Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I've been thinking about goals a lot recently. Exercise goals, health goals, work goals, life goals. And, since I'm a geek, I've even spent a lot of time contemplating the concept of goals itself.

For example, let's look at my recent exercise goals.

I set a goal of 500 miles in 2010. Here is my current status.

You can look at this chart two ways. 1) Wow, check that out! Talk about overachieving! or, 2) Wow, you don't really set very challenging goals, do you?

So, what were my other 500 in 2010 goals?

  • My first is that I want to be able to run the entire two mile loop at the local park without stopping to walk.
  • My second is to run my first 5k. I'm hoping to do this in August or September.
  • My third goal is to complete the Warrior Dash with Laura this fall.
I set those goals in March. I nailed the first goal a few weeks after setting the goal. The 5k goal I completed on July 3rd. The only reason I haven't completed the 3rd goal is because Warrior Dash is a set date. I'd run it tomorrow if I could.

In retrospect, those weren't very challenging goals. Looking at some of my work and health goals, I see the same pattern. I set very conservative goals, and then I do better than I planned.

What I've been wondering is if this is a good thing or a bad thing? On the surface, my gut reaction is that I'm too risk adverse and that I may be selling myself short by under estimating what I can do. Then again, I know that if I'm uncomfortable with a goal, I may be more tempted to quit because I think it's unattainable. After I mull over it for a little while I actually get disgusted with myself for making seemingly simple things so darned complex.

I need to get a handle on this because it's time to set some goals.

First, I need to set some new exercise/health goals. I'm happy with my current exercise frequency and effort, so I want to make sure that my goals are challenging enough that they will motivate me to continue working at this level, at a minimum. I've also found that knowing I'll be running Warrior Dash with Laura and Maria has been an awesome motivation for me. Turns out I'm willing to work harder if I think it will impact someone else. Good to know. So, when I set my next round of goals, I need to come up with something that will get me exercising vigorously at least four times a week for a least an hour a session, and that I should somehow be accountable to someone else if I fall short. Got it.

The other problem with goals is the unintended consequences. Between 500 in 2010 and a walking challenge we had at work, I'm really burned out on recording steps and miles. I also discovered that my focus on distance/steps has discouraged me from doing exercise that doesn't count towards my metrics. That means I've hardly used our rowing machine.

This is were one of my health issues comes in. Blood pressure? Great, maybe even a little too low. Weight? Let's just say my wedding dress is way too big to wear these days. Everything looks good...except for waist size. My waist measurement has not decreased in proportion to the rest of my body measurements. While I've brought my waist size under the 35 inch high risk level, it hasn't been by much. I'd like to do something about this for both health and appearance reasons, so my goals need to include this. It also means I'm strongly considering ending my miles tracking as soon as I reach 500 miles in a few weeks.

With all of this mental rumination over my exercise and health goals and my goal setting strategy, I've also been examining my work and life goals. I'm fairly happy with my work goals right now. When I decided to change my career track two years ago, I did a good bit of soul searching, and I'm happy with the path I'm on. But, not so much for the life goals.

Let's face it, having a child turns your life upside down and changes the way you feel about many things. That's both good and bad. However, for the first two years, my life goal was to get enough sleep so that I could function. Then, when the sleep thing started to settle down, the high maintenance kid thing smacked me in the face and my goal became finding enough down time to prevent me from having a nervous breakdown. Then, this winter the endless cycle of illness hit and my goal became getting enough sleep so that I can function while also finding enough down time to keep from going completely insane. These are all worthy goals and appropriate for the time, but I suspect that 15 years from now I may have different needs and desires. (If not, I'm going to cry.) I should probably start thinking about that.

As a shorter term version, it has occurred to me that I'm only a year and a half from a pretty big milestone. I'm going to turn 40! I want to do something special to celebrate that milestone. What, I don't know. But I want it to be impressive enough that I need to start planning for it more than a week ahead.

I should probably get on that, shouldn't I?


LauraC said...

The biggest lesson I learned in Mondo (for myself) is that I set reasonable goals and attain them, so why am I stopping myself by not setting slightly more insane goals?

aka if you shoot the stars, at least you'll hit the moon

I'm working on breaking things into smaller chunks. My August list is:

* finish 500 miles
* learn to walk in heels
* beach - fully relax and enjoy it
* photo project (random stacks of photos that need a home)
* wear makeup on a regular basis

I would have been happy to achieve that in a year before.

GO BIG for your 40th. You will not be disappointed.

Karen said...

I have good intentions but am not so good at completing things that I have a set goal for. I find that if I write it down, then I am more likely to meet the goal. There is something satisfying for me about checking it off my list!

How to celebrate your 40th....let me start thinking about that now.

Stacey said...

I think you've done awesome with your goals! I admire your commitment to exercising and that you actually seem to enjoy it.

I am so afraid of failure that I don't set goals at all. Maybe I'll also a little afraid of success.

Beth said...

Hmmmm, goals. I'm trying to think if I've ever consciously set goals for myself. I guess my new year's resolutions are goals. Obviously, I'm not good at following through on such things. Which makes your accomplishments even more impressive! Even if they were "easy" (whatever) to begin with. I'm on the same timeline as you with the whole turning 40 thing. Guess I should start thinking of some goals, huh?

JenFen said...

I think you should give yourself more credit and take some time to smell the roses. Your goals were plenty challenging. You just worked that much harder and happen to accomplish them earlier than expected. I mean come on, you are about to hit the 500 mile mark in a challenge that still has over 4 months left. That is awesome.

But I can also see that with those goals accomplished, it is probably time to set some new ones and I think it is a good idea to stop tracking miles after you hit the 500. In the beginning of the year I was the same way and then we moved and I realized I will never meet the 500 miles and I wasn't happy with the results I was getting by just walking/running by itself. So now I am doing the 30 Day Shred for strength/toning and the C25K on alternating days. in our age bracket, it is really important to add strength training because not only does it help our appearance but it also helps us burn fat more efficiently making our cardio workouts count more. But I am sure you probably already knew that.

I also liked what Laura said about shooting for the stars but again I must reiterate - stop and smell the roses and give yourself a huge pat on the back for a job well done. You deserve it.

And yeah, I say go way big for your 40th. I will brainstorm some ideas and we can talk about them in Vegas.