also like quicksand, sometimes it takes a compliment to help pull you out of it.  Compliments don’t solve problems or complete tasks for us, but they absolutely boost our self-confidence to be more productive.  A journey towards getting healthier and losing weight provides a perfect example.  I feel as though I’ve been working very hard to work out and follow a strict diet for the past 2 months to lose weight.  There are times where I’ve told myself, “Is it worth it?”, “Maybe I’ll just work out tomorrow.”, and “I just want to have some junk food!”.  All of those doubts are the quicksand pulling you down, negatively impacting your motivation and drive.

Yesterday, I was stopped by someone who I see in the gym regularly.  We don’t hang out outside of the gym, but we often talk, give advice, and share stories while we are there (and getting advice from someone who is pretty fit seems like a wise idea).  We exchanged greetings and chatted for a minute or two, after which they said, “You look like you’re trimming down a lot.”

How would this make you feel?  When you have put your time and effort – your blood and sweat – your heart and soul – into something, achieving positive reinforcement from someone else to affirm how hard you are working is exceedingly rewarding.  Those eight words made my day!  What I appreciated the most was the fact that this person didn’t HAVE to say that, but did.  Whether it be at work, at home, in the gym, or on the field, people can be motivated by acknowledging their efforts and achievements.

So here’s what I’m asking from you, my readers (do I have any yet?).  Make a concerted effort to give one compliment a day.  It could be a simple “Good job” after a tough set in the gym, or a “I thought that report you turned in was fantastic work.”  Never underestimate the power of a good compliment.  A few words can bring a lot of joy.

Complimentary breakfast for everyone!