Persistence VS Perfection
Why can't I be perfect? All of us experience periods where our confidence and commitment are challenged. When something doesn't happen the way we envisioned it, disappointment might lead us to simply give up. This topic has been hashed out many times before. I'm not advocating that one should never give up on anything, because sometimes, it truly is better to stop what isn't working.
Instead, what if we concentrate on stopping the mindset that perpetuates the behavior that isn't working? What if we were more open to alternatives? Asking ourselves, what if I changed this, or did that instead ... or if I stopped being disappointed about my own efforts or lack thereof ... ah. Might that be the root of it?
Consider how ruminating about your past actions makes you feel when you're focused on those thoughts. Hammering yourself for behaving or performing in a way that you judged to be subpar and not perfect. But to what standards? Yours, someone else's, or standards you think you should follow. This somewhat destructive pattern often affects how we exercise and take care of our health. Recognizing one's own discord is the first and most humbling step toward being ready for better results. And goals are great tools for achievement.
Goals are important. What do you want to accomplish? Objective goals are based on facts. Subjective goals are based on opinion. There are many ways to create goals and work toward achieving them. You can seek the assistance of a professional or make your own. Typically, they include three stages:
- research, planning, education (info gathering on goal setting & making them specific)
- setting goals for your needs (a pro will have his or her goals along with yours)
- evaluating and then reevaluating (rely on friends and relatives if you're not working with a pro)
Types of Goals: Performance, Process, Outcome
Goals should be specific and limited to a few, so that one is not overwhelmed and adjustments can be easily made. Goals help us refine persistence. Performance and process goals direct our attention to the present - the tasks at hand in the now. They build confidence and give way to mastery. Outcome goals are typically related to winning or losing and these goals are out of our control. In exercise, this goal is about focusing on the end result of behavior or action. Creating a plan for change should include all three. For example:
You've decided to run in the L.A. Marathon in 12 months:
1) Your process goal is to get up at 5AM and run 1 mile before going to work, increasing 2 miles by the end of each month.
2) Your performance goal is to do this run 3 days a week.
3) Your outcome goal is to be running up to 20 miles in 12 months.
Marathon Day is here. Your goals are still specific and at work:
1) Your process goal is to keep your pace steady.
2) Your performance goal is to hit your personal best time.
3) Your outcome goal is to be the first runner to cross the finish line.
Goal Setting Principles
- set specific & measurable goals (increase or decrease an action by a measured means - percentage, number of hours, frequency per week, less calories, more protein, etc.)
- set realistic yet challenging attainable goals (are you able to meet your goal if something comes up?)
- set both short and long term goals (tracking successes toward the long term boosts confidence and supports attainability - you can do it!)
- focus on performance and process goals (keeps you in the present away from distraction)
- develop goal commitment (commit your goals to paper, perhaps also keep a diary - you can do it!)
- develop goal achievement strategies (a pro will be there to keep you on track, on your own, you must rely on your own persistence and creativity to spur you on - you can do it!)
- get goal feedback and evaluation (rely on relatives and friends if you're not working with a pro, you should share positive feedback and seek objective information evaluating your progression and make adjustments if necessary - you can do it!)
- set timelines to achieve goals (we need challenge, but keep it realistic and be open to adjustments - you can do it!)
An Ever-Changing Structure
In our L.A. Marathon running goal example, what are some obstacles that might stifle meeting a certain type of goal and how might we adjust to continue to meet all goal types? Perhaps, we oversleep and miss our process goal's window. No problem. We accept it. Adjustment? We run after work. Or what if we sustain an injury? We accept it. Adjustment? Have the injury properly evaluated. We need objectivity (facts) about the situation to assess our goal structure. We don't want to do more harm to ourselves for the sake of an overarching goal, but might we be able to catch up and continue after some rest? If so, we change our goal structure accordingly. And in this example, that change would indicate new goals - goals directed toward recovery.
Now Where Are You?
Are you at the stage of sort of thinking about making a change, contemplating change, preparing for change, taking steps toward change, or in the middle of change? Only you will be able to assess where you are now. Remember, everything is life is imperfect, but life does persist. So do turtles.
~It's Me Heather Lea