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Big Goals, Small Obstacles

January 9, 2012

Eating paleo and training for an Ironman are big goals. It’s easy to see the big challenges involved: making time for all the training, pushing through all the hard workouts, forgoing desserts and other “tempting” foods, making time to cook. But like with all big goals, sometimes it’s the small obstacles that prevent us from reaching our goal. This morning, I faced two of those obstacles.

I knew I would be going to the gym tonight after school, and that I would not be home before the gym. So last night, I laid out my gym clothes next to my bag, to be sure I wouldn’t forget them. Good. And normally when I’m working out later in the day, I just wear my sneakers all day. But I’m teaching a class today, so I wanted to wear nice shoes to look the part. Fine. But then I almost forgot to bring sneakers with me as I left the house. I’m doing a workout on the erg tonight, so I guess I could have done that shoeless if I had to. But I’d prefer the shoes. So I grabbed a plastic bag and brought my gym shoes along with me. Small obstacle avoided.

I also knew that I would be at a lunch-time talk with free lunch today. Great. Except that they almost always have sandwiches, chips, and cookies. In the past, I’ve normally just had the sandwiches and skipped the chips and cookies. But that was before I was trying paleo. Instead, when I cooked lunch yesterday, I made extra veggie and tofu stir fry. I tossed a couple small apples and a bag of almonds in my lunch bag along with the leftovers, and good to go.

Sometimes I think we use these small obstacles as a crutch. An easy way out. We might convince ourselves that we’re really ready to commit to that workout program. And we’re willing to do the hard workouts. Or we’re going to commit to that diet (I use diet in a lifestyle sense, not in a short-term fad sense). And we’re fine with whatever sacrifices it might entail. But then we forget about the small obstacles. We don’t plan for them. And we let them sidetrack us.

We might think about grabbing our gym shoes while we’re getting ready in the morning, but not grab them before leaving the house. Sometimes we might “accidentally” forget them, but sometimes we might honestly mean to grab them and forget the moment we’re walking out the door. But when we thought about them earlier in our getting ready process, we could have grabbed them and put them by the door. We could have left them with our bag the night before. We might have really meant to do it in the morning and really forgot in our rush to get out the door. But before we got to that point where we forgot, we didn’t take the steps to avoid the obstacle entirely.

And so these minor obstacles become crutches. We leave it to chance whether we remember to avoid these minor obstacles. And if we don’t remember, we blame the minor obstacle. “I forgot my gym shoes, no workout today.” “I didn’t have time to get groceries, I’ll order pizza.”

None of us are perfect. Yes, we might really honestly forget once in a while. But if we really want to meet our big goals, we need to own the minor obstacles. We need to take steps to avoid them, instead of just leaving them to chance. We need to put our gym clothes and shoes by our bag the night before. Pack our lunch and have it ready the night before. Put grocery shopping on our calendar so we regularly have fresh food to prepare at home. Do whatever it takes. If we’re not willing to own the minor obstacles, then maybe we need to reevaluate the big goal. And that’s fine too. As long as we own it, and acknowledge what we want and what we’re willing to do to get it. For me, I want the Ironman, so I’m going to own the small obstacles that would otherwise get in my way.

314 days till Ironman Arizona.

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From → diet, training

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