Some of us love to set goals for ourselves - like me! Nothing pleases me more than writing a to-do list and making those sweet, sweet check marks when I complete a task. I have been learning to be more realistic and gentle with myself when it comes to goal setting and planning after I noticed a disturbing trend.
What was it? Read on.
Sometimes we need a little motivation to reach our goals. One school of thought is, if you set a reward that you’ll give yourself for reaching a milestone, you’re more likely to meet it. I’ve used this motivation to good effect before, but it’s also fallen flat on a number of occasions. It wasn't until recently that I discovered why.
Creating unnecessary obstacles
One goal I've failed to reach repeatedly is to "be a runner." I always ended up quitting. If you’ve ever done the Couch to 5 K program, I usually quite right around Week 4. I set myself rewards such as “if I reach week 5 I’ll buy myself proper running shoes” or "if I run three times a week this next month I'll buy a new sports bra" or "once I run a 5k race I'll buy myself those nice running leggings so I won't be pulling up my pants the entire time I run."
I needed to suffer through the 5 weeks of running without the proper equipment to prove to myself I deserved it, that I was going to really stick with it. Then, when I couldn’t reach my goal (because of the pain from wearing the wrong shoes and bra) I felt like a failure.
I wasn’t setting up rewards for myself. I was creating bigger obstacles.
I only realized I was using my rewards as deprivation quite recently. It came from my clients. In the custom bra business, I hear from many people who book and then cancel appointments, or tell me they will book an appointment once they hit a weight goal, or once they reach a certain dress size. I get it - a custom bra is an investment, and you don’t want to invest in something that’s not going to fit in six months.
Comfort affects confidence
Here’s the thing - when we are wearing clothes that fit us, when we have the proper equipment - we are much more confident, comfortable, and focused. So stop telling yourself you only deserve new, comfortable clothing if you look a certain way or weigh a certain amount. You deserve it, now. The way you are. Set yourself up for success. Deprivation is not discipline. By the time you’re smashing your goal of getting in shape, or losing weight, that bra will likely need replacing anyway.
Clothing and shoes are not simply “nice to have” frivolous fashion pieces -they are essential equipment for functioning in our daily lives. For the past 30 years women’s underwear has been marketed as clothing that turns us into sexual objects, not essential pieces of our wardrobe.
If, like me, you are concerned about fast fashion and waste, then treat yourself to thrift store finds or consignment clothing, or learn sew your own pieces that you can alter. Invest in fewer items, but of better quality.
Setting myself up for success
In June 2018, I decided to try running again. I set myself a goal - run a 5 K race at the end of September. As motivation, I registered and paid for the race. I talked to friends about the mental barriers and obstacles that stopped me before. I found people to cheer me on and celebrate my milestones with me. I stuck to my training program instead of trying to do too much, too fast. I listened to my body. I invested in proper running shoes, from a good brand. I bought them from a knowledgeable staff person at a specialized store. I made sure I had a supportive sports bra and comfortable clothing.
The result? I smashed that 5 K. Then I ran a 10 K in February and a half marathon in the summer. Me, the woman who couldn’t run for a minute, running a half marathon a year later. My motivation for completing those two races this year? I'm going to splurge on a fancy GPS running watch that I've been eyeing for months.
How much more likely are you to hit your workout goal if your joints aren’t in pain and your sports bra actually holds you together so you aren’t worried about popping or flopping? Aren’t you better set up to reach your career goals if you’re not self-consciously slumped over, constantly pulling up bra straps, fighting headaches and neck pain, and wearing clothes to camouflage your poor-fitting underwear?
How much of your power are you draining away by depriving yourself of clothing that supports you and brings you comfort? It was shocking to me how much easier it was to get that workout gear on and head out for a run when I knew I wouldn't be in pain or pulling at my clothes the entire time. Not because I suddenly looked attractive, but because I had confidence in myself. I could do this. I’d gotten rid of an obstacle that was mentally holding me back. I reclaimed all the mental energy I was wasting.
I've got big plans for 2021. I'm going to eliminate the distractions and the obstacles that are holding me back, instead of camouflaging them as motivation, and make sure I have the tools I need to succeed.
Are you like me when it comes to goal setting? Will you intentionally be kinder to yourself? My mantra?
Deprivation is not discipline.