Workout of the Day

What If Your Goals Are Killing You?

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What if your goals are killing you? Okay, that’s a little dramatic; but what if your goals really aren’t helping you get any better? Or, more specifically, what if the way you frame and approach your goals has the potential to be more detrimental than beneficial?

We talk a lot about goals in our world--fitness goals, business goals, personal goals, etc.
Set a specific goal for yourself and don’t back down!
This sort of hardcore, go-gettum talk can be inspiring, but it can also be at the heart of a mindset that is anything but growth-oriented.

Mountain climbers use the term “summit fever” to describe the toxic, irrational, and goal-attainment-at-all-costs kind of thinking that they often experience at pivotal moments in dangerous climbs. Thoughts like “it’s too late to turn back now, I’ve come all this way” riddle climbers’ minds, and negative feedback (unexpected challenges, risks, and warning signs that would generally be interpreted as a reason to turn around and try again another time) is interpreted as more reason to keep going. This summit fever is part of what makes mountaineering so deadly. Mountaineers are literally killed by their relentless pursuit of a goal.

Of course, summiting Everest is an extreme example, but goals can give even ordinary people on flat land a sort of summit fever of their own. Specific goals that are set and pursued with a relentless, at-all-costs drive for “success” can end in disaster, or end up being a detriment in the long run. Let’s say you set a goal to get promoted to a specific position at your current job within two years. At the end of two years, you’ve accomplished your original goal and received your promotion; but you hate your career, your boss is a dick, you’ve neglected your family and friends, ruined relationships, and you’re stressed out and sick. This likely was not the image of “success” you had in your head when you set out to accomplish this goal. When we set goals, we generally focus on one or two isolated variables. But if we find success in these variables while leaving a path of destruction and chaos in our wake, I’d have a hard time calling it a true success.

The problem with relentlessly pursuing any specific goal is that we leave ourselves no room for reflection and context-based perspective. We lose sight of the why and get stuck on the specific goal itself. Goals tend to be somewhat arbitrary, set as a means to propel you forward and provide direction. This is good. But as we spend time in pursuit of a goal, we often learn something about ourselves or about the world that we did not know going in. Ideas change, perspectives change, and people change. If we leave no room for personal growth on the path to a goal, we’re missing the mark entirely. Our goals become a means for decline, not growth.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the recommendation to set “SMART” goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. I propose that we ditch these “SMART” goals in favor of “FMART” goals: goals that are Flexible, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Setting goals is important, but remaining conscious, thoughtful, and reflective during our pursuit of a goal is what sets us up for ultimate success. It gives us the perspective we need to see when it’s time to change directions, to take up new opportunities, and to realize when a goal has lost its “why.”

The caveat here is twofold. First, this changed framework for goal-setting does not grant you permission to abandon your goals or to let yourself give up on a problem at the first sign of resistance or discomfort. Part of the reason specific goals are so often encouraged is that humans are really good at letting themselves off the hook. But I have higher standards for you all, and I think we can rise above this base level of accountability. Just as with any worthwhile venture, properly applied goals require a considerable degree of self-reflection and awareness. The second caveat is that tenacity is itself an important skill that ought to be trained. Working towards a goal provides a perfect training ground, and therefore there are times where sticking with the problem, even when it may have lost its initial luster, has value.
There is no perfect method here. The key is to be open to change, leave room for new opportunities and directions, and always hold the pursuit of growth above any arbitrary metric. Success will follow.

- Preston Sprimont


11/15/16

  • Work up to a heavy single stone to shoulder

  • For time:

    • 800m run

    • 20 deadlifts (315/205)

    • 800m run

    • 20 push press (135/95)