As the end of the year approaches, I find myself reflecting on the past twelve months. Revisiting resolutions and making judgments on goals set this time last year. I try to look back on the year about to close as objectively as I can. I ask myself what have I learned? What did I achieve? Am I closer to where I want to be than I was back in the dark days of January?
This year, for the first time, I am having trouble answering these questions. You see, the goals at the start of this year were pretty much the same as they are every January. I am always very interested in making improvements to my overall health and fitness, and so I set goals to work towards this. Namely, I wanted to lose weight and I wanted to increase my fitness.
Did I achieve these goals? The answer is, not really. I started the year at about 62kg and I am finishing it at about 60kg. So, nothing too note worthy there. 2kg weight loss in an entire year is slow by anyone’s standards. What about the fitness then? Did I make some noticeable progress in this area? Am I able to go faster, or longer, or harder? Again, the answer to this is not really. If I was being completely honest, I would say I would be lucky if I have managed to maintain the level of fitness I had when I rang in 2016.
In the past, this realisation that I have “failed” to achieve my goals would have sent me spiraling into self pity, self loathing and self destruction! I would have been lamenting and crying and declaring myself a hopeless case. I mean, I only had two things I wanted to achieve, and I succeeded at neither. What the hell happened? In a word, LIFE!
I have come to understand that taking a snap shot of where you are at either end of the year can be a useful tool, but it is extremely limited. It doesn’t take into account the other 363 days, when life is actually happening. It doesn’t allow for any context. Neither does it reflect the learning and growth which has occurred in other areas. Just because you didn’t write something down as a “goal” at the beginning of the year, doesn’t make it meaningless.
Let me explain what I mean. In January, this blog was just an idea and the YouTube channel was yet to be conceived of. I hadn’t even contemplated giving cookery lessons. I was blissfully unaware that I would have an injury, which would significantly restrict my training. I had no idea that I was about to embark on two distinct and completely different courses of study. In short, I had no idea of everything which was about to come my way.
These may all sound like excuses for not having achieved my goals, and truthfully, it is hard for me not to dismiss them as such myself. A huge part of me wants to scold myself for allowing distractions to get in my way. Surely if I had been truly committed, nothing could have stopped me?
In the stillness and quiet, I have spent time trying to reconcile this conflict. How can we stay committed to our goals while remaining open to new opportunities which come our way? How can we prevent our determination from turning into dogmatism? The answer to this, for me, is to change the way I look at goals, and goal setting in general. Instead of listing out thing I want to achieve, and dutifully ticking them off, I have tried instead to look at where I want to be, and use this as the litmus test when deciding to pursue a certain course of action.
In Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, he refers to this as the “celery test.” It is the process of determining whether your actions move you closer to your overall goals or not. So for me, I could ask if doing physio for my hip injury, and listening to the professional advice of restricting training, would ultimately help me to get fitter and stronger. I think it will. I could also ask myself if taking courses, writing blogs and teaching classes moves me towards my goal of helping other people to achieve their own fitness goals. Again, I believe the answer to be yes.
Regular readers will have heard me say before that progress is often non linear. We can often feel like we are taking one step forward and two steps back. Putting emphasis on one aspect of life, naturally means something else may move out of focus. Growth and improvement present learning curves, often steep ones. But if we can try to put our goals at the centre of our actions, we won’t veer too far off course.
When I think now about the year just gone, I can’t be disappointed with my progress. I feel like I have learned so much in the past twelve months, and that I am now far better equipped to handle whatever the future has in store for me. So as it comes time to pen those resolutions, think hard about where you would like to be come Christmas 2017. Choose actions through the year, which support this. But remember, nothing is set in stone. Life has it’s own plan, so be ready to roll with the punches. Be well and Merry Christmas xxx