Why do I need goals, again?

Something that I have been thinking about a lot lately is what are my “goals” for this entire process of losing weight and changing the overall structure of my life (which I will get to, keep reading)….but more elemental than this question is why are goals important? Every magazine article I read in Shape, or Self, or Weight Watchers, or Health, starts off asking the question “what are your goals?” But why is this really important?

If you do a simple Google search of “why are goals important” you’ll get more than a million hits to websites that discuss and dissect this very issue, from individual blogs, to studies that one only hopes were official and in accordance with some type of scientific methodology.  Without going into a lengthy review of each such article, as each says essentially the same thing, let’s try to boil it down…without goals we cannot define what we intend to do, how we are doing in the process of it, and if we have accomplished anything. 

One of the blogs that I clicked on and read while conducting this little “experiment” is authored by Celestine Chua, and she outlines six reasons why it is important to have goals. I will now educate you all (please make sure your pencils and paper are at the ready):

1.  Setting Goals Gives You Clarity — “Setting your goals gives you clarity on what you ultimately want. It makes you crystallize and articulate the desires floating in your mind. It ensures that you are channeling your time, energy and efforts into things that really matter to you. It makes you live more consciously.”

I boil this down to the following — how the Hell do I know what I’m doing, and what I’m going to work toward, if I don’t set a goal?

2.  Goals Keep You Motivated — “Your goals are a representation of your inner desires; desires which motivate you in life. The point when you set goals marks one the points when you are most connected with your source of motivation. It is when your motivation is at its peak. Having goals at your side serve as constant reminders of your motivational sources. They are the fuel which drive you forward and keep you going when the going gets tough.”

Let’s face it people — we ALL need motivation to stay on track at some point, whether it is exercise, money management, knitting, not killing someone, etc.  By setting your goal, you give yourself the ability to come back to it when motivation is needed and when you start to stray.

3. Goals Help You Focus Your Efforts (like the laser on top of a shark’s head)– “Goals give you a single focal point to place your attention in. Whereas your purpose gives you a broad, directional focus to move your life in, goals gives you laser focus on whatexactly to spend your time and energy on. Think of your time, energy and efforts as input, and results as the output. A goal acts as your funnel which guides and channels those inputs effectively into your desired output.”

The theory on the third reason why we have goals is simple — how do we tailor what it is that we are doing if we do not set a goal and have a starting point? When you write down your goal, and how you’re going to accomplish it, you’re like the shark with the laser pointer attached to it’s head and you stay on track.

4. Accountability — “This accountability is accountability to yourself, not anyone else. This accountability is what you hold up to when you choose the healthy salad over that piece of fried chicken. It is what you answer to when you spent that hour working on your report rather than random web surfing. When you stay accountable towards your goals, you are in fact staying true to your desires.”

Now, this is not to be confused with accounting, which is an entirely different subject and hopefully will not ever be a topic in this blog. I’ve talked a lot about accountability in my blog, and have talked about it even more with my friends and family as I work to define what my goals are and how I want to accomplish them.  By setting a firm goal, and writing it down, I have set it in concrete, so to speak, and it makes it easier for me to work toward that goal and center myself on what I am doing. It gives me structure, and one of the things that is MOST important for me during this process is structure. By having a plan, I am giving myself structure for meal planning and exercise, that I can implement and follow. And I give myself permission to check in on how I’m doing and how the process is going along.

5. Being the Best I Can Be — “Goals help you achieve your highest potential. Without goals, you subject yourself to the natural, default set of actions that keep you feel safe and comfortable every day. But this familiarity is the nemesis of growth. It prevents you from growing. It does not enable you to become the best person you can be. It denies you from tapping into all that potential inside of you.”

I’m sure that everyone can hear the faint strains of the Army’s commercial “be all that you can be” playing in their heads right now as they read this. And it is not that far off from what is being said — you set a goal that allows you to grow. Growing hurts. When a child hits a growth spurt, the entire body starts to ache. Emotional and spiritual growth is the same — it just hurts in a slightly different way.  When you define what you’re working toward, you’re going to be more likely to focus and get where you need to be.

6. Live Your Best Life — “Goals ensure you get the best out of life, for two reasons….Firstly, by becoming a better person, your new-found knowledge and abilities let you experience more out of the same life events compared to the previous you…..secondly, time passes in our life, whether we want to or not. Goals with specific measures and deadlines ensure we are maximizing our output and experiences during our time here. If you have already discovered your life purpose, your goals will ensure you get the best out of your purpose.”

It is perfectly fine to drift along in life, without a defined purpose, and knowing where you’re going to be going,  so long as that is what makes you happy and does not cause catastrophic harm to those around you. But I have found that when I have defined goals, I’m happier, more productive, and more creative. I work toward something instead of just paddling along in the river of life.

If you’re still reading at this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “okay, Kelly, that is a really lovely exposition on why we need goals in our life, but what does that have to do with you and this blog?” Well, here goes….

1.  I’ve found that if I do not have a goal set for what I intend to accomplish, I am not going to stay focused on the plan. With respect to eating healthy and exercise, I am an inherently lazy person. My first instinct and inclination is to take the path of least resistance and move as little as possible. Without a goal written in black and white on the paper in front of me that says “get up, get moving, walk for 45 minutes” I simply will not do it. I will, instead, order dinner in and sit in my recliner all night catching up on whatever book I’m currently reading (now: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver — read it!).

2. I need to be specific in my goal. The reason why I have failed doing WW in the past, and other diets, is because I did not have a specific goal. “Get healthy” isn’t enough and simply does not cut it (at least for me).

Example! I went to the doctor in March and my cholesterol was a little high (265). She told me she wanted it to be down to 200, within 3 months. She told me what supplements to take, what foods to avoid, and how to work on getting that number down.  And by having a goal of “200” written down and staring at me, with the methods of getting there laid out, I accomplished the goal. I went for my check in June and was actually down to 196. I’ve since continued with my supplement regimen (and overall health goals) and got my cholesterol checked again the other day (results are pending).

If I had not had a specific goal written down, with the number delineated, I would have strayed from taking the supplements and diet, and my cholesterol would have stayed the same, or gone up. Not only would that have been disappointing to me, I would likely be on medication that I do not want to take, and should not have to take, at my age.

Being specific in my goal is also key for changing the way I eat. It is not enough for me to say that I’m going to WW and working the plan and Points system. I need to have a set goal in relation to both my physical health and physique in order for me to stay motivated and define what I am doing. If I want to fit into a size 10 pair of trousers, the only way I am going to get there is if I work out, gain muscle, lose fat, and cut what I eat. It is that simple. I have waved my little princess wand and my wish to be thin has not come true, so the hard way it is…

3. Small goals are also VERY important — I have a set of long-term goals for where I would like to be with respect to my overall weight and physical health, but those are not going to be accomplished overnight, or even, realistically, within the next six months.  Therefore, the way my mind works and engages, it is necessary for me to have smaller goals to keep me motivated.  I’ve decided to set small goals each week that will keep me focused and motivated with respect to eating and exercise.  When I accomplish a goal, I feel great and take pride in it, and feeling great is what this is all about.

4. I’m implementing major changes in my life here. A lot of this is foreign territory to me — eating veggies beyond salad, green beans and broccoli requires me to find out what else is out there and how to cook it. Not just experimentation, but literally being taught what is out there.  Also, exercising more means not just relying on walking around the neighborhood — I need to mix in some strength training and cardio and stretching, to do it right, and get where I want to be.

The cool thing about starting up yoga is that I have a set of goals for that, which include being able to do certain poses without my arms and legs shaking, or being able to hold a pose for a certain period of time. I know that just because I can’t do it now, doesn’t mean I won’t be able to do it in the future. I just have to keep with it.  Without clearly defined goals, none of it would be possible.

And so now, I share my goals for the upcoming week:

1.  Try one new recipe, from either WW or another source, that is vegetarian.

2. Attend at least 2 yoga classes this week.

3. Walk at least 8 miles (not at one time, total for the 7 day period).

As always, I’m going to keep trying to check in, blog about how I’m doing, and see how these goals are going…

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