The new year, 2023 is quickly approaching. With the new year, there is also the consideration of what we desire for ourselves in 2023. While this is a very worthy consideration, perhaps even more important for consideration is whether whatever it is we desire will still be important to us in five years or even ten years.
If you are like me, there is a desire to turn back time on this aging body of mine. I aspire to losing weight and increasing my strength. Eating a more healthy diet. A friend has even challenged me to run a 10K in the coming year. Then I consider…. will these things matter in five years or ten years?
Lost weight is often re-found over the course of five or ten years. Gaining more strength, without constant effort to maintain can also be lost in the ensuing years. A healthy diet also must be maintained to matter in the future.
Now, feeling good in your body is not a SMART goal because it cannot be measured. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. “feel good” is not measurable, and cannot be sustained since there are a large variety of external factors beyond my control that can influence the feel good. There is no certainty that weight loss will lead to “feel good” either.
As a recovering eating disordered person, setting the weight chasing measure is not smart on a whole other level. I may achieve the weight loss and yet be indulging in some pretty unhealthy habits to achieve the goal. Eating disorder thinking is rife with black and white thinking, catastrophic imagining, and shame.
So, what does it mean to me to “feel good” in my body? I recall how fabulously vibrant and joy-filled I feel after a few days at a retreat centre. I feel vibrant and energized. Happy. I am not worried about my weight, or how much or how little I am eating. The uniqueness of the retreat experience is that my eating schedule is determined by the retreat schedule. The choices of what to eat is determined by the retreat centre. I don’t worry about the grocery store. All I have to do is show up at meal time and eat what seems appealing. What would it look like, feel like, if my goal was, “everyday I eat three meals a day, with small snacks twice a day at regular intervals.”
Since leaving a job with a fair amount of physicality, in favour of employment which involves sitting at a computer for closer to eight hours a day, I feel the difference in my energy. I am like a puppy that hasn’t gotten out off leash for a while. I start snacking, getting up and sitting back down again. I walk the dog, but then settle in front of Netflix for a couple of hours sipping on a glass of wine before I turn off the screen and settle down to read before bed.
On Mondays, I go out and play Pickleball, which makes me run a lot and socialize. The running around burns off the restlessness and I find that when I am home, I have less desire for Netflix and wine. Hmmm. Seems like a good goal would be, “I participate in a daily physical activity that gets my heart rate up to 130–140 for at least 40 minutes.”
Unlike the weight loss goal where once achieved, I can stop the behaviours that lead to the weight loss, these reframed goals are ongoing. They are not time bound… they are SMAR (wink wink). Or we could say they are SMART, but rather than time bound, they are time scheduled.
If sustained and become a habit, in five years, not drinking wine and snacking with Netflix everyday will make a tremendous difference on my physical and mental health. A rajasic mind — one that is unfocused and continual in movement — has implications like, poor quality work, less success with meditation, impulsive behaviours, like spending and eating. A mind that is more calm and balanced in nature can experience the innate joy we all have.
Five years out, the decision to get more structure around when I eat, will support my digestion and the ability to remove toxins from the body. Maintaining this will be far easier than trying to keep the weight off an aging body which is continually reducing it’s ability to metabolize and would thus require eating less and less or exercising more and more.
SMARTer goals are goals that have no end point. There is no finish line. As a retired athlete and a coach, I can tell you very clearly, the completion of one established route, just puts one back into finding another achievement. Setting goals that shape how one participates in sport, those are the goals that create character and true fulfillment.