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.

You’re not alone

I have to apologize to you. For some time now, I’ve been writing about what it takes to be healthy, eat right to lose weight, exercise regularly and it may have seemed like you have to do it in a vacuum. That’s just not true!

You’re not alone

You’re not alone. You shouldn’t be alone, especially not on this journey. The more you involve other people who support you the better! If your friends and family truly want what’s best for you then they can only support your path to fitness. 

After all, we humans are social beasts. When we’re around others who have the same set of beliefs, we thrive. We have meaningful discussions and make each other think. When we’re with others who support us, we’re growing our resilience, just as we’re helping others grow theirs. 

And these days, we’re able to physically see our friends and family more than in the past year. It’s a time for togetherness, happiness and optimism.

Get together!

Your journey to fitness should be an opportunity for togetherness! 

Friends can help in your fitness journey. You are not alone.

By all means, involve your friends and family in your fitness journey. Share healthy recipes. Or go to your favorite restaurant that offers options that are appealing to you with your modified – healthy – mindset. 

Be sure that those around you really are supportive. I don’t mean to sound negative, but you definitely only want people around you who really care about your best interests.

Just like you can sabotage your own efforts, others can, too. So my suggestion is to explain exactly what you’re doing and your reasons. Offer any research that you’ve done if questions are raised. 

It’s natural to resist change. And that can be true about personal change as well. Make sure that your friends and family know that you’re still you! You still have the same interests, hobbies (with maybe a few healthier ones added to the mix), taste in clothes and books, and love for chocolate. Don’t let those who are resisting your change, change your mind! You’re on the road to health and wellness. This can only benefit everyone around you.

And when your “tribe” knows that you haven’t actually joined a cult, and you’re on the fitness path for good reasons, they may even join you!

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?

Positive reinforcement works for me

In addition to writing articles about fitness and trying to inspire other (mostly) women over … a certain age …. to become more fit, I train my dogs using positive reinforcement. It occurred to me lately that positive reinforcement works for me, too. 

Booker is heeling at Fran's side: positive reinforcement works

In the dog training world, many trainers, including me, have moved to a place where we reward the dog for doing what we ask them to and ignore other behaviors (unless they do something really outrageously wrong). A big difference from about twenty years ago (maybe less than that), when it was a common practice for handlers to jerk the dog on a choke chain into place and hurl a jar filled with noisy pebbles at a dog. Fear was the common motivator in dog training. Now our dogs learn to think and make correct choices.

Now my dog walks at my side when I tell him to, looking up at me for his next “assignment.” I reward that behavior.

How does that positive reinforcement work for me?

I know that there are certain “behaviors” that I’m supposed to do. Eat well. Go to work. Be nice to other people. Exercise a few times a week. If I do all that, I give myself a reward. That reward could be something as insignificant as a shower after my workout. Maybe an extra piece of tomato on my sandwich. Why so minimal? Because these things have become habits for me. 

The newer a behavior is, when I’m trying to form a new habit, the bigger and better the reward. The same for dog training. If I’m just starting to teach my dog to walk close to my left side, I’ll give him a jackpot reward the first couple of times he finds that position on his own. That way he’ll be more likely to repeat the behavior! But after a period of time, say a few weeks, my dog has been walking in heel position on his own for all that time. So, a periodic reward will spark his enthusiasm and keep him there. In the same vein, after a particularly tough workout, I might reward myself with an extra long stretch. 

Positive reinforcement for the masses

Lately we’ve seen states and municipalities reward residents for getting COVID vaccines. They’re rewarding a behavior that people were either resistant to or saw no benefit in for themselves. That’s positive reinforcement working in a very big way. 

Positive reinforcement works for me, it’ll work for you. And it’s certainly a lot more palatable than punishing myself for something I didn’t do.