My goal-setting process has become a bit of an art over the years. I don't like setting a goal unless I feel confident I will achieve it. This keeps me feeling successful. My goals come in two different types. There are the less specific kind, more like a statement about what I want and how I wish to grow myself and my life, indicating where and how I am spending, and will spend, my precious energy. This is the part that feels artful. The more specific type is the to do lists type, where I take some parts of the bigger goal and break it into small, manageable goals. This part is less creative but is the part that makes the goal really come to life in this world. I wanted to write about this because it kept coming up inside me this week, this idea of goal setting. The thing that caused it to be addressed internally was my new commitment to daily aerobic exercise. Seventeen days ago something inside me decided I needed to give this a true effort. I had been exercising very irregularly in a cardio way, and was tired of feeling a level of discomfort in my body that I have been experiencing for years now. My discomfort has come from a variety of places for a variety of reasons that I won't list here. Let's say menopause really gave me a run for my money. I had always been an extremely active person, engaged regularly in aerobic exercise, needed it to feel good. When I literally could not exercise because of the changes in my body it was a hard loss to live with. I continually tried when I felt well enough but had no sustained periods when I felt like I could get an adequate length of time going with the cardio part. My lifestyle these last years has been more sedentary with my writing, my weight has slowly crept up as my metabolism flat-lined or nose-dived, and my mid-section slowly expanded. Ah, midlife.
Seventeen days ago, something in me woke up and said - "Laurel, you've been feeling pretty stable and energetic for a while now. you might want to give cardio exercise another try. and this time, in a really disciplined way." So far, six out seven days during these past two weeks I have exercised. The second week I increased my time from twenty to thirty minutes - success! Now to sustain it. As the days go by, I can feel it growing easier to "just do it" as the routine begins to gain some momentum. In this instance, my large goal is to feel comfortable in body once more, like the self I have known before. The smaller bite size pieces are - today I will exercise 30 minutes, tomorrow I will find another routine that seems fun.
What seems most prevalent about this today, as I write, is the realization that what is happening inside me is the bottom line, relating to what I actually do. I am carefully watching how I speak to myself, how I keep an enthusiasm going to continue progressing with my goal. I recognize that my goal is a living one, saying to me inside - you can do this - even when you are not in the mood, do it anyway, make it happen so that you will feel better, you want to feel better - only you can make this happen by taking care of yourself in a way that feels right today. If the thought of endless cardio exercise for a lifetime seems unpleasant, I immediately take my attention away from this thought. I make sure I stay in the day or in the week, or even in the moment when what I am doing is not what I "like" to do. And in fact, I remind myself, while I am doing it, once I get going, it can be fun when I am doing what I enjoy. On the days that it doesn't bring enjoyment, I address it like a little chore that needs to get done, I get to work and be done with it for the day. I usually give myself a hand for doing it too (I like to be my own cheerleader sometimes).
It was important to me to make a goal that motivated me, something that I held inside as a carrot to go after. I couldn't use weight loss since I don't weigh myself. I do not want to get into the mind set of making that important. I didn't want to make it about fitting into the old pants that remain in my closet because I don't really care about wearing them. It needed to be about something I really cared about, could feel results around. In case you haven't noticed by my writing, I am a feeling oriented person. So feeling is usually a good place to work with. And the most important thing was - I didn't feel like myself. I felt sluggish, unfit and uncomfortable in my body. My motivation became to feel good in myself again now that most of my menopausal symptoms have subsided and I feel I have a chance at success.
I am feeling better in myself already. Firstly I feel proud to be keeping my inner commitment to daily exercise. I have been doing some routines from On-Demand television, taking me back to my aerobics days and this is fun! I modify what I need to so that nothing hurts or feels like I am putting myself at risk. I can feel my stamina increasing and my body feeling more fit. I use these feelings to motivate me to continue. I do not let myself make something else a priority in the morning - instead cardio exercise is a must in my schedule, not a maybe.
What I have learned in all this, is the distinction in the way goals become realized. A goal must be a friend, something that is guiding you towards a quality of life you deeply desire. It must make it possible for you to achieve it, not make you feel worse about yourself. And it must speak to you persistently, I want this, I want this, I want this. If the want is really big, then it must be broken down into manageable pieces. So today I am applying this to my writing and my artfully dreamt goal to be published. I continue to write, edit and follow the suggestions of those that have succeeded in this endeavor. I am setting little bite size goals for the things that seem the hardest for me to do. In breaking it down into the small pieces, like - I can call this person today and ask for this information - do it - check it off my list, those bits start to add up to the bigger goal. I am suddenly barreling down the road to realization. And when I step back and take a look at the road I am traveling, the little goals I am accomplishing, they begin to add up to a dream fulfilled. And inside, I say, "good job Laurel". Well done. And then I keep going.