Goals, goal setting, and still enjoying the now.
Updated: Jun 14
So today is the last day of my original weight loss challenge. I lost nearly 5% of my body weight in 30 days, which is a pretty good achievement if I do say so. But what do you do after reaching a goal like this? For many its a pat on the back, a splurge in eating, and a slow creep back up on the scale.
For this challenge I partnered with Diet Bet, putting $30 of my own money on the line. Had I not made my goal, the entire amount would now be gone. Instead, I get it all back plus a portion of the "losings" from all the people who failed to reach their goals. Now it looks like I will need to roll over my winnings for another Diet Bet until I get where I want to be. And I need to keep blogging.
Setting goals is a great way to motivate yourself and much has been written about them. Goals act as a beacon in the darkness, focusing our attention on the one thing we want to attain. But it's hard to sustain that kind of focus forever. In the case of weight loss challenges, sooner or later temptation and reality creep back in as focus wanes.
That's why goals need to be incorporated into a network of bigger goals, all tied to the most important things we want in life. Losing 5% is nice, but how does it fit in with my other health goals? I want to get my BMI below 30 so that I'm no longer classified as obese, and my odds of dying of Covid-19 can get lower. (Plus all the other health benefits that come with being at a "normal" weight.) Every short-term goal needs to tie into that big idea. The same should apply to all goals- money, relationships, education, or work.
When it comes to goal-setting, I'm torn by two strong ideals. The first is the motivational speaker side of me that knows powerful, concrete and motivating goals can transform a life. Consider the following quotes.
“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.” —Andrew Carnegie
“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” —Bill Copeland
“All successful people have a goal. No one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do. ” —Norman Vincent Peale
“If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.”
― Yogi Berra
By this way of thinking, having goals is the essence of being an effective and happy human being. Goals are like the map that guides your journey and keeps you from getting lost or ending up in a ditch. The world can be confusing and unforgiving, and without a set of goals you can get lost in other people's stories.
I've always had goal weights, but have had trouble reaching them. This is also true with many of my other goals- some I reach easily and some seem insurmountable. But can you make yourself miserable in chasing some goal in the future and not appreciating the present? Some truly sad and unhappy people are obsessed with goals, and even when they reach them there is a hollowness.
Which brings me to the other ideal related to goal-setting. Don't forget to enjoy the ride. By always focusing on an idealized point in the future, we neglect to enjoy the people and places around us in the present. By setting weight-loss goals, we sometimes set ourselves up for self-hate and rejection of our own chubby, imperfect bodies. This can make the whole process joyless and frustrating. Now consider these quotes.
“Be grateful for what you already have while you pursue your goals.
If you aren’t grateful for what you already have, what makes you think you would be happy with more.”― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”
― Louisa May Alcott
“Sometimes that mountain you've been climbing is just a grain of sand, and what you've been up there searching for forever, is in your hands. When you figure out love is all that matters after all it sure makes everything else seem so small.”
― Carrie Underwood
The Covid-19 epidemic has trashed a lot of people's goals for 2020. Jobs are gone, trips are called off, movements are limited, and survival is in doubt in some cases. It makes one wonder whether setting ambitious goals is reasonable in the face of such uncertainty. The purpose of this blog was to combat that fear and doubt by tackling something that we all have at least some control over- what we put in our mouths. Setting goals is fine, but they always need to have some flexibility and perspective. Feeling like you have some agency in your life and are working towards something is crucial to happiness, so if the spirit moves you- take this and some other challenges and set some achievable goals.
This blog was meant to be for the month of August 2020 only and encompass 10 essays. I have many other things to write about besides food and weight, but I don't quite feel done. I'm on essay #14 and have at least 6 more in my head, so I press on until I feel it's time to move on.
Weight loss tip #14- Set a weight loss goal that stretches you but not too much that you'll give up after a short time. Be aware this is a lifelong journey and be sure to have some fun along the way.
Setting a goal has helped me, and now it's time to set another one. The journey so far has been fun, and I hope I've been able to help at least one other person who has read this. I've both enjoyed the journey and gotten closer to achieving an important goal. So far I've learned new things about food and nutrition while reinforcing ideas I'd heard before. My consumption of sugar, diet soda, and junk has decreased and I'm looking for healthier alternatives. But I have a long way to go and books like How Not to Die both inspire and frustrate me when I look at where I am and what's still possible.
If I reach my goal, which I deem reasonable, that will be great. Ideally I should have a BMI of 25 or lower to not be considered overweight, but the stress that would put on my lifestyle may not be worth it. I don't want to be that person who always worries about what they eat and never enjoys himself. We shall see. At some point everything comes down to a question of balance. Somehow we all need to balance the need for goals in our lives with the need to be present and happy with who and where we are right now.