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!

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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.

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

Appreciate But Don’t Deviate

Those of you going through any type of weight loss program can certainly understand me when I say that stepping on that scale is a terrifying thing.  A million different thoughts race through my head when I pull out the scale… did I do enough?  Even if I did, will my weight go up? (it has before!) How long will it take me to get to my goal weight?  How will I react if this number is terrible?  I’ve seen a lot of people on the Calorie Count community wonder why they may not be seeing the results on the scale that they want, especially those who really have the dedication and the drive to work on it.

 

The way I see it, there are three possible outcomes when you step on the scale.

Outcome 1: The disappointing result isn’t nearly what you thought it was, due to unexplainable weight gain or a small plateau.

Outcome 2: The result is a realistic product of the work that you’ve put in for the week, but not necessarily as much as you would like (because let’s be honest, we’d all like 5+ pounds per week).

Outcome 3: The result is surprisingly better than you expected.

 

In the last few months, I’ve hit each outcome a bundle of times, but I think I’ve finally realized the secret to handling all three.  Appreciate, but don’t deviate.  Go back and read each outcome above, then read your corresponding advice below.

Advice 1: The body works in strange and mysterious ways, and there have been many times where I’ve done an hour of workouts per day and eaten extremely well only to see my weekly weigh-in go in the wrong direction.  You know how well you’ve been doing and you know how much work that you’ve put into this journey.  Appreciate, but don’t deviate.  Long-term goals are much more important than short term victories.  Keep doing what you’re doing!  Hard work and effort on a consistent basis will pay off.

Advice 2: Try not to minimize your accomplishments.  You have completed a solid short-term goal and are setting yourself up very well to achieve your long-term goals.  A positive step is a step in the right direction.  Appreciate, but don’t deviate.  Keep up the good work and keep charging forward.  Continued dedication will bring the desired results.

Advice 3: This is a huge win for you, and congratulations on your accomplishment.  It’s now time for you to prove that it wasn’t a fluke.  After a big win against a tough team, there’s a term in sports that’s called the “emotional letdown”, which usually refers to a post-“big game” struggle.  Appreciate, but don’t deviate.  Your commitment to this big win needs to be sustained over the long haul.  You did it before, and there’s no reason to think that you can’t do it again!

 

Regardless of whether you haven’t started, you’re just starting, or you’re right in the middle, I wish you the best of luck in your journey.  Don’t forget that even small victories are victories, so remember to appreciate them.

Motivation and Control

“Motivation and control…are fragile experiences that need to be worked carefully and attentively.” -Hazel

I hope you don’t mind that I took this quote from CC, Hazel, but I’ve been pondering the true nature of this quote since you posted it last week.

Everyone reading this blog can likely relate to this quote.  Sometimes you wake up in the morning feeling pumped, driven, and ready to tackle the day.  Other times… well… not so much.  What motivates us to act in a certain way?  What drives us to complete certain goals?  I honestly don’t believe that motivation just comes naturally.  It’s something that you have to crave and desire.  For me, there are multiple levels of motivation that are all inter-related.  I desire to have better self-esteem and a better self-image.  This motivates me to shed some pounds and be in the physical condition that I know I’m capable of, which drives me to eat healthier and stay active.  I’m not a runner, and trust me, I wouldn’t have run 5k’s on Saturday and Sunday if there wasn’t that driving motivation behind it.

If the motivation is high, control will follow suit.  I have certain weight loss goals that I want to achieve, and a defined time with which I want to achieve it.  Perhaps it’s the upcoming milestone birthday coming up, but I’ve never been as motivated to reach my goals as I am now.  As such, I have a level of control (around food, bad habits, etc.) that I have never had before.  That doesn’t mean I avoid all bad foods, but moderation and good eating decisions have become paramount to controlling my diet and exercise to ultimately hit my targets.

That being said, how do you keep motivation high?  I’m going to preface my answers to this question by saying that I am not an expert in the topic, but that I have read a lot into it and have tried a few methods that seem to work for me.  Also, I’ll be using weight loss examples, but many of these methods can work in other aspects of life as well.

1) Define realistic goals – My past weight loss goals sound like this: “My goal is to lose weight.”  The sentiment was good, but the goal was generic and unattainable with no defined end.  This is likely the reason that my past weight loss efforts have taken a nose dive after the first few weeks.  My goal now is: “Achieve my target weight of 185 pounds by December 31st.”  Once this has been achieved, the next goal may be “Maintain 185 every month for the next 6 months.”

2) Maintain flexibility – Unexpected things in life can sometimes interfere with doing what we want to do.  If your goal is to save money to buy a new car by the end of the year, and then something unexpected happens where you have to delve into some of that money, don’t think that you failed your goal.  Simply update it.  Granted, this should only be used for events that are out of your control.

3) Know the external and internal reasons for your goals – On many occasions with weight loss/maintenance, I have often asked myself why I bother.  There are a dozen perfectly good brownies out there with my name on it.  What stops me is the knowledge of these external and internal drivers.  Internally, I’m doing this to boost my self esteem and my self image.  Externally, I want to look good for my wife, my family, and the people around me, and I want to be looked at as a role model and a mentor.  These reasons are much more important and long-lasting than a dozen brownies.

4) Find creative ways to increase your motivation – Earlier in life, I had a spreadsheet of good things to do, whether it be eating healthy, running errands, being active, and the list goes on.  I gave every item a point value and would do things to earn points.  For awhile, it worked, but it lacked the accountability, and eventually, I gave up on it.  I replaced that with Calorie Count because I was held publicly accountable for my actions and, in addition, it provided a moral support-group type atmosphere with other people going through the same challenges.

5) Make it fun – They say that “nothing good comes easy”, and I guess there is some truth to that.  Cutting out a lot of sweets and eating healthier foods isn’t always easy or fun, but making your good habits into a lifestyle will make it easier.  Keeping a positive outlook on things will also make it easier.  This journey certainly is a lot of work, but the day I started seeing solid results was the day the diet started getting a bit easier for me, and I think a lot of people feel that way as well.

 

Motivation is fragile, and may not always be 100%.  When it’s not, remember what drives you and know that what you are doing is worth it.  Keep at it, and don’t take no for an answer.  The climb up may be difficult, but the mountain-top will be oh so sweet!

Bringing Good Habits to Life

This is a call to everyone who has their heart set on getting something done.  Maybe it’s something that you’ve never done before.  Maybe it’s something that you’ve been trying to do for a long time and just haven’t had the motivation to complete.  Whether it’s a small job or a large undertaking, there’s absolutely nothing you can’t accomplish.

 

For the CC followers, I promised an update about the weight loss after a strong week of training.  The long and short of it is, I finished the week 3 pounds lighter.  My goal weight is still a ways out, but this puts me on track to achieve it by the end of the year, which I’ve said for awhile was the ultimate goal.  18 pounds to go, and by my count, 19 weeks until 2014.  Difficult, but doable.

 

Improving myself has always been a weakness of mine.  It’s so easy to say “I’ll get to it tomorrow” and then put that quote on repeat for days/months/years.  If you’re like me, you’ve probably tried a few times to lose some pounds, but eventually you get to the point where it gets difficult and you give up.  Don’t worry.  You’re not alone.  I’ve been there, and I know that there are millions of people like us who have been there before.  Now I’m no expert on self-improvement, so instead of pretending like I am, I’ll share with you what has worked for me so far.  I’d love to hear the thoughts and opinions of others, too, so feel free to write them in the comments section.

 

What’s worked for me:

A) Setting one goal that’s moderately difficult, but achievable.  In the past, I’ve overwhelmed myself with all these things I have to get done by a certain time.  It stresses me out to the point where the motivation declines, and once that happens, it’s game over.  One goal, however, is much less stressful for me.  I stopped flooding myself with “lift 4 times a week, run 3 times a week, lose 30 pounds, eat better” and turned it into “lose 30 pounds… doesn’t matter how, and it doesn’t always have to be the same way… just do it!”

B) Keep track of foods to the point of obsession.  This may not work for everyone, but I’ll be honest, I try to the best of my ability to log every food item on the menu.  It makes me feel like I have much more control over obtaining my goal.

C) Writing about it and receiving support.  The CC community has been a fantastic support group.  Being able to hear inspiring stories has been an incredible motivation boost.  I want to succeed and want others to be successful, too.  The general promotion of that team spirit goes a really long way.

D) Getting back to working out.  It used to be fun, then it started becoming a chore.  I’m trying to make it fun again.

E) And this is the important one.  Do whatever is necessary to keep you motivated.  A song, a punching bag, a movie quote… there are many different sources of inspirational motivation.  Find the one that you like and keep it on hand when the going gets tough.

 

Besides the weight loss, this blog has been another recent accomplishment.  Even as an introvert, I love to entertain and to be entertained.  A few years back, I did a bit of side work as a talk radio DJ, and dabbled into it again earlier this year on blogtalkradio.com.  While that medium has always appealed to me, I wanted a place to express more creativity with the freedom to get into a wider variety of topics.  For some reason, starting this blog was difficult for me.  What do I call it?  Are people going to visit?  Will this really be entertaining?  But I guess something finally clicked inside me to put all of the doubts aside and just go for it.

 

And that’s where the good habits can be brought to life.  Make a choice, right now, to overcome your doubts and start doing what you want to do.  Start living the life that you want to live.  Set a goal and make it happen.  Get excited about your goal, and get excited about what the future has to offer once you reach it.