The Problem With Having A Goal

If you want to achieve a certain body weight or composition, or maybe a business achievement, you will often be told that it is important to have a goal. A goal will help you see your ultimate target and the steps required to achieve that goal. You might have read about S.M.A.R.T goals but I am not going to address that concept other than to say any backronym, should be distrusted or at least met with suspicion. I could easily concoct and sell the same concept under the name D.U.M.B goals, but you wouldn’t buy it because you don’t want to be considered dumb, do you?

When you set a goal you don’t believe that you will not meet it, it is just a matter of when. The enemy of a goal is time, and that coupled with discipline as a depleting reserve will eventually result in forgetting about your original goal and mindset altogether. We all have a finite amount of effort in ourselves, whether it is in a given day when you arrive at work ready to go but find yourself flagging come 4 o’clock, or a 3 month diet plan that you follow diligently on day 1 and tell yourself you’ve been pretty good and treat yourself on day 30.

I’ve set plenty of goals for myself and I have failed far more often than not. I’ve found that setting a time frame to achieve a far off goal is not the way to go for the reasons above. My best results have been from very short term goals that are achievable in less than a week and preferably in just a few days. This short time frame gives you the ability to really see your future self clearly, albeit a few days from now.

I’ve told myself I get a six pack more times than I can count and it has never happened. The only time I got close was when I was running around 10 miles a day, I looked like a skeleton frankly and it wasn’t healthy. The six pack wasn’t the goal I should have set myself however because it is a much longer process than a week. There were stages I needed to achieve along the way that I didn’t define clearly, like getting rid of the beer belly by eating and drinking healthy. My goal should have been to eat no chocolate for 3 days because that is easy to envision and I can see the end in sight, not to say that is the end of the process of course but breaking the process down into very small chunks in the grand scheme of things is the key to success. Small successes lead to big successes.

The goals you choose are risky because they come from over thinking things and discussions with friends and family. You have an element of commitment the moment you mention a goal idea to somebody and before you know it you are running the London marathon, planning training runs between pub crawls. These types of goals that sort of come together as if by magic are pipe dreams and will never end the way you believed when you started.

When a goal chooses you, that is when you know you have a realistic target you want to meet. When you attempt something and your internal monologue takes over and says this is within your ability and if it is not that is all the more tempting to go after. I’ve been bouldering at an indoor gym since February and I’ve been hooked ever since, I enjoy the challenge of both mental and physical, and the almost solitary endeavour each climber goes through as they compete against increasingly difficult grades. I was just enjoying going to the gym without actually going to the gym, feeling the aches after grappling with plastic holds and joking around like a grown up child.

I’m not particularly good at climbing and I started on my 31st birthday, I’m a little heavier than I could be and my strength is basic. I climbed the basic grades and learned the concepts, watched other climbers, young and old, and learned from the more experienced no matter their age. The early grades in the gym are full of nice friendly hand holds and it’s like climbing a wonky ladder that has seen better days, nothing particularly exciting. I’ve always preferred competing against myself and by myself, not being relied on by a team or trying to be better than my opposite number, I see that as a short sighted target being just good enough to appease my team mates or just good enough to best my fellow amateur. I enjoy most of all the relaxed nature of climbing, there is no requirement to follow the competition rules and you can basically make up your own games.

For a bit more fun I decided to try a grade that is about 2 grades above what I know I can climb, just to see what happens, and I fell on the final move. That was when I had a goal that effectively chose me. As I fell I realised it was literally within reach and if I could stick that route then there was no reason why I couldn’t, with time, be climbing the hardest climbs in the gym. The result has been that I am eating better any training more which is helping me see and feel the benefits without worrying about climbing V8+ by February.

So don’t set yourself a goal, just be you and do your thing and let a goal choose you as you go about doing the things you enjoy. Try new things and let the combination of interests develop you mind creatively to figure out what you care about inside. Don’t set weak goals, let a goal consume you and reap the benefits.