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We are in the time of year where the spirit of personal change and growth is abundant and fresh. I’m not saying that you have to set a new year’s resolution but I’m also not saying that you shouldn’t. Yet there are two sides of setting goals that one should be aware of when contemplating change. We will keep this catered toward fitness related goals but there may be some overlap with other types of goals.

On one side it is obvious that setting a fitness goal can be a good thing. We acknowledge the fact that we want to change something about our lives or bodies that is probably causing us some degree of suffering, pain, discomfort, or displeasure. We want to be happy so we must change. We have a priority of what we want to change and we work towards it through a plan of action to better ourselves. This is an exciting idea yet this leads to the other side of pursuing a goal that may not be so obvious.

On the other side is that setting a goal may actually cause additional pain. When someone sets a goal they are inputting a particular outcome in their mind that they can become attached to. Attachment to this outcome can be strongly connected to our ego where we say to ourselves something like “I deserve this because I suffered so much” or “If I obtain this then I will be happy”. When our ego becomes strongly attached to this outcome it actually becomes the source of our pain rather than the release from it. It is important to set a goal without becoming too attached to it.

You have to accept where you are right now and be grateful for what you have right now. Count your blessings because as we all know in our hearts it is that it can always get worse! Not to say that you should be willingly ignorant of your suffering or ignore it. You need to recognize and embrace your suffering in order to cope with it. Once you have accepted where you are right now you may then have a much more clear path to your goal and your goal may even change to something a little more realistic. When you accept and become grateful for where you are right now then you may actually realize that you may not need to change as much as you originally thought. You may also realize that you can accomplish more than you thought and are now willing to work towards a more substantial goal because of the realization that you are stronger than you thought. If that is the case then you would not have arrived at that epiphany if you did not take the time to embrace where you are at currently. Yet in order to see where you are at right now you must let go of the outcomes, images, and fantasies that have grown in your mind associated with that goal.

Think of it this way: whatever outcomes you have created and attached yourself to in your mind are not present in reality. What is real is where you are in the present moment. If you work toward those outcomes created in a false reality and then you arrive at a different outcome that is based in reality that may cause disappointment with yourself. This is because typically the outcomes that most people make in their minds are not realistic…they are not based in reality. These outcomes are derived from an uncontrolled mindset and that uncontrolled mindset is derived from an uncontrolled emotional state and that is derived from not embracing the present moment. I read an old story that goes something like this:

A villager was walking down a path when they heard a horse galloping behind them. The villager turned to look down the path and saw a man on top of a sprinting horse. The man looked to be in a rush and was riding hard. The horse was sprinting as fast as it could. The villager asked “Where are you going?” and the man on the horse replied “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”

The man had no control over the horse and was just going down the path aimlessly and without control. The horse can represent our emotional and mental state…rushing forward with no control and that leaves the man on top helpless and in panic. In that case the best thing that man could have done would’ve been to stop the horse, let it calm down, and let it rest. Then he would have more control over the horse and not be enveloped in panic and gain control. That is what we must do when setting a goal. Stop where you are, calm your mind, rest for a bit, and then you may see clearly what you may want or need to accomplish with your training with a more accurate sense of conviction.

So when setting a goal make sure you slow down your horse first then choose a direction to ride. It will be much more enjoyable that way.

Keith Oelschlaeger, CSCS, MS is a personal trainer at Merritt Clubs Canton.