Goals

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I’m sure everyone has goals. These days there is a lot of emphasis on goals and goal setting. It seems you should have to have a goal—maybe many goals, I’m not sure—but goals are required and they should be SMART. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. That last one sounds made up, but it’s hard to beat a good acronym. There’s lots of advice on how to go about setting SMART goals. There is probably an app for that (I just checked and there are many apps for that!). So the goal of goal setting is to set good goals and it must be difficult, because there’s a lot of help out there.

I have never been a great goal setter. I have a rough idea of what I want to achieve but, and perhaps it’s because my goals are not SMART, I always have trouble getting there.

When I was a young man I had a goal. My goal was to become the “deadliest man in the world.” While my goal did not meet a single SMART criterion, it was going to be easy – at least that’s what the comic books said. The back pages of the comics advertised ways to gain powers no human should rightly possess like x-ray vision or fists of steel. Awesome! I also owned a few books on judo, karate, and self-defence – how hard could it be? One day I was sparring with my karate teacher and I landed a punch, really just a glancing blow without much force to it. A moment later my teacher executed a devastating roundhouse kick and I was on my ass (If phones back then were not connected to the wall and had cameras in them, it would have been a great fail video). So it was going to be hard! Today, and at no time in my life, was I ever remotely close to being the “deadliest man on earth.” I may not even be the deadliest man on my street – and there are only two houses on it!

Several decades later I had another goal. My goal was to run a Boston marathon qualifying time. To clarify, I did not want to run an official marathon or compete in Boston. I would do all this on my own, unofficially, a personal goal, a challenge. I loved running. I would run in any weather: rain, snow, hot, cold, whatever. My Sunday long run was pure joy and the carb loading—overloading may be more accurate—with cereal, bagels with cream cheese and homemade jam, juice and fruit was the icing on the cake (icing + cake = more carbs!). But I had to stop. My feet and knees couldn’t take the pounding. I wasn’t really a runner. I was more of a plodder. I never glided over the road. I pounded the pavement. I tried changing shoes but no, I had to stop. Long distance running does not agree with my aging body – listen to your body, it knows.

More recently, I had a goal. My goal was to lift 1000 lbs. I had started lifting weights again and was getting stronger (at this time my best bench press for 225lbs was 12 reps). Ben mentioned a weightlifting challenge – lift 1000lbs in a combination of the back squat, bench press, and deadlift. Ooh, interesting! When he was home for a visit we got set up to do the challenge. Ben easily made his 1000 – he went over by a lot and I’m not sure he was even trying. I squatted 315, benched 300 and deadlifted 360 for a total that was 25lbs shy of 1000. Since I had not trained specifically for these power lifts I thought it was not bad. I wanted to find those last 25lbs. I never did. Work demands, poor training programming, life and my 3rd hernia easily took care of that.

After a long time off, I am back lifting again. I am nowhere near where I was when I tried for the 1000. I can only squat 260, bench 235 (once, not 12 times) and deadlift 310, which is 205lbs off the 1000lb goal. While I am power training for that 1000lb goal, I think that the inevitable aging process will slow me before I get there. But here’s the thing – right now I am making progress. I am getting stronger.

So I have goals, things I want to accomplish. They just weren’t explicit, fully planned, or consulted daily on a phone app. I have always had goals but they were always in the background just general directions to move toward. I haven’t hit many of those big goals, but I don’t mind. They didn’t define me.

I have a goal. My most recent goal (also not SMART) is to be a little bit better every day and not just in fitness, any venue will do. If I miss my goal today, there is always tomorrow. If I achieve my goal today, I have another goal already set for tomorrow – no planning required. No more lofty goals. I am content striving to make myself and the world around me a little better each day. Now that’s a smart goal.

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