Set goals – big and little

Are you retired? Still working? Working on not working? Regardless – it’s important to set goals for yourself. The way we grow is to set goals and challenge ourselves, in whatever area we choose. And, don’t limit yourself to one area. If you’re still working, great! Set goals – big and little – for yourself professionally, but also personally. 

I work for myself in a number of enterprises. I set goals for the business and for myself. One goal is to create a course relating to self-discipline that my readers (you!) will find useful in your fitness journey. My sister tells me that I have more discipline than anyone else she knows, so hopefully that expertise will help others. I’m writing my modules and hope to have a course by the end of the summer.

Another of my personal goals is to complete 10 regular pushups (from my toes). Pushups from my knees are no problem. And incline pushups are easy as well. I’m at about 4 or 5 regular ones now, so I’ll keep working at it.

To grow means that there’s work involved. Many people think the word “work” has a negative connotation. Meaning that work is bad. I don’t see it that way. Work is serious, yes, because my goals are serious to me. It’s hard. And work is challenging. But it can be fun. And the results: downright delightful.

I have fun when I work. I try to have fun all the time. Just because I’m trying to accomplish something doesn’t mean that I can’t have fun with it. Fun makes the work easier.

Big goals

When you have a BIG GOAL, it can seem intimidating and not at all fun. The secret to achieving that BIG GOAL is to chop it into smaller, more manageable goals and incorporate some fun into it if possible. And big goals can seem crushingly hard, unless you’re committed to its success. I wrote about that just a couple of weeks ago.

For example, if, as my sister and I did, you had to move all of your grandmother’s things into your house and then, after living with the clutter for a couple of years, decide to declutter – that’s an impossible goal to manage all at once. So we thought about the best way to tackle the job and came up with the strategy of: one room at a time, in fifteen to twenty minute chunks.

We started with a corner of one room, set up our three stations: throw away (for things that we could not see anyone having a use for, ever), donate (for things that we couldn’t see ourselves using) and keep (for things we couldn’t bear to give up). We worked for fifteen minutes every day, and in a matter of months the job was complete.

A side note: don’t ever feel badly about keeping something when you’re trying to declutter. You’re entitled to your feelings. Think about the item. Will you be sorry if you never see it again? You can always get rid of something but you can’t get it back.

And the goal of losing weight. If you have more than 3 pounds to lose, that’s a BIG GOAL. It’s hard and needs to be addressed as a true achievement. Intermediate goals should be set and addressed.

Little goals

I practice my balance every day by standing on one foot for a minute while I brush my teeth. That’s a total of two minutes, which is how long we’re supposed to brush our teeth. My little goal is to not put a toe down before the time is up. My reward if I’m successful? Well, in this case, just the knowledge that I’m growing stronger and my balance is improving. I’ve been doing this long enough that the exercise is a habit.

But your little goals can range from substituting a piece of fruit for the candy you usually eat in the afternoon, to focusing on work for an extra five minutes. And then reward yourself with a big stretch or an extra round of Spider Solitaire.

My goal of 10 regular pushups is a medium-sized goal. It’s big enough that it needs to get chopped up and intermediate goals set, but not big enough that it will take months. And when I reach that goal? I’ll think of another.

Commitment is easy

I’ll use losing weight as an example, but the same truth holds for nearly every undertaking. They say that losing weight takes real commitment. So you hesitate because, well, commitment. But commitment is easy.

Where do you want to be?

When the path offered to you is the best way to get to where you want to be, it’s easy to stay committed to that path. When your reason for taking that path is so important to you that it keeps you up at night, has you researching solutions at all hours of the day, and distracts you so much that you find it difficult to focus on other things, commitment is easy.

If the vision you have for your life involves playing with kids, grandkids, dogs or even cats, commitment to your weight loss path is easy. If you want to work in your garden or even sit comfortably in a chair, if you have that focused picture in your brain, commitment to losing weight is easy.

Those triceps are not going to work themselves. When I realized that I really wanted my arms to be toned, commitment to that was easy.

My grandmother had triceps that I did not want. Really did not want. I realized that at an early age, when she was probably no older than I am now (65). I wanted toned arms, not wiggly jiggly arms. Commitment to that was easy. So most every workout I do now has a section that focuses on triceps (triceps kickback exercise pictured).

If your reason for undertaking that journey is so overwhelming that there is no other option than to take it, then there’s no question of your commitment.But if you think to yourself that it would just be “nice,” then you won’t be committed to that goal.

Do you have the reason to commit?

So, think about your reasons to undertake that journey. Are they all-consuming, or just “nice?” If they’re just nice, this is probably not the time for you to start. If you have questions, if you’re not certain, then certainly you’ll fail.

On the other hand, if your reason is so huge that it takes up most of your brain, it’s time to focus. Recognize that no one else will do this for you. (I wrote about this a while ago.) Time to plan. Start to think of a concrete method to get you to where you want to be. 

Once you have a reason and a plan, there’s no stopping you! It’s time to put that plan into action.

Next step: set goals. I find that it’s best to lay out my ultimate goal – what the final picture looks like. Then set intermediate goals. These goals must be challenging, but achievable. And they must be written down. If you see your goals in your own handwriting, they’re yours. You have an investment in them. 

Start brainstorming. What do you REALLY want?

Pull yourself out of the dumps

Some days are real downers. On those days, it’s easy to see how some may become chronically depressed. You’re so sad that even though you don’t drink to excess, a cocktail sounds mighty good. At 2:00 in the afternoon. Not even the sunshine can cheer you up. Your adorable dog doing something amazingly cute can only make your mouth turn up a little. You don’t see how you’ll ever be happy again. But it is possible to pull yourself out of the dumps.

I’m not a psychologist, so I can only use myself as an example. But I’m pretty average, so it works.

My personal trash heap – Time to pull myself out of the dumps

The pandemic is still running rampant, but fortunately vaccines have been approved and are available. But not widely available here. I’m lucky enough to live in a Village that has its own Health Department which has vaccine clinics available by appointment. However, the supply in my area is extremely limited and the demand far outstrips the supply. I’m so happy that most people in my area want to get vaccinated, but every time I learn by email that supply is available and try to make an appointment, they’re all gone. No appointments available at local pharmacies either. My friends have been vaccinated. My sister got her first dose. Even my 20-year-old neighbor got his. I know that I will probably have an opportunity soon, but in the meantime I’m sad and frustrated.

I hardly ever remember my dreams. But a couple of days ago I dreamed of my mom, who’s been gone for over 20 years. I miss her every day, so it was great seeing her. I woke up and tears started flowing. 

When I add my newer physical ailments to these things, I’m even more sad. Every so often my thumb joint hurts like crazy and it’s hard to hold things in my left hand. It’s good that I’m right-handed, but it’s still painful.

Wallow? Not me…

So yesterday I felt myself wallowing. I decided it was time to pull myself out of the dumps!

I started with some deep diaphragm breathing. Sitting straight, bring air in through your nose and let your diaphragm inflate. Hold your breath for a couple of seconds, then breathe out. 

Meditation is one step to pull yourself out of the dumps.

Then a little meditation. Just a couple of minutes. I use my own guided meditations. (I’m a fan of the water, so the River and Ocean ones are my favorites.) Eyes closed, seated comfortably – and not in the Lotus position. My knees don’t move that way.

A couple of shoulder rolls followed. It was my regular workout time, so I changed and chose a really sweaty routine. I’ve written about focus enough lately that you know I was completely into the workout. (http://fitness-over-50.com/2021/04/no-one-is-watching-so-just-do-it/ ) And it was done almost before I knew it. A nice warm shower made me feel almost human again. 

And while I can’t say that I was happy after all of that, I was definitely less sad.

So, it is possible to pull yourself out of the dumps. And trying these methods is certainly more appealing than wallowing in your own tears.

Be a trickster and get it done

Your usual motivation is not working

It’s not easy doing things you’re supposed to do all the time. Being a goody-two-shoes is not fun. “Adulting” is not fun. And your usual motivating speech to yourself is just not working. Sometimes you just want to break free. Take your shoes off and run barefoot. Break out of the mold and be a free spirit. Run in circles on a mountain top with your arms spread wide, breathing in the clean air.

But you’re an adult…

But then reality sets in. You’re nowhere near a mountain. There are a million things waiting for you to do and no one else is going to do them. 

So you look at that never-ending list of tasks and think to yourself, “I really don’t feel like doing any of this. I wish I was somewhere else. I wish I was someone else.”

But talking like that – even to yourself – is not productive. And talking like that to yourself can do more harm than good. Bringing yourself down is one step down into the abyss of depression.

So – how do you lift yourself up and actually be happy to get stuff done?

Trick yourself

Picture your favorite place and trick yourself that you're there. And go do the task at hand.
Yup – that’s the place…

So – be a trickster. Start by picturing your favorite place. If you like the beach, picture your favorite beach. Now picture yourself in your favorite place. Take a few seconds to enjoy that. For me, it’s sitting by the water with my feet up, my dog right there, and sipping an adult beverage. Feel the breeze. Smell the ocean. Taste the drops of bliss. Now picture the task of the moment that needs to get done. Don’t let yourself think about that.

Open your eyes and dive in. You’re still sitting on the beach, but you’re getting something accomplished. Of course, you know that you’re not on the beach. You’re sitting at your desk or couch, but you’re feeling the sensations of being at the beach. And those positive sensations will linger as you take on the task of the moment. Whether it’s writing a report or clearing the clutter. Your job will be that much more pleasant for picturing your sunny spot.

Get up and do it

If something is nagging at you, and you seem to always be thinking to yourself, “I really should …” Just get up and do it.

No matter the “it”

No matter what the “it” is – you’ll be so much happier and productive if you just get it done.

Exercise? Do it.

Get up and do it. Here, it's exercise.

You tell yourself, “I really should exercise.” Get up, change into your workout gear, put some music on and move. Need something more structured? The next time you have 10 minutes free at your computer, search up some 30 minute workouts on YouTube and save the links on your Google Drive. Or subscribe to PopSugar Fitness. They’ll send you an email every day that usually includes a short workout on their site from a top fitness trainer. 

Eat healthy? Do the planning.

You get take-out every night and you’re tired of it. “I really should cook something healthy for dinner.” This requires a little more planning but depending on what’s in your pantry, you can do it on the spur of the moment. Just Google “healthy eating recipes” and you’ll get too many choices. You may want to take a close look at a few of the recipes you find with this search for the future. Save your favorites, make a shopping list from them and you’ll be set for a few days.

Organize the closet? Start now.

Every day you reach into your closet and encounter a tangle of hangers and clothes and you think to yourself, “I really should clean out my closet.” That prospect can be overwhelming. The good news is that you don’t have to do it all at once. It may be cathartic to clean out an entire closet at once, but that can take hours. If you don’t have hours to spend on the task, take 15 minutes and grab a handful of that tangle. Only save the items you absolutely positively know you’ll wear again. The others go in separate bags to donate and pitch. During this process you’ll have more of a mess, but it will give you more motivation to finish.

Yes, Nike has it right – this isn’t the first time I’ve used their slogan: http://fitness-over-50.com/2020/12/just-do-it-and-that-means-exercise/

Get up and do it.

Get one thing done. What a sense of accomplishment! And it will give you a reason to do it again tomorrow.

Sometimes it’s just hard

No matter the motivation, the inspiration, sometimes it’s just hard to get up the get-up-and-go to work out. Like yesterday for me. I know all the reasons to exercise. I write about them, for goodness’ sake.

But sometimes even all that knowledge just isn’t good enough to inspire me to exercise.

I know the benefits

I knew that once I started and felt everything start to tingle with the warm-up, the workout would be over before I knew it.

I also knew that when the workout was over and the final stretch and cool-down began, all those endorphins would be racing through my body and I’d feel fantastic. And that shower when I was done would feel better than great.

And I knew that I’d sleep better if I worked out. And that I would be in a better mood. And that my blood pressure would go down, I’d be able to concentrate and focus better, and that I would have even more energy after my workout. (For more benefits of exercise, read http://fitness-over-50.com/2015/09/why-exercise/)

Not enough

But that did not convince me to change into my workout gear and exercise. The dogs were not helping, they were being cute so I didn’t want to stop playing with them.

What did make me change and start my workout?

Pasta with bolognese sauce.

It was hard finding motivation. The spaghetti motivated me to work out.

My favorite. I’m a pasta-holic. I love pasta, especially my mom’s “spaghetti.” When we were growing up, mom would make spaghetti every month or so and it was always my sister’s and my favorite. Only when we were adults we learned that it was really pasta with bolognese sauce – a hifalutin’ word if ever there was one. Pasta – didn’t matter the shape – in a rich, tomato-ey sauce with caramelized onions and ground beef.

And it was for dinner. There was no way I wanted to feel guilty about consuming loads of calories of my favorite dish, and I certainly was not going to skimp on the portion size. We don’t have it that often any more.

No guilt

So I changed and worked out.

And, yes, the warmup felt good. It was an intense and sweaty workout. The stretch and cool-down felt better. The shower afterward was absolutely divine.

Best of all – no guilt. And I ate all my pasta.

Where’s my motivation?

Where's my motivation to workout - be an exerciser!

A few months ago, after the initial shock of the lockdown, many of us were inspired to begin exercising at home. We couldn’t go to gyms, so we worked out in our living rooms or basements, or started walking or running outside.

But as the weeks went on, as the saying goes, we’re just “not that into it” anymore.

Where’s my motivation? Where did it go?

We may have lost that initial glow, that feeling of, “Hey! Look at me! I’m actually exercising and I even lost a few pounds.”

But then things started to go back to semi-normal. Gyms started opening up, but it wasn’t the same. There were occupancy limits. Masks were required in many cases. It was hard. We may have gone back a few times, but it was hard.

And then cases started rising and things locked down again.

And your motivation up and went. The starting and stopping, starting and stopping – do I go to the gym? do I go for a run? Or, do I sit on the couch.

Different motivations

Starting a new behavior requires much different motivation than keeping that behavior going.

At first we were inspired to do something that was actually good for us while we were cooped up at home. We were told that we should exercise – it would be good for us.

But then we were able to do other things, outside our homes. Meet friends at restaurants – outside, perhaps, but still a social gathering. Or go shopping. And so our motivation to exercise went by the wayside.

It’s much more difficult to sustain motivation for a behavior that we may not be that invested in to start with. We need more than “we should do this” to keep it going.

Make it easy

If you’re serious about wanting to exercise – and I’ve written before about the many reasons TO exercise, make it easy on yourself. Make it easy to be an exerciser.

  1. Have your workout gear handy. Whether you work out at home or actually go to a gym – have a drawer, or part of a drawer, specifically for clothes you use to work out in.
  2. Do something you like, or don’t mind so much. Whether it’s running, walking, lifting weights, dancing, yoga – figure out what you won’t mind doing for 30 – 40 minutes a few times a week and
  3. SCHEDULE it. Yes – write it down in your calendar. It helps to make it the same time on the days that you exercise – you will get used to exercising at that time. Whether it’s 7:00 in the morning, 3:30 in the afternoon or 10:00 at night. Make an appointment with yourself. Every day. Write it down. Make it a repeating appointment in your Google calendar.
  4. If you feel like running one day and lifting weights the next – perfectly OK. Don’t lock yourself into a particular style of exercise. Cross-training is good for you.

Get your motivation back. Be an exerciser, not just someone who sometimes exercises. Your body – and your mind – will thank you.

Are you bored?

100315_lungeAre you bored with your routine? Then it might be time to switch it up! I was doing one kind of workout for months. I enjoyed it, but I kept resisting going downstairs to push “play.” I found one excuse after another until there just wasn’t time to work out. And that led to bad eating habits, too. My portions got bigger, the foods were not as healthy. It was a downward spiral.

So I decided, “I’m an accountability coach. I should be able to figure this out!” I switched to a different workout program. And I started following the nutritional guidelines for that program. And 3 weeks later, I’ve lost 4 pounds and am not bored. I need more carbohydrates than this meal program allows, to be happy, so I’ll add more from time to time. I don’t snack, as a rule, so that’s a plus.

I don’t like this workout program as much as the one that I had been doing, and that could be a problem. It’s harder on my knees, and that’s another problem. But I’ll modify the moves that I feel are bad, and just keep pushing “play.” And then when I get bored, perhaps I’ll rediscover that first workout and stay motivated!