Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Goal versus a Standard ...

Consider for a moment – a goal versus a standard. 

I've set a goal to run a half marathon perhaps 10 times over the last 6 years.  The goal usually drives me to increase my focus around running.  Most of the time I've done a reasonably decent job of getting to the half marathon prepared to run at a pace that made me feel like I achieved a successful outcome.   

However, after each half marathon, once the goal was achieved, my running had less purpose, focus and importance.  Usually I'd drift about with little clarity, until I got the itch to run another event in the future.  There was always a sense of a letdown after "achieving" the goal.  Sometimes that feeling led to me setting too many half marathon event goals, to the point where I'd either hit running burnout, or perhaps end up with an overuse injury. 

Through enough of these "letdowns", ups and downs, trial and error, what I found to be more productive for me is to create a standard around my fitness in general, and running specifically.  So instead of getting super focused for 5-6 months preparing for a half marathon, then wandering somewhat aimlessly until I set another half marathon goal, now I have a standard of how I am as a runner.  Today my standard is that I run 4 days per week, regardless if I am preparing for a half marathon. 

It's a little distinction, but the payoff is significant.  My running now has fewer ups and downs.  I love running half marathons, but gone is the short-term "high" of chasing a goal, only to have a subsequent "is that all there is?" feeling once accomplished.   I'm inspired to run more consistently.  And even though I haven't run a half marathon in 18 months, I've rarely missed one of my running days. Running 4 times per week is my "standard".  It doesn't mean that I'm perfect every week, but at the same time that standard keeps me from veering too far off track.  

The essence of a standard is that it works innately, intrinsically to keep us from violating the standard. 

Goals are really helpful, as we mentioned yesterday, they give us something to strive for.  But then once we reach the destination, or the end of the goal period, often human nature kicks in and we resort back to pre-goal behaviors. 

What if in striving for our goals, we took it a step beyond and established a new standard?

Here's some possible examples:

  • Over the next 4 weeks my goal is to lose 3% body fat, and my (ultimate) standard is I live in a body with 25% body fat. 
  • I'm exercising consistently between now and the end of 2014, because my new standard is that I do some type of workout 4-5 days per week.
  • My current goal is to eat healthy, within my calorie requirements, and my standard is that I feed my body with foods that fill me up, keep my cravings in check, and energize me for all the activities and responsibilities in my life.   

Goals tend to be temporary, whereas holding ourselves to a standard is inherently more enduring.  You already have many high standards in place - what if in the process of reaching for a goal, we also created a new standard? 

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins
NSCA-CPT, ACE

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