Making Resolutions That Stick – and the Difference Between Goals and Committments

Hope you all had a great holiday – and let’s hope that 2009 is a heck of a lot better than 2008 was for a lot of folks.

That having been said, for me it’s time to hunker down and do some serious goal-setting for 2009.

It’s not like I’m just starting – I’ve been actively researching what I want to achieve in 2009, and how I can make goals that stick. I’ve read that 95% of people don’t even know how to set realistic goals – what they really do is come up with some wishes, which have about the same chance of occurring as hitting the lottery.

So I’ve been trying to come up with some solid, ironclad, hang-your-hat-on-’em goals that I will stick to, come hell or high water. If I don’t absolutely know that I can achieve a goal, I don’t want to commit to it.

There’s an interesting aspect to this – a really interesting aspect:

If you only commit to things that you will absolutely, positively will do, then you have magic powers of sorts. It means you can predict the future.

It means that when you say something will happen, it will happen.

How many people do you know with that power?

The trick here is to know how to say no – I can’t commit to that, and how to clearly define your goals you do commit to so that they are reachable.

How do you know that they are reachable? Simple: if somebody else in your situation has done it, then it can be done. This is a great yardstick to test your proposed goals against.

I have made the following commitment:

  1. I perform aerobic-style exercise for a minimum of 6 days per week for a minimum of 20 minutes
  2. I weight-train for at least 20 minutes per day 3 days per week.

These goals have NOTHING to do with weight loss. I’m not connecting them with my weight. They are the entire goal.

Look deeper, and you’ll see that the goal has at it’s core what I call: ‘Punching the clock’. It’s about habituation – learning a new habit. It’s about getting up every day and finding the time to exercise for the sake of exercise. It’s to commit to something because I committed to it – and to do it way after that self-serving glow of resolution-setting has faded, and doing it when I damn well don’t feel like it.

Building muscle would be great. Losing weight would be great, too. But if I somehow attach these goals to this, and the muscle doesn’t come to my endomorphic physique, or the weight doesn’t come off, then I’ve poisoned my commitment, and I’ve gone against my word – my promise to myself.

You’ll note, again if you look carefully, that my commitments leave some room for error. My goal is to exercise every day, and to weight train every other day.

My commitments are phrased to allow for 1 day off each week on the aerobic, and 1 day off every 2 weeks on the weight training.

That means I have 52 days per year I don’t have to do aerobic, and 26 days I don’t have to do weight-training.

This gives me an out if I need a few days off for travel, or some other reason – I can just make it up in the upcoming weeks.

So that’s how I set my goal – and how I set my commitment. See the difference?

Now – next up is the fact that I don’t have a friggin’ clue what I’m doing. I think that the answer there is found in the following bit of wisdom that I must tell myself a half-dozen times a week:

Anything worth doing well is worth doing badly at first.

Armed with that going through my head since mid December – way before I set any goal or any commitment, I have gone to the little gym I have access to, and made a complete fool of myself fumbling with the treadmill and 4 of the exercise machines, which I can’t quite remember the names for just yet.

As I don’t want to hurt myself, I’m not getting hung up on how many I do, or how much weight I do, or how much strength I gain – punch the clock, remember? It’s the daily investment of time that is the goal here – not what comes as a result.

That’s the gravy.

Each day I feel a little less stupid. I have reread the TNT Diet Book again, and am trying to incorporate some of the things that I grasp in the book. I don’t have some of the equipment they have, and I think some of their exercises are just too hard on my knees, but I keep reading, and keep going to the gym, and keep trying.

I’m beginning to understand the machines a bit more – how they adjust, and what weight feels OK, what weight I can take, and what level of workout I can get out of myself so that it doesn’t conjure up that feeling of dread of the next workout.

Oddly, I’m finding that I am beginning to look forward to it – Me, the exercise hater, who has crowed for years that I lost weight without exercise.

I still feel very stupid – I see the other people in the gym that use the machines without fumbling, they are an almost natural extension of themselves.

But I also pick up little things from watching them – maybe I won’t (or can’t) do what they do, but each day, I pick up a little more.

And today I went to the gym and saw someone who seemed to be even more clueless than I am, and I remembered another gem of wisdom that is a corollary to the above aphorism:

Anyone you see who is at the top of their game, once started at the bottom.

There are a number of negatives to comparing oneself to others, but in measured units, it can be a yardstick to your progress. I don’t think I’m better than that fellow – I’m just a wee bit further along. If he keeps his commitment, he’ll see the progress that I have seen.

And I have seen progress. I started on the treadmill with a goal of 20 minutes per day. Not much, but I thought it’s better than nothing. I started at 3 miles per hour, 0.0 degree incline, and had my heart rate in the 120-130s – top that I recorded was 142.

Today I did my same 20 minutes, but at 3.6 miles per hour at a 3.0 degree incline, and my heart rate only went to about 129 bpm.

So even though I’ve gained weight since I started, apparently I have been conditioning myself and I’m less winded than when I started.

Regarding the weight training, I know I’m doing it wrong, but my feeling here is again, anything worth doing well is worth doing badly at first, so I’m doing a small set of exercises, and following the regimen where you have 25 grams of protein powder 1/2 hour before the workout, 25 grams right after, then another 50 grams an hour after that.

I haven’t been really keeping track methodically of what I do – I keep playing with the weight and the reps, but today, here’s what I did:

4 circuits on leg machine 100lb – 30 reps
4 circuits on lat pulldown 75lb – 10 reps
4 circuits on seated row 75lb – 10 reps
4 circuits on pushaway 75lb – 10 reps

What I’m talking about is I start on the leg machine, do 30 reps, then rest a minute, move to the next machine, then the next, then the next, then start again, and do this 4 times.

My terminology is probably totally off – Jeez I call the one machine a ‘pushaway’ – I think it’s name is ‘vertical press’, but I’m not sure.

Again, here I’m taking the ‘punch the clock approach’ – doing it is the end in itself, but I did notice the other day in the shower, I noticed a bulge on my arm I had never noticed before.

Apparently, that’s what a bicep is.

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