Near my home there are two daunting staircases that at all hours of the day or night are populated with zealous fitness folk, zipping or dragging their way up and down. The stairs are hundreds of steps, and, at least for me, one set up and down is no small feat. However, being overly ambitious, I struck upon the notion to attempt five rounds, up and down, in order to “stretch” myself.
Stretch myself I did, but not exactly in the way I had planned. After two and half sets, during which I grew more and more breathless, weak, and discouraged, I admitted “defeat”, and as a result I refused to venture near the infamous stairs for almost a year. Actually, for a few days I couldn’t venture very far, period, what with being intensely sore, but that’s beside the point.
It finally occurred to me that I was setting the bar too high, and that if I had chosen two sets of stairs instead of five as my goal, I would have felt elated at having achieved over and above that amount, rather than defeated. It truly is a matter of perspective and setting reasonable yet attainable goals. Otherwise, chances are that we’ll either not even begin the challenge, since it seems overwhelming, or we’ll only get partway to our goal and focus on what we haven’t accomplished rather than on what we have achieved. We may lose momentum and abandon the task entirely.
So, are there goals you’ve set for yourself that might be overly ambitious for starters? It’s not that lofty goals are a bad thing to aim at, but trying to go from point A to point Z generally doesn’t stand as good a chance of success as striving to go from point A to point B. Then, after you reach point B, you can set your sights on point C, and then… you get the idea.
Set a goal that’s attainable in the near future.
Recognize that while achieving this goal may entail your flexing some emotional, mental, or physical muscle, and may “ache” at some point, moderation is wise. Otherwise, you may find yourself on the sidelines for an extended length of time, recovering from overdoing it.
Try for small, measurable steps (literally or figuratively) on a regular basis, to build your sense of competence and self-confidence. You’ll thus accumulate an ever-growing body of evidence that you can face and surmount today’s challenge because, hey, look at all of the times you have in the past.
If your faltering confidence trips you up at any point, consider the possibility that you haven’t utilized these particular “muscles” for awhile, so it’s not surprising that they would be weak. Have you ever broken an arm and wore a cast for months? When the cast is removed, was your arm skinny and weak? If so, did you give up on your arm ever being useful again? Did you say, “Oh, well, I guess I’ll just have to use my other arm from here on in”? Probably not. You simply accepted that your arm would take some time to regain its former strength. It’s the same thing with emotional or mental muscles.
Be patient and persevere. It will get easier. Acknowledge the progress you’re making. Each time you make strides toward your goal, pat yourself on the back. Treat yourself to the same encouragement and kindness you’d offer your best friend. After all, did beating yourself up ever work?
So, what do you think? What’s one goal you’d like to accomplish in the next month, six months, or year? Can you break that goal down to manageable chunks? What can you do today to move toward fulfilling that goal?