A couple of weeks ago, I came across an article that resonated with me personally, and I have seen this viewpoint reflected in my work with clients. The title of the article is: “Why Exercise is a Life Skill.” written by Marci Fox, Ph.D. and Leslie Sokol, Ph.D.. Doctors Fox and Sokol compare the process of setting fitness or exercise goals with setting goals for your life direction. Determining goals for your life and career is key to moving towards success in your life and career. They propose that the setting, pursuit and implementation of fitness goals parallel the process that we use when we look at our life goals. I agree with their proposal/observation.
General steps in the goal process look like this:
1. Determine your goal(s). Determining and setting out a plan for your life and career can be overwhelming especially if you are not sure of what you want. As with most career and personal elements, goals are very unique to each individual. Often, people have a feeling or idea of what it is they do not want rather than what they do want. The ability to be able to articulate what it is that you do want is a stepping-stone to being the process of determining your intentions. It is common to struggle with this step. Some of my clients have goals, but a number of them do not. In some cases, those that do have intentions may not have them clearly defined. Part of my goal setting formula is to inform or remind clients about creating SMART goals.
Goals should be:
2. As you determine how to pursue your goal, you need to work out what you are prepared to do and how you can reach your objective. You may also need to make sub-goals to achieve on a daily or weekly basis as you work toward a longer time line. Try to be aware of any limitations that may need to be considered regarding the pursuit your aspiration.
3. Once you are working at your goal, you will find that you may need to compromise and sacrifice some activities to stay on track. This will include establishing priorities such as looking at day-to-day activities, against what you need to be doing as you achieve your objective.
4. Along the way, you will also likely need to exercise determination and draw on personal resources of resilience, as well as look to the support of our family and friends. There will be challenges and set backs, but the way you work through or overcome these obstacles will become part of your self-development. If you make mistakes, you can choose to learn from those mistakes as well. You will probably find that you need to refine and adapt aspects of your sub-goals, but your primary or main goals should be able to be maintained.
5. When you reach your goal, you will feel a sense of achievement and accomplishment that will increase your self-esteem and confidence. If you do not obtain your goal, it would be an opportunity to review your goal-setting criteria, such as reviewing your SMART goals.
Taking on a fitness goal may be a way to assist with achieving life and career goals. The process of determining and obtaining a fitness objective emulates the general goal process. Whether your goal is to lose or gain weight, strengthen your core, increase coordination, stamina and/or speed in terms of walking, running, swimming, cycling, yoga, hockey or some other team or individual sport – these are tangible goals. In my case, I needed to lose some weight and strengthen my core to deal with localized hip pain that had developed over a year ago, and had subsequently stopped me from running an average of 7 to 10 km at least twice a week. The added motivation was that I was being threatened with surgery if I could not achieve my objectives in order to overcome my hip issue.
Even with my SMART goal in mind, I tried unsuccessfully to set a training schedule for myself. After a couple of months, I relented and decided that I needed to recruit a personal trainer, and I was lucky to find a trainer who does group work (therefore making the cost of sessions more economical than private sessions), and more importantly, can work with my injury, but still enable me to build and increase my fitness level. In addition to losing weight and increasing my core and overall physical strength, I find that I am more motivated working with a trainer. I compromised my time by waking up an hour earlier to accommodate my sessions. My challenges included vacation periods when I was not able to maintain my regular schedule, but I was able to return to my routine after the holiday season. I also find that my regular sessions act as preventative stress management and I have more energy and stamina in general. Plus the added benefit of the social aspect of group training in a supportive environment. Finally, because I am feeling that I have a higher level of fitness, my eating habits have also improved.
During the journey of achieving my fitness objectives, I experienced the various steps in the goal process. I find that my achievement helps me feel more empowered and confident to pursue my personal life and career ambitions. It helps me feel that as I have accomplished these objectives, I can consolidate my success and be motivated to pursue more challenging goals. I have seen this reflected in some of my clients as well, using the benefits of reaching health and fitness goals to help in the pursuit of their own life and career objectives. If you are struggling with your own goal process, perhaps taking the perspective of fitness as a life skill can help you accomplish your personal life and career goals.
Another resource to help you develop life skills while navigating life and career challenges and change is this thorough guide: Transitioning from College to Career that can be applied to anyone experiencing a transition, so don’t be fooled by the title. There is some great information for new grads, or any young person starting out in a career whatever level of education you have chosen, but equally some excellent reminders for the more seasoned of us!