Don’t Get Tangled Up in Goals


For most people, the new year is a time to try out new habits and visualize big accomplishments.

I don’t go for this.

The surest way to strangle your passion for something is to wrap a goal around it.

Here’s a regrettable example from my life. Last January, I signed up for a triathlon. After 5 months of unfocused but consistent training, I suddenly realized the race date was fast-approaching. I had to get ready.

I planned all exercise around training.

Yoga? Only if it could be considered a cool-down.

Hiking? Better go for a run instead.

Cycling? Necessary for training, so I substituted training trials for my much-loved rambling rides with my husband.

I stuck with it. I competed in that triathlon.

Brigitte triathlon

Then, worn out from the mental effort, I promptly stopped cycling, hiking, yoga, and every other form of exercise I enjoy.

This is the problem with goal setting.

Conventional wisdom tells us the route to success is to work towards achievements that are accountable and measurable. It works. I finished my first triathlon.

But, I don’t really care that much about being a triathlete. All I want is to be fit enough to do things that are fun, like hiking and kayaking.

Through the process of planning workouts, I disconnected from my daily desires. It took 2 months to get back in the flow.

As soon as I started working out again, my goal-oriented husband asked what I was training for.

After suppressing the urge to either cry or shake him, I simply said, “I want to feel strong.”

And that’s true. But, really, I just weirdly enjoy getting up way earlier than I need to and going to boot camp. My yoga classes get me out of the house, which combined with the effects of yoga, makes me a little saner.

I do it, because I like to.

Which brings me back to my husband.

He pushes me to make goals around my fitness, because that’s what he does. He’s crazy runner that covers distances most of us will never approach. Just last month, he ran a 50 mile race in the Marin Headlands. In the rain. So he could qualify for a 100 mile race in the Sierras.

My husband says wrapping goals around his racing is motivating. I don’t buy it.

My husband runs these insane distances, because it makes him happy.

Look how he’s smiling as he approaches the finish line. He does that every time.

Lucus 50 miles

He does it, because he likes to.

This is actually a lot harder than it sounds. 

Every day, you distract yourself from doing the things you want to do.

You get the urge to go for a walk but  turn on the TV instead, or you have a killer idea for a blog post but spend the next 30 minutes checking up on Facebook.

Connecting to the desire that’s coming up right in this moment is actually really hard. Harder than meeting your most audacious goals, even.

It also happens to be more productive.

What would you like to be doing right now?