I am a big advocate and personal user of goal-setting and monitoring. Every year, I take stock of my life across a variety of areas and come up with a long list of things I want to do that I feel that I either need or want to do in order to improve my life. Some of them can be quite small like sorting through a bookcase of stuff that has accumulated or quite large like redoing a kitchen. Some of them are quite personal like spending more time with my son or having date nights, others might be more abstract or impersonal like reading more non-fiction. But I analyse and sort, set a goal, commit, and then, I go. I’m not always 100% successful, but I commit and I go. I’m not afraid of failure, it is just one way I found that didn’t work, and besides, I have lots of other items that I’m moving forward on anyway, so one “failed” goal does not often affect me too much for the year.
And yet, while I want to lose weight and probably have wanted to do so since around 1981 when I became aware that I wasn’t like “other kids” in that regard, when I have gone to set my annual goals (in earnest since 2000/2001 or so), I have only incrementally come closer and closer to setting a weight loss goal but never quite reaching the commitment point. The question of course is why? What is holding me back from committing to THAT goal when almost any other area is fair game?
I have had some insights over the years…the intrinsically psychological nature of it; the complicated link between my psyche, my self-image, my ego / arrogance for most things cerebral and no confidence in anything physical, and food; the need to feel like my goals when set and committed to are actually individually achievable. Not necessarily all of them in a year, as I mentioned above that failure on any one is okay, but I have to at least feel like I can do it, that I’m being honest with myself that I’m really going to put forward some effort to try and reach the goal in the year. It has to not only be possible in theory, but possible in practice. I wouldn’t commit to climbing Mount Everest or K2, for example, but I committed to climbing a small mountain while hiking in the Atlantic region (an old bucket list item) because I knew I was planning to go there that year. Realistically achievable.
But, for me, weight loss has always been a “possible in theory” goal, not one that I felt was likely in practice. Eating a bit healthier, being more active? Sure. But I never felt like I was “ready” to go hard on my weight. Like I said, it’s a complicated interplay of issues that I wasn’t sure I could unpack and address. If I could “just do it”, I would have already done it. Something was holding me back, and it was holding me back not only from achieving the goal but even setting it and feeling like I would/could commit to it a given year. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve put it on the draft list many times. And each time I’ve removed it or changed it to something wishy washy yet potentially achievable.
When I set my 50by50 list, it was front and centre in my thoughts. With my 50th birthday and everything, I thought a great target could be to lose 50 pounds. Literally 50 by 50. Challenging certainly but achievable in a year. But would I actually commit or balk again? In my lead up to turning 50, I balked. I did lots of other things, but I again felt like I wasn’t realistically ready to commit to it. That I would do it in a lackluster way, self-defeating as I went, and to be brutally honest with myself, likely to completely crash and burn as I descended into a deep depression with my likely failure. I could shake off other things, but I knew this one would be devastating to my mental health if I failed. It’s just plain different, several orders of magnitude harder and of a completely different type of goal than any of the others.
It’s a hard perspective to describe very well. I felt like I had to fully commit, to be “all in” for the goal or that I would have zero chance of success. Yet every year, when I set my goals, there have been and still are always LOTS of other things going on. Some of them health related, like my sleep apnea (partially but not completely caused by the extra weight), and a few other things too, not weight-related, that would “crowd” out my focus simply because they were easier to deal with in the short-term. Some were even more urgent “FIX ME NOW” issues.
Maybe that reads like a cop out to you. Maybe a rationalization. But I know my psyche pretty well, having stripped it down like a nostalgic mechanic rebuilds old engines, and put it back together on my own. I knew not only that I wasn’t ready to commit but also that I wasn’t ready to go all in on my weight loss.
Not yet. Someday, I told myself. Maybe soon, as I knew I was getting closer, but apparently not yet. I was working on a bunch of psych issues to help me get ready, but I wasn’t there yet. I was disappointed in myself, but well, that has happened before too. And so I removed it from my “pre-turning 50” goals.
And then something happened.
For most people, this is where the story would veer into the cliché — the fat guy who has a heart attack and has to change NOW if he wants to live. Or a stroke or a host of other issues suddenly bringing life into focus. That “LIFE-CHANGING EVENT” didn’t happen to me. That’s not how I got to where I am now.
But something strange and unexpected did happen, a confluence of events and timing, and suddenly my wall was gone. I’ll explain what happened in future posts, but the important thing is that the mental block was SUDDENLY gone. I actually felt ready.
And I was. Ready to set a goal and to commit to it. Whole-heartedly.
On June 16th, the day after my birthday, I took the first step. I decided that my one and only goal for the year would be weight loss.
I just had to figure out how I would maintain my commitment, what the actual goal would be, what I would say about it publicly, if anything. And, oh yeah, lose the weight.
And over the last 132 days, I have had to dig deep into my psyche to answer those questions as well as deal with some other issues that came up along the start of my journey. I have thought long and hard about how to share my thoughts along the journey, and I had convinced myself even up until a week ago that I would write — but not publish — a series of posts. And if it was say 10 posts, then I would wait until I had achieved my goal and post it as the last ten days before I turn 51. I would “accomplish” the goal before I publicly admitted that I even had the goal. A mental reservation to allow me to fail in private, if need be. To minimize the mental damage I would do to myself if I failed to achieve my goal.
Except that is an act of a coward. One who is not committing, but hedging. One who is opening up the possibility of failure, however real, and saying, “Maybe I can’t do it”. But that isn’t the commitment I made to myself. Can I do it by my birthday? I don’t know. It’s almost irrelevant though as I have committed that not only will I have only 1 goal for this year, but also I will not set any other new goal until it’s achieved. If it takes 2 years, 3 years, 5 years, I’m all in.
Which means that the only reason not to share now is because I’m afraid to talk about the issues that will go with it until I’m done fixing them. Some really intense personal stuff that is sitting in my notebook and not yet written into anything resembling coherence.
But this post is not just any post. It is my 1000th post to my blog. It is real. It is me. It is the me that I want to be, sometimes the me that I dream of being and can’t quite accomplish without time to edit myself. And I promised myself once before that my blog demands radical self-assessment and honesty from me or it is not worth writing.
This is not the hardest thing I have ever written, that is easily some combination of becoming Jacob’s father or the various eulogy / tribute stuff for my mom and dad.
But it is the scariest thing I have ever posted, and the second scariest thing I have written (the scarier one is coming later). Just in time for Hallowe’en, he says nervously.
Yet there is no choice. If I am to achieve my goal, I have to muster all of my resources and not leave my star player — my blog — sitting on the sidelines twiddling its thumbs.
For the first time in my life, I formally commit to not only losing weight but also to blogging about it openly.
And if that is not worthy of my 1000th post on a personal blog, I don’t know what is.