Wellness: It's a Journey, Not a Goal
The truth is, I’ve never really been a big goal setter. Even in school as a kid, I never set specific goals of, say, “I am going to get an A on this test.” Instead, I had a system: I knew that in order to do well on a test, I needed to 1) read the material on my own time, 2) take hand-written notes on the most important content, 3) highlight keywords from my notes that would trigger my memory on a topic, and then 4) study these condensed self-made cliff notes. I used other “tricks” as well- I would often use mnemonic devices to remember things (‘Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally”, anyone?) - and especially for history class, I would make up stories in my head, using my friends as characters in the stories, to help me recall historical events. I was a strange kid… ha!
To be clear, there have been lots of studies done showing the power of goal-setting and working towards something tangible. They say if you don’t know where you’re going, then you’ll probably end up somewhere else. I agree that this is true for sure, especially in business - and even more so when trying to rally a team around a greater cause. So by all means, yes you should set business and financial goals, and then develop an action plan to achieve them!
But let’s talk specifically about wellness goals - for example: to run a marathon, to lose 15 pounds, to do a handstand, etc. For me personally, right or wrong, the journey has always been more important than the end goal. Don’t get me wrong - these are all great things to work towards. But I feel that the most important thing to long-term success is establishing a sustainable and effective process that will help you get to that end result you are looking for. A process is defined as a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end - in other words, it’s all the little things you do that add up to the big thing at the end.
So what does this look like in practice?
Maybe you want to run a marathon, but you’ve never really been a runner. How do you get there? You must first start with, well... running! Not just running, but running consistently. So maybe your process is committing to going outside and moving for 30 minutes, 3 days a week. At first, you probably won’t be able to run for the whole 30 minutes straight. Heck, you may only be able to run for 30 seconds at a time, then need to take a 2 minute break before repeating the interval - and that is OK! But eventually, with the consistency of getting out there 3x a week, week after week, your endurance will increase and you can start upping your time to 40 minutes, 50 minutes, and so on. NOTE: if you want to run a marathon, we highly recommend a program like Couch to 5k - which is a process (formulated by experts!) for getting to where you want to be with your running.
It’s the same thing with wanting to lose 15 pounds. Instead of being so focused on looking at the scale every day to see if you’re down a pound, it’s much more effective to come up with a system for creating a healthy lifestyle that’s conducive to losing weight. For example, you can start by committing to meal prepping each week on Sunday, so that you know you will eat healthy lunches every week day. You can add on it by committing to hit the gym twice a week, on say Tuesdays and Thursdays. Once you have established a few healthy habits that work for you, you can level up and begin pushing yourself even further (i.e. committing to not eat out Sunday-Thursday, moving to 4x a week workouts, etc).
In my humble opinion, it’s much more sustainable to incorporate processes into your life that will help you get to where you want to go. A goal has two potential outcomes:
a) You achieve it - which is GREAT! But then afterwards, you may go back to your old ways, unless you are really dedicated enough to incorporate that achievement into your new lifestyle (and continuously level up your goals to the next achievement moving forward) or
b) You don’t achieve for x or y reason, and then you are likely to feel disappointed in yourself, instead of focusing on the pure achievement of say, the fact that you’ve been running regularly!, which is just as important (if not more important), since it’s a positive habit that’s become part of your lifestyle now.
Wellness is a journey… It’s about creating positive habits that lead to a healthy life; and also embracing the fact that sometimes you will fail to do the things you set out to do. But that is OK - it happens to everyone! It’s just an opportunity to look at why you fell off - maybe you were being too restrictive with yourself to begin with - and then resetting and getting back on track with your healthy lifestyle.
It’s also about making it your own journey! Wellness looks different for everyone. Maybe you know you need to eat healthy but can’t bear the thought of giving up bread… As long as you are incorporating lots of fresh fruit and veggies and high-quality proteins and fats into your diet, and you don’t have a gluten-intolerance, it’s totally fine to keep a little bit of bread in your diet! Maybe you cannot STAND the thought of running, even though you know you need cardio in your life. Luckily, there are plenty of other options for cardio - HIIT routines, swimming, and even something like Zumba might be good options for you! It’s about figuring out what works with your body, and what you actually enjoy doing.
The point is that you shouldn’t compare your wellness journey with anyone else’s, and while goals can be great motivators, what’s more important is the process for how you are going to achieve those goals. Everyone is different - some people are more goal-oriented than others and thrive off of having their eye on a big goal - which is great! But it’s also OK to have good healthy processes (aka healthy habits) in your life without trying to reach a certain wellness goal. You just have to figure out what works for you, and then get out there and make it happen!
What do you think?! Do you prefer to have concrete goals? We want to hear! Please share in the #cleanfitfam Facebook group :)