In and out of the gym, we live in a goal-oriented culture. Even in our formative years, we’re conditioned to set goals, meet them, and repeat an ongoing cycle of achievement. Hit a goal? Good, set another one, and then set a higher one after that. We do this continuously. Sometimes, even before we complete one goal, we’re already focused on the next. For most of us, it’s a blessing and a curse. It’s good to be hungry, but what about being satisfied?
The end of a 30-day meal plan, a successful quarter, a marathon, or an 8-week workout program begs the question, “now what?” And unfortunately, our knee-jerk reaction is to do it again. Only stricter. Faster. Better. As humans, there is always room for improvement, but is an infinite cycle of escalating goals realistic? No. Is blind repetition even the answer to what we’re trying to achieve? Again, most likely, no.
Committing to a meal plan takes incredible discipline and mental strength. Crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles takes hours of training, as well as physical and mental toughness. Executing a workout program takes planning, time management, and sacrifice – all of which are things to celebrate – but when we meet one goal, we have to change our mindset because it’s not the end, it’s just the beginning. It’s the start of a new chapter of the rest of your life, and you’ve got one job: to move forward living a life that makes you happy and fulfilled.
So, how can we break the perpetual goal cycle and move closer towards a life of happiness and fulfillment?
Step one: discover your truth
Goals, regardless of what they are, only work if they add value to our lives, and do what they’re meant to do: give us a point on the horizon to aim. Setting good goals requires specific identification of who you are, and why you’re seeking what you’re seeking at the deepest level. Good goals advance your purpose, though sometimes that purpose is hidden or disguised by some other ambition.
So many of my clients have goals around weight loss, strength gains, or aesthetics. And while I get that (hey, I’m right there with them) I find that the underlying issue isn’t the last five pounds or a six-pack. What they’re ultimately seeking is happiness, self-acceptance, and inner peace. You won’t find any of those in yet another meal plan or powering through 50 extra crunches, but you will find it by listening to your inner voice to find the x-factor that brings you true happiness and joy.
I fully recognize that listening to that inner voice is easier said than done. With so many competing priorities and opposing opinions, the truth about our goals – and their relation to our overall happiness – is often obscured. When you do quiet the noise and find that deeper and more enriching why, you can begin the journey of setting new, more meaningful goals that get you closer to true personal happiness.
Step two: embrace what makes you happy
One of my clients recently finished the Whole30 meal plan, and after a careful evaluation, we mutually concluded that part of her newfound happiness wasn’t the result of strict adherence to the program. But it was the result of better sleep and brighter and clearer skin which was the result after cleaning up her diet and prioritizing her hydration. Also, as it turns out, she LOVES cooking, which Whole30 required her to start doing.
Happiness wasn’t the result of adherence, it was an important byproduct; so, needlessly restricting foods isn’t going to add value to life. In fact, the introduction of new and interesting food she could make herself became my client’s “joy factor” that drove her to her next goal. For my client, we decided to move forward without following another meal plan but to cook 75% of her meals for the following month using whole, clean foods. As she set out on her new goal my client limited restriction, practiced moderation, maximized adherence, and maintained the healthy habits she developed in the previous 30 days. Note the emphasis on my two favorite words: moderation and maintenance – the very keys to sustaining happiness in the long-run.
My client embraced what made her happy and set new goals that align to her newfound “why.”
Step three: layer your lifestyle
Layer your lifestyle, if you will. Focus on one thing for two to four weeks.
Decide if what you’re doing will help you get to where you want to go and once you feel confident, add something new. And it doesn’t have to be big either. My client above prioritized her nutrition via Whole30, she then took the time to focus on maintaining several habits she garnered from the program and then decided to add two gym workouts a week. It may not sound like a lot, but a small change such as that was not only found to be impactful, it was her jumping off point for future improvement, one step at a time.
It’s difficult but worth it
Answering the question, “Now what?” is more complicated than it appears. It takes time to identify your wants, your needs, and to understand how to differentiate them both. The process can be a bit uncomfortable – and as humans, we are hard-wired to avoid pain or discomfort of any kind! But, like all things with big payouts, it’s worth it in the end. Plateauing after achieving a goal can be frustrating and even confusing about where to go next, but I do believe that finding your why, aligning that why to the very outcomes that make you happy and phasing in new healthy habits over time can help you set bigger and better goals that ultimately lead to a life well lived.
About Kate LemereThe Four Percent, LLC, a destination for those seeking a fit and balanced lifestyle. As a fitness expert, Kate’s thrill in life is helping others find their strength and fitness potential. She is at the forefront of the Chicago fitness landscape training personal clients and leading sold-out classes that motivate and empower. With an insatiable hunger better herself, Kate is NCSF, ACE and TRX certified. A Nike trainer and a Founding Trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp in Chicago, Kate brings technical and challenging programs to each and every class with an energy (and playlist) that is contagious.
Kate believes that, “Your body is your greatest asset, it’s the vehicle in which you live your life. Investing in your health doesn’t need to be complicated or all consuming. It can be as little as dedicating one hour, or FOUR PERCENT, of your day.”
When she’s not sweating, Kate can be found gallivanting around the city in search of a good glass of cabernet, the perfect manicure or enjoying the company of her wonderful family and friends.
Photo credits: Kate Lemere