Every big goal is just a bunch of small goals
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I always think it’s worth breaking a big goal into smaller goals. I may have picked that up from Getting Things Done by David Allen, one of only four self-help books I’ve ever read (the other three are Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, Managing your Mind by Gillian Butler et al. and Thirteen Steps to Mentalism by Tony Corinda).
Case in point, you decide you want to be a train driver, but you are only 14 years old. You obviously can’t just turn up at your local train station on Monday and start operating the 14:05 from Edinburgh to Plymouth. You need to grow up a bit first, then:
- Do some research into how to apply
- Pass your GCSEs, a minimum of five grades A to C
- Make sure you are physically fit
- Be mentally resilient and able to deal with crises
- Learn how to drive other vehicles safely
- Try to get an entry-level job on the trains as a conductor or customer care assistant
- Apply for an apprenticeship when one comes up
- Train as a driver
- Get a job as a train driver
Then each of these tasks has it’s own sub-tasks. To pass GCSEs, for example, you have to:
- Go to school
- Attend lessons
- Do the work that’s set over a period of two years
- Read and study around each subject
- Revise the key points of each subject
- Sit and pass the exams
Every time you reach a goal, you have to set yourself a new one. It's almost as though there is an infinite number of regressing and progressing possibilities in either direction. Which there are.
When losing weight there are other activities that contribute towards each goal. To count calories you have to control portion sizes, avoid high-calorie options, parcel out food sensibly throughout the day, think ahead to the next meal and so on. You have to plan when to exercise and what that exercise will be. There are some task elements that you don’t even think about at first.
Exercise isn’t just about burning calories and improving aerobic health, for example, you have to tone up and build muscle (so you don’t burn it). I noticed early on that I was losing weight but getting flabbier – because I wasn't doing enough resistance exercise.
The biggest challenge is to just to keep going. I do that by gamifying my goals. Losing four stones is a big goal and a year is a long time to maintain sight of it. Breaking it down into sub-goals has helped me to stay on track. Some of the sub-goals that kept me going are:
- A commitment to losing at least 1 lb in weight every week
- A larger goal to lose at least 4 lbs every four weeks
- Treating each stone lost as a clear milestone (I’ve lost one full stone so far)
- Keeping up this journal
- Going down successive waist sizes in trousers
- Fitting into an old jacket or shirt
- Matching my weight at different times in my life
That last goal is an interesting one – and here’s where I reveal how much I weighed at the beginning of this.
When I started losing weight I was the heaviest I had ever been; 17 stones and 12 lbs. I remember going over 16 stones a couple of years ago and a nagging thought crept into the back of my mind. It said, “this is too much – you’re too heavy now”.
Then at the beginning of that summer, I hyperextended my knee. For about four months, from May to August 2017 I was walking with the assistance of a stick. For someone who normally averages five miles a day it impacted my health and weight significantly. Injured and unable to exercise, bored and eating more calories than I needed, I returned to work that September a stunning 15 lbs heavier. With new and bad habits ingrained, I continued to put on weight even after I’d fully recovered.
As I began to lose weight with this diet, my first significant milestone goal was to lose a stone. I accomplished that goal last week. My next goal is already within sight – and that’s to get to 16 stones, the weight I was when I injured my knee.
I started this diet in a hot moment; a conflagration of circumstances and realisations catalysed into action by an unthoughtful advertising campaign from an organisation that should have known better.
I have been losing weight a little faster than I expected – but it has not been easy. I’m eight weeks in and I’m still “obese”. Even when I reach my target weight of 13 stones and 12 lbs – I’ll still be “overweight”.
Of course, when I get there, that’s when I’ll just set myself a new goal.