Wednesday, December 31, 2008

about setting goals.

Since it's like, you know, that time of year, I want to talk about goal-setting.

I read a piece of advice a few years ago about achieving goals and it advised, essentially, not to make your goal something you didn't have 100% control over. So if you wanted new friends or a new boyfriend, you shouldn't make it your goal to 'make new friends' or 'get a boyfriend'. Those things were too far out of your control. Your goal instead should be something like "Do at least one thing a week that will force me to talk to someone new", or "Ask at least one person on a coffee date each month." If you wanted a new job your goal shouldn't be 'Find a new job', but maybe, "Send out at least ten resumes each week."

The idea is that, yes, you should know what your end goal is, and what you're working towards, so you can be sure you're taking the right steps. You should keep in mind why you're sending out ten resumes a week: you want a new job. But there's nothing you can do to literally give yourself a new job. You just have to take all the steps you can towards it, and hope / trust that it will happen.

Recently, I've been trying to take that approach with weightloss. In the past I've gotten frustrated when I felt I wasn't losing fast enough, or if, God forbid, I had a small gain. But really, we usually weigh in once a week. And bodies are weird things and the truth is, I can't totally control what's going to show up each week. Maybe I forgot and wore heavy pants that day, maybe I haven't used the bathroom recently enough, maybe I ate a lot of salt or didn't drink enough water. Okay, I guess you CAN control a lot of those things, but who wants to be that obsessive? None of those things represent real true weight loss (or gain) anyway.

I'd also get frustrated when I'd set myself goals like "Lose x pounds by x date." Either the goal was too ambitious, and I wouldn't make it, or the goal was relatively modest, and I'd get depressed and think I should be losing faster.

Who needs this constant up and down?

My new goals are more like this:

- Eat as many filling foods as possible
- Track everything I eat
- Stay within my points each week

That's it.  Each week my goal is basically just to follow the program as best as I can. I know that the weightloss will follow, regardless of any little fluctuations from week to week. I still go to my meetings, to keep focused, and to have a record of my progress, but the number on the scale doesn't matter too much. Okay, I'd be a dirty liar if I said it didn't matter at all, because everyone loves to see a nice big loss, and no one wants a gain, but my feelings of 'success' or 'failure' each week don't depend entirely on the scale. I know whether or not I met my goals for the week before I ever even set foot in that meeting room.

Now these goals are specific to the Weight Watchers plan I've chosen to follow, but it's the same idea across the board. Your goals might be to drink 8 glasses of water a day, eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies, or go to the gym 4x a week. Those are things you have exact and immediate control over. 

So. You can't control whether or not someone is going to offer you a job, but you can control how many resumes you send out and how many attempts you make at networking and how many times you proofread your cover letter. And, at the end of the day, you can't control what number shows up on the scale. You can't literally slice the weight off your body (as much as we've all occassionally wished that.) But you can definitely control what you put in your mouth, how many miles you walk, how many times you choose fruit over cookies. Those are my goals. Those are my victories.