This year I’ve been thinking a lot about goals. Goals give you something to aim for, a purpose to guide your actions. But goals can be a double edged sword. It is easy to get so focused on the end result that you forget that the journey is often the whole point. Sometimes meeting a goal brings great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment, but sometimes it leaves us feeling empty and lost. The purpose is gone, there is a hole in our lives, and we’re left with the feeling of “now what??!”
There are several elements which make a goal something attainable rather than a fantasy:
Goals should be measurable: My goal is to lose 50 pounds by the end of the year.
There should be a clear end point: My target weight is 120 pounds by December 31, 2013.
Goals should be attainable. Is it realistic for you to lose 50 pounds in six months? If not, perhaps an intermediate goal of 20 pounds of weight loss is more appropriate.
There should be clear specific action steps which can be taken to move towards the goal:
I will reduce my daily calories from 2500 to 2000; I will walk for 20 minutes at least 5 days per week; I will weigh myself every 5 days to ensure forward progress.
In 2012, I had a number of goals. Personal goals – completing three double centuries to win the California Triple Crown, eating out less and preparing more of our food at home, communicating more frequently and effectively with my family. Work goals – remodel the office, bring in a receptionist, continue to increase the income of my practice, provide outstanding customer service, get my newsletters out on time. Artistic goals – keep on learning new skills for jewelry design and fine-tune techniques on my torch.
Needless to say, not all of these goals were “SMART” and accomplishing ALL of them was not realistic. One of my constant challenges is taking on too much (sound familiar??). With the help (and driving energy!) of Veronica, I did succeed in remodeling the office and hosting a first open house. We’re still working on the receptionist, and you can see how long it has taken me to get out the next newsletter. Yes, it HAS been over a year! My art has fallen onto a seemingly permanent back burner. I bought a ton of new glass, hoping for some motivation, and that is still sitting in its wrapper. My torch is lonely, my glass gathering dust, my silver and copper tarnishing in the garage. On the positive side, I did complete not only three but FIVE double centuries and recently received my Triple Crown and Thousand Mile Club jerseys which I am wearing with pride. This goal took far more time, effort, and money than I ever imagined and consumed my life for most of the year!
What does it take to meet a goal?
1) Dedication. If you want to lose 50 pounds, you need to commit to sticking with your food plan and increasing your exercise. If your goal is to be a better piano player, you have to set aside time every day to practice the instrument. To complete the goal of the Triple Crown, I had to get to a certain level of fitness and stay there. Three mornings per week I rode 10-20 mile rides with as many hills as I could pack in, plus two mornings a week of yoga to balance the intensity of riding. Every Saturday, a ride of 100 miles or more to build and maintain a fitness base. These rides had to become progressively hillier, because the 200 mile rides had 7000 or more feet of climbing on them. Most days I love riding my bike, but sometimes sleeping in on a Saturday is a beautiful thing. My husband sacrificed lazy Saturday mornings as I set the alarm earlier and earlier.
2) Planning. To lose that weight, you need to have a food plan. What will you eat each day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks? How many calories do you want to eat per day, and how much of them will be protein, carbohydrates, fat? What type of exercise do you like to do, how many calories do you need to burn each day, how much time do you need to set aside to accomplish this? The rule of six P’s applies: Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.
For my goal, once I had the fitness base to ride 100 miles, the difference between 100 and 200 was mental focus and nutrition. The average rider burns 300-400 calories per hour on a bike. It takes me 18 or more hours to ride 200 miles, so I’m burning roughly 6500 calories on a ride. While most people count calories to make sure they aren’t getting too many, I need to count to make sure I’m getting enough. Getting the right ratio of protein to carbohydrate, and getting enough electrolytes to replace what I lose with sweating all day takes planning and execution. The night before a big ride I cook chicken and potatoes, lay out my water bottles, make sure my bag of supplements (potassium, calcium, magnesium) are prepared, make sure my lights and GPS are fully charged and ready to go, make sure my route is downloaded into my GPS, figure out what clothes I want to wear and which extra layers I’ll need for the day, check the bike tires and breaks and repair any problems. The list of preparations goes on and on.
3) Time. Weight loss requires different choices at restaurants, or preparation of your own meals at home. Cooking takes time. Workouts take still more. What will you shift in your life to make time for preparation of healthy food plus workouts every day? When will you do the scales and other exercises which make you a better piano player?
Did I say a 200 mile ride takes me about 18 hours??? But this is not the only time involved. Last year’s rides were in Hemet, Davis, Los Angeles, Vacaville, and Fresno. Each ride required driving up at least a day before, two or more nights in a hotel, and a drive home. Davis is 500 miles from San Diego, so I took two days to get there and back. Driving is fatiguing, and for me doing a long drive the day before a big ride is a ticket to exhaustion and poor performance.
4) Chinese herbs. Well, this may not be required for EVERY goal, but can sure be helpful for some. One common reason people have trouble losing weight is because their digestion is not optimal. If your body doesn’t efficiently break down food into its nutrients, you will crave more food until the body’s needs are met. Chinese herbs may help to improve digestion, which in turn decreases food cravings and the desire to overeat. If low energy is keeping you on the couch instead of out at the gym, herbs may help give you the boost you need. Herbs can also be used to help with aches and pains from increased workouts.
For me, Chinese herbs have been an integral part of my post-ride recovery. Sweating for 18 hours is a great way to deplete yang. Think of yang as your body’s heater. When you run the heater constantly for too long, it can burn out. With the help of my colleagues in the Canonical Chinese Medicine program, I created a recovery drink made from Chinese herbs which has helped tremendously in keeping my energy level up and speeding recovery from the really long rides.
5) Support from friends and family. It is almost impossible to eschew chocolate chip cookies when they are repeatedly offered. It is hard to cook a separate gluten-free meal for yourself when your family insists on pasta for dinner. It takes more discipline than the average person has to pass up going sailing on a beautiful Sunday because you have to practice the piano. You need friends and family to support you in meeting your goals, not derail you.
My ride partners depend on me showing up as much as I depend on them. We each have good days and bad days, periods of extreme motivation and periods of relative lethargy. We drive together to rides, coax each other up the biggest hills, and even keep each other from falling asleep on the bike when it’s 10pm and we’ve been riding since 5am. My husband buys me post-ride burritos, hands me that recovery IPA when I get home from a hard ride, reminds me to cook up my chicken, and puts up with me setting Saturday alarms at 6am then disappearing for 4 days at a time for events.
In 2012 I met the Triple Crown goal, and in 2013 I decided to do a super randonneur series. This included four rides, one each of 200K (125 miles), 300K (185miles), 400K (245 miles), and 600K (375 miles), the last of which was done about two weeks ago.
A wise person once said that “The true test of an entrepreneur is someone who spends his life testing his limits. The definition of an idiot is someone who has reached all of his goals.” To me, this is true not only for entrepreneurs but for all humans. Once you’ve met a goal and you are experiencing the thrill of accomplishment along with that inevitable hole in your life it is time to think about what comes next. Do you want to lose another 20 pounds? Or is it time to focus on building more muscle and improving your fitness? You’ve played that concert, so is it time to prepare for another one? Or is the desire to play in public satisfied and it is time for something else? I am planning to ride a 1200K (740 mile) ride later this month, and I am still deciding on the next cycling goal. Things I’m considering include a second 1200K, a 500 mile race, and a cross-country bicycle trip.
By the way, it is ok for your goals to change. Perhaps you start preparing for that piano concert and discover that you hate playing for an audience. Maybe you lose the first 30 pounds and decide you love your new body and that an additional 20 pounds of weight loss will make you too thin. I know I love riding long distances, but perhaps I’ll discover on that 1200K that I prefer to limit myself to 200 miles per day and increase the number of days on the road rather than the number of miles in one ride. What counts is that you take the steps towards that goal. If it seems to be changing, check in with yourself. Are you simply experiencing resistance to change? Or have you truly outgrown the goal? It may require a session or two with a counselor or coach to really figure this out. Make sure you are true to yourself, and don’t give up too easily. But, it the goal is truly not right for you any more, set the next goal and move on.
As we near the half way mark of 2013 I urge you to consider: what are your goals? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t managed to come up with the time, money, energy, etc. to pull it off? Something you’ve been dancing with for a while which needs to be finished? Seeing a new place? Losing a few pounds? Exercising more? Yelling at the kids less? Whatever you are striving for, make sure your goals are measurable, time limited, and can be broken into smaller steps so you can see your progress. And be sure to enlist the support of your family and friends. The formula of dedication, planning, time, support from friends, and perhaps some Chinese herbs is a sure way to make it happen!