Kathy Petersen’s Blog

Goals vs. Resolutions

Posted in Uncategorized by Kathy on January 8, 2008

Listening to the Dave Ramsey radio program yesterday, he said something that is probably a no-brainer to most people, but it struck me with its simplicity and profundity. He’s a financial counselor, but goal-setting is something that goes beyond paying off debt or saving for retirement. What he said was that most people make “New Year’s Resolutions” but don’t set goals; they have a nebulous goal, which is not a goal at all, to “lose weight” or “pay off debt” or “exercise more.” However, without a quantifiable goal, there is no way to know when you’ve reached your nebulous goal. Does one pound count? Or $5 a month more in the bank? What about walking around the block every day? A goal is something specific–lose 20 pounds, save $1000, run a mile. And more than that, it has a specific time-frame–a month, a year, five years.

What is your dream, your wish? Do you want to lose weight? exercise more? save money? To convert that dream to a reality, you must set a goal–a specific number in a specific time. Unless you have a large amount of weight to lose (like on the TV show, “The Biggest Loser”), losing 20 pounds in a month is probably not doable–may not even be safe. If you have a lot of debt and not much income, saving $1000 a month may not be feasible. If your “workout” is moving your hand from the remote to your mouth, running a marathon at the end of the month is probably downright dangerous. But if these things are your goals, you can do it–just set a reasonable time.

We all know how to lose weight–eat fewer calories than you burn. It’s just harder to keep the fridge and cabinets–and our mouths!–closed than to talk about it. This isn’t to tell you how to lose weight–you already know how to do it. This is a motivational speech (to myself most of all) to spur you on to find the best way for you to lose weight and to stick with it. Hate exercise? Eat much less, or experiment with different exercises until you find one you like. Or, just stick with what you don’t like until you do like it. Years ago, I disciplined myself to do exercise videos and eat right, and while I didn’t enjoy the process, I enjoyed the results–very much so! And in the process, I found that I did actually like to work out, and even got some satisfaction from turning down desserts. I need to recapture that.

What’s worth doing is worth doing right. I could have liposuction, get my jaw wired shut, or have gastric bypass (though I don’t have that much to lose), but that won’t be doing it right. The right way is to become the master of myself, to discipline myself enough that my brain can tell my hand to put the food down, to tell my mouth not to eat it, and to tell my body to get up and get going.

The larger message of this post was supposed to be about how to achieve your goals, but it will probably be pretty small now. Basically, figure out where you want to be in 5 years, or in a year (depending on your goal and how long is a reasonable time frame to achieve it), and set smaller goals. Say you want to have a certain job in 5 years. Well, break that goal down into its component parts–do you need to go to school? get training? work your way up the corporate ladder? What is standing between you and your dream job? Write down your goal and your time-frame, then write down what needs to be done in that time, and set dates for those sub-goals.

You may have to take time off of work in order to go to school–that needs to be planned ahead so you can have enough money to eat on in your time off. Maybe your goal is smaller–to run a marathon at the end of the year, or to lose 50 pounds by the end of this year. That’s a 12-month goal. Break down your planned progress into months. You can’t wake up in November and say, “Oh, I’m supposed to run a marathon next month!” and then hit the pavement and run 5 miles your first time out. You have to set smaller goals. Maybe this month’s goal will be to run a block without stopping; February’s can be a mile; March can be 3 miles; April 5 miles, and so forth and so on. You may set a mid-year goal of doing a half-marathon. Then break down each month into smaller portions too–either daily or weekly, or some of both. If you haven’t run since high school, you might need to make your first week’s goal to walk a mile without stopping; then week 2 can be a mile and a half; week 3 can be to walk at least a mile and run as much as you can at a time; then week 4 can be to run at least your block.

For losing weight, you can have a different strategy–write down the food you take in on a regular basis. (This always makes me eat less, because I can see it add up, instead of “out of sight, out of mind”; and I’d rather just not eat that piece of cake than to write it down and admit that I actually ate that much.) Figure out the calories–there are numerous internet resources for counting calories; and if you eat fast food, most of them will have the calorie content–they may even be required to have it. To lose 1 pound, you have to expend 3500 calories more than you take in. So break down your goal–50 pounds in 50 weeks means 1 pound a week, or 500 fewer calories per day. If you typically eat a fast-food hamburger with all the fixin’s, then eating a peanut butter sandwich, or skipping fries and having an apple instead, would probably take you down at least that much. Dr. Phil had a show on months ago in which a teenage girl drank a lot of soft drinks or had ice cream every night (or both), and he showed her that if she changed nothing else in her life but getting rid of those empty calories, she could lose 50 pounds in a year. But if she changed other things (ate healthier in general, and got some exercise), she could lose even more.

You have to know where you stand, before you can know where you’re going, or how to get there. You can’t fix a leaky boat by pointing out all of the places where it is not leaking–you have to focus on where stuff is going through the cracks. This goes for money, as well as for food. You may say, “but I drink skim milk!” True; but what about the 100-calorie piece of candy you have every day. That’s nearly a pound a month! You may make your own bread, but have a huge cell-phone bill. Write it down. Know where you are. Be honest–brutally so! It’s for your own good.

Where are you now? Write it down. Make goals. Write it down. How can you achieve your goals? Write it down. Did you mess up? Write it down. Did you succeed? Write it down.

Keep a “Happy Journal” of little things that you achieved today that you didn’t do before. If your goal is saving money, it could be something as little as finding your favorite food on sale, or finding a good recipe that’s also cheap. If your goal is exercising more, write down how many times you went up and down the stairs today. If your goal is losing weight, write down how you didn’t eat that piece of cake, or you turned down seconds.

Just do it!


One Response

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  1. papertreasures said, on January 8, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    This is good advice. I make attempts at making goals but never really commit. I need to make more of an effort!

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