Goal setting is such a double-edged sword. I love to set goals — attainable, measurable, valuable ways to track progress in the gym and in life. Checking milestones off my list feels amazing, whether it be a new skill in the gym or seeing an amazing progress picture of myself. Ironically, the result has never been as sweet as the journey.
As someone who participates regularly in the functional fitness arena (i.e., CrossFit), I have forever been in pursuit of a muscle-up. I was afraid of the gymnastic rings for years, to the point of literally never going near them. Then one day, I just woke up. I thought, This is insane. I have been in this sport for four years and have never even attempted to do this. I was suddenly excited to take all the steps necessary every day to have a muscle-up be my end goal, even if it meant just hanging onto the rings and feeling so incredibly silly as I got more comfortable.
After a while (all the drills, YouTube videos and frustration later), it finally happened, and I swear my friends and coaches were more excited than I was. I didn’t even really enjoy the moment because my brain already had its sights set on the next big thing it could accomplish. How about two in row? I was so hyper-focused on the outcome that I overlooked all the steps it took to get there — the work, aggravation and days of wanting to give up on it.
I would have enjoyed the moment so much more if I refocused on some of the things it took to get there:
- Things I didn’t want to do but I did them anyway. I’ve turned down drinks with friends that would mess up a 6 a.m. wake-up call to the gym. I’ve held strong and didn’t eat snacks outside of my preplanned meals for the day, when I would be the only one who knew. Being mentally tough is hard but inevitably part of the process when you really want to achieve things.
- Choosing myself, repeatedly. It’s important to practice self-care and self-control, which represented change that was intrinsic.
- You are what you do every. single. day. I believe this with every single fiber of my being. It’s not just some of the days or on the weekdays — the real magic happens when you are willing to live and die by your goals. It’s a hard concept to wrap our minds around because it’s not as tangible as getting a muscle-up, losing 10 pounds or setting a new one-rep-max back squat.
- Realizing that the desire to pursue a goal is greater than the outcome of the goal. The same way it works for an addict, dopamine will push a behavior until the craving is satisfied. If the reward is powerful enough, your brain will always come back hungry for more of it. This is why achievement can become so utterly underwhelming when compared to the pursuit of the desired goal.
- You have arrived — appreciate where you are right now. I am forever on my soapbox coaching clients, practically begging for them to enjoy the journey and trust the process. Goals are awesome. I love crushing them and picturing this big life for myself, but this person I’m becoming while I’m on the way is someone I’m also equally as proud of.
More than anything, I want to appreciate the “here and now” of life — it makes the reward so much sweeter. No matter whether your goal is big or small, and as far away as you think you are, appreciate the fact that you have arrived. You’re on the journey, and that is just one of a million steps as you move forward.