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Focus small to accomplish big

My cousin started training to become a Navy SEAL twice, each time getting pulled out due to injury. After the second injury – and after making it through the infamous hell week, again, – he was told his chances were over. Though his disappointment was immense, I think he should be proud of what he accomplished. I’m certainly proud of him. I can’t even imagine putting myself through something so intense. I once asked him how he endured it. He said by focusing on one small goal at a time. Anything more than that will break you mentally, and once you break mentally you’re done physically.

A few years later, I decided to train for a marathon. I had one half marathon under my belt and was ready for the next big challenge. So I began going on longer and longer runs. I pushed my body to a limit it’s never known before, though, if I’m being honest, the distance intimidated me; I could not think of it as a whole. I didn’t have one 26.2 mile goal. I had 26 one mile goals. I ran from one mile marker to the next. That’s the only way I could mentally push myself through it. Even now when I run my regular 3-mile route I do this. I set my eyes on a mark in the distance and make that my goal. I push myself hard to get there. Once I reach it, I choose another mark in the distance and go for that one.

I did something similar when my twins were born. Getting through a whole day on my own with two newborns, a house to take care of, and meals to make was intimidating. I could easily get overwhelmed. So I mentally broke my day down, only focusing on the time between the last feeding and the next feeding. In between each feeding I’d have a goal – fold laundry, prep for dinner, exercise, shower. I couldn’t do it all at once so I stretched it out during the whole day. Breaking it down into manageable pieces was a matter of survival.

Small goals

What’s my point in saying all this? Simply that it is easier to meet your goals when you break them down into many small goals instead of having one big goal. Set those small goals every day. Be persistent. Be consistent. And you will be successful.

What small goals could you set today to have a healthier tomorrow? Here are a few ideas:

  • Drink a glass of water first thing every morning
  • Add a piece of fruit to your breakfast
  • Pack a lunch instead of eating out
  • Use your lunch break to go for a walk
  • Eat a salad every night with dinner
  • Go outside with your kids after dinner – and move the whole time!
  • Go to bed an hour earlier

Check out this TedTalk that discusses a similar approach. If you struggle getting through your workouts, then this video is for you. You may only need to change the way you think during a workout to start having victory! Why some people find exercise harder than others.

FitTip: Big accomplishments are really many small accomplishments built on top of each other. Write down your main goal – lose weight, gain muscle, improve endurance, etc. – and then identify several small things you have to do in order to reach that big goal. Now scratch out that big goal and focus on the little goals. Choose one small goal and do it until it becomes a habit. Then add another goal. And another. This is how transformation happens.

Want help identifying the small goals and checking them off your list? Consider working with Fitness Grapevine. Contact me and we’ll do it together.

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