As we wrap up the Live Happy 90 Days to a Happier You challenge, section editor Chris Libby writes a final blog about setting goals and sticking with them.
My coaching sessions with Caroline Miller, MAPP, have taught me some things about myself that I might not have previously admitted or believed. For starters, she described me as the type of person who doesn’t feel as effective in my own life as much as I’d like to be—that I kind of “drift” without really knowing where I’m going or how I got here. (This would explain why leadership was on the lower end of the spectrum when I took the VIA Character Strengths survey.)
But I hated the movie Patton
She says she runs into this a lot with her clients. So many of us have a mental image of what a leader is (cue images of John Wayne and Gen. Patton), and leading others with such bravado and machismo can be daunting or even unappealing. In reality, though, what’s lacking is intrinsic leadership, or the ability to take charge of oneself.
To achieve a goal...set by someone else
A few years ago I ran a half-marathon. I trained for the race and finished in a respectable time. Running the 13.1 miles was a great goal, I know, but I didn’t set it for myself. Months before the race, I had casually mentioned to my wife (remember her? the overachieving goal-setter?) that it might be nice to run a half-marathon. She’d agreed, but little did I know that the gears in her head had been set in motion to turn this nonchalant comment into reality.
So that year for Father’s Day I received running shoes from her on my daughter’s behalf, and inside my card was another unexpected gift: the receipt for an upcoming half-marathon in my name! I had to run the race. How could I ever look my sweet little red-headed daughter in the face if I didn’t?
In that case, the half-marathon was what Caroline calls an “extrinsic goal,” which is still a goal, but it’s one that someone else sets for you. And while, I admit, it did feel good to complete the half-marathon, I can’t live my life achieving goals other people have set for me—I have to create and complete my own.
So, I signed up to run a different half-marathon in April, but this time I’m doing it for myself. I want to experience the positive benefits of not letting myself down, including boosts in confidence and self-efficacy. And while completing a half-marathon isn’t exactly a lifelong goal, I do enjoy running, and at the start of the 90-day challenge, I didn’t have as much time for it as I’d liked. By making this commitment to myself, I had to plan, strategize and execute.
Setting the scene for success
To make this goal work, I made a game plan: I rearranged my schedule to accommodate morning runs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and I started laying out my clothes for work the night before, going to bed earlier and waking up earlier. The first week, I overslept and missed my Monday run. But I had pledged to myself to complete this task, so instead of getting discouraged, I gave myself some latitude and geared up for the Wednesday run.
As my alarm sounded Wednesday morning, I sprung out of bed (creative liberty used here to enhance excitement), put on my running clothes and hit the trail. I did it. My first morning run was a success, as was my second, and then my third, and so on. Nearly 12 weeks later, even despite the occasional setback, I’m committed more than ever to my schedule because I know it will help make my goal reality.
I’ve also “primed my environment,” another great goal-setting tool that Caroline taught me. Every day, I see a picture of me from my last half-marathon and a note of the race time I’d like to achieve, and every day, it’s easier to get in the right mindset to reach my goal.
As my 90-day challenge nears the finish line, I have enlightened myself to the “world of me.” My morning runs energize the rest of my day, which has a positive effect on my work; I’m free to spend the evenings with my family; and I’ve gained confidence and pride from taking control of my life. Realizing that the power to achieve is within my control is empowering, something I hope you will realize as well as you set out on your own goal-setting journey.
There will always be risk involved when we want to climb a mountain, but there is no true achievement without risk. Once we rid ourselves of mental hurdles, it all starts with taking the first step.
Listen to Chris and the other Live Happy staff discuss their 90 Day challenges on our podcast here.
Chris Libby is the section editor at Live Happy magazine.