Remember when I first started blogging and posted a lot about my goal to workout every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning in November? That was partly because I was trying to keep myself accountable. I had this nagging feeling that I wouldn’t actually work out these three days every week.
Guess what? I didn’t.
Strangely, though, I’m not really disappointed by this. I made this big post one time about how we should set attainable goals for ourselves.
And then I went and set an unattainable goal for myself.
Let me explain.
Could I have gotten up and worked out 3 days a week, 4 weeks in a row? I could have. It was probably physically attainable. But what would have suffered had I forced myself to unwaveringly stick to this goal?
I would’ve missed out on brunch with my sister, some really awesome reading + coffee time, and probably also fallen asleep in at least one meeting.
Worth it? It might depend on your perspective. For me, it was more valuable to sleep in, read, write, and not let myself stress.
Here’s what I learned from this little experiment.
1 – I don’t need to exercise as much as I sometimes think I do.
Want to hear something crazy? Last month I worked out half as much as I planned to, and I didn’t gain any weight. Even with Thanksgiving.
It took me a long, long time to realize that for a lot of my life, I have overexercised. And I clearly still forget this lesson sometimes.
We live in this weird magazine-induced, Pinterest-y culture where more is always better and faster/harder means faster results. This culture is not reality. No, I don’t have to lift weights every day or run a half-marathon or even do yoga 5 days a week to be in optimal health.
To me, optimal health has a few factors. And sure, they include: Can I take the stairs without getting winded? Can I plop down on the floor without feeling like I need to call 911 to get back up? Do I sleep well at night? Are my skin and hair vibrant?
But other factors also include: Am I happy most of the day? Am I taking the time I need to recharge? If shit hit the fan, do I have people I could call? Does my soul feel at rest?
These factors are just as relevant to my health as if I can walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded.
2 – My priorities are different than I thought they were.
A couple years ago, I used to choose running over writing. If I needed to sleep an extra hour and couldn’t do both in the morning, I’d go with running. Every time.
But why? Why do I need to go run? Where is running going to get me? I am not an athlete in any professional setting. Beyond being a yoga teacher, I have no goals to be an athlete in any official way, shape, or form.
But I do want to be a writer. I want to publish poetry and finish a novel and eventually make this shindig of writing my full-time gig.
Why would I ever choose to continually prioritize running over writing?
So, here’s my tip for setting goals:
Define your priorities first.
This is so simultaneously simple and complex. It can take trial and error to figure out what’s important to us. It can take failing at a goal to figure it out. It can take failing at a lot of goals.
And that’s why I’m not too upset that I failed at this workout goal for November. Because I got to the end of the month and realized I failed because I really didn’t want to accomplish this goal very much. Working out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday wasn’t my priority.
You know what is? Reading, writing, growing emotionally, building my community, getting enough rest.
Working out 5 days a week can take a backseat.