It is tough to keep up with goals once Winter starts. It is raining, school has started, it is dark in the morning and evening… you already know all the excuses so I won’t enumerate them. However, I have found that one way to stay motivated is to make a challenge or dare for yourself. I usually think of challenges in terms of 12 week periods because that is a school quarter or season and I figure if I can complete a statistics class then I can do pretty much anything for 12 weeks.
There is a real art to making goals that are challenging enough, but not so impossible that they leave you feeling depressed. The old thinking was that goals should be easily attainable and coaches would urge someone trying to lose 20 pounds into having a 5 pound loss as their goal, but new research has shown that most people make more progress with a more difficult goal. We all know the feeling of setting a small goal of losing 5 pounds and then blowing the diet when that is attained even though we “want” to keep going. What the study showed was that setting their sights higher kept dieters on track better.
So, using this principle, think of a goal that is somewhere between ambitious and ridiculous. Really, stop, and think of a goal that puts a smile on your face when you imagine it completed. If you want to be a size six, don’t shoot for a size eight. If you want to write a novel, don’t make writing one page per day your goal. It will just not feel satisfying enough to fight for. Instead, set your goal for size six, or a novel or a published article while giving yourself permission to celebrate every positive step you make along the way.
Another part of setting goals is to realize the difference between process and outcome. Write every day or get more exercise are examples of process goals, while “lose 20 pounds by January 1” is an example of an outcome goal. Process goals are about changing your habits while outcome goals provide you with a deadline and a challenge.
The goal-setting acronym is SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and trackable. For example, I will exercise one half hour, six days a week, or, I will finish my outline and first draft by Friday.
Here are some challenge ideas with a fitness-focus:
You could challenge yourself to walk 10,000 steps per day. Wear a simple $10 pedometer all day and see how many steps you can walk. 10,000 steps is easily done by parking a bit farther away from work or from a store than you normally would, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking around while you are on a phone call, etc. We did this for a long time and I thought it was funny how the length of our evening walk was determined by how many steps we each had left. Another thing I like about this challenge is that you don’t need to be accurate with mileage, only steps.
You could join the walk around the world challenge, where your mileage is added into a pool of other members to add up to the circumference of the Earth. That is 24,901 miles.
You could chart your walks from coast -to-coast with Webwalking USA.
You could challenge yourself to raise a certain amount of money for “your cause” with the Plus 3 Network.
If you’re feeling more competitive, you could sign up for a marathon, half-marathon or even a 5k. Marathons aren’t just for runners. The Portland Marathon is known for being walk-friendly and has separate categories for racewalking and Nordic walking. Walk About Magazine and RunnersWorld both have race finders that lists walks or runs for your area that you could sign up for. Or, sign upfor a walk or run in another state and plan a vacation around it. Runner’s World also has gorgeous motivational wallpapers that you can download.
A completely different idea would be to challenge yourself to fit into a smaller size of jeans by a certain date. Personally, I have a lot of resistance to this one but many of my clients have had success with it when trying to lose scale-weight hasn’t worked. Get out an old, too small pair of jeans that you actually like and would like to wear again. If you don’t have any, buy a pair, but be sure to buy a size that you have been before. Then squeeze into them and take your picture. Now carry that picture around with you and look at it before you eat anything. Then every week, squeeze into them again, take a new picture and repeat.
You could are yourself to track my calories daily using an online calorie counter called the Daily Plate. It is part of the LiveStrong website. There are other calorie databases available but I really like this one. You input the calories you consume and then enter your exercise and it calculates both your total and “net” calories for the day. Most of the foods you could eat are already in the database, everything from a Fuji apple and baby carrots to meals like Outback: fillet and stuffed shrimp. One weekend we figured out the approximate calories in fish and chips from Spud at Alki and then “walked them off” before we ate them. “Friend me” if you join LiveStrong.
What challenges or dares have you come up with for yourself? What challenges have worked for you in the past? Why or why not? Post your comments so we can all learn together.
I double-dog dare you!