At the end of each year, I try to set a few goals for the coming year, with varying degrees of success. Let’s look at the three goals I set for 2011 and see if there are any lessons learned that I can apply to my goals for the coming year.
My biggest opponent in this regard was two unexpected injuries that were unrelated to my fitness.
For the first month of the year, everything was quite successful.
In February, I slipped and fell on a patch of ice and caused some severe internal bruising and tearing. I was in pain doing much of anything for about three weeks, during which my fitness schedule completely fell apart.
I started from scratch again at this point and by early summer I felt good about the state of things. Then, in July, I went on a trip to Seattle with my family. On the last few days of the trip, we stayed in a cabin with a really low ceiling where the only way I could get around inside the cabin was to severely stoop. On the last morning of our cabin stay, my back popped, leaving me in almost constant pain for about a month. The worst part was that while I was recovering, walking for more than a minute or so left my right leg numb.
After that, I never really got my fitness plan back on track.
What went wrong? I don’t think my fitness plan accounted for the possibility of such things going wrong. When I was unable to do certain types of exercise, I would simply give up on the idea entirely.
What can I improve on? Flexibility. When I set a goal, it needs to have a path leading to that goal that’s as flexible as possible.
For the first few months of this year, this goal went really well. I took weekly piano lessons and practiced when I could.
My biggest challenge was that I couldn’t practice at home. We did not have a conducive keyboard setup for practicing. My wife largely felt that this was a frivolous endeavor and we constantly struggled with discussions about whether we should invest the money into a piano or a good keyboard setup.
Later in the year, this problem was made worse by a string of childhood illnesses that required me to miss a series of lessons, leaving me feeling lost and not making much progress on my playing.
Eventually, these two issues came to a head and I chose to end my piano lessons.
What went wrong? Lack of a proper environment. I didn’t have a place to practice that didn’t involve going somewhere else. On top of that, I began to realize that my children took priority over my piano playing.
What can I improve on? I shouldn’t choose a goal that’s significantly incompatible with my home environment or requires a significant purchase to make possible.
Read 100 Unread Books
This is the goal I hit out of the park. I read 100 new books this year – 103 at last count, to be exact. My list didn’t quite match the list from this post, but I read a little more than half of the books listed in that post.
What went right? I simply attacked this goal with relish. One of the big advantages was getting a Kindle as a gift, to which I was able to add electronic versions of about twenty books on the list for free that were very convenient to take with me anywhere.
Life is unpredictable. The goals that you think have a clear path to success sometimes have obstacles that you don’t see at first glance, and sometimes those obstacles prove insurmountable.
The best thing you can do with any goal is to give it some careful thought in advance. Think about your plan carefully and look for potential problems – and solutions to those problems. The more care you put in up front, the more likely you are to see success as things unfold.
I hope that principle is reflected as I discuss my 2012 goals throughout this week.