The unexpected reason you're failing to meet your goals

And an idea that can help you overcome it…

Image for post
Image for post

When I started my fitness journey back in 2017, I was constantly frustrated and disappointed. Every week, I'd measure my weight and feel insecure, the stats were something like this:

1/1/20xx - Up 5 pounds

7/1/20xx- Down 2 pounds

14/1/20xx - Up 10 pounds

21/1/20xx - Same as last week

28/1/20xx - Down 5 pounds

4/2/20xx - Up 2 pounds

3 months later, I was 10 pounds heavier despite controlling my diet as much as I could bear to do and staying (mostly) regular to the workout routine.

I was seething with rage, not only because I was miserable about not having eaten my favourite food in a while, but also because these sacrifices had made no difference whatsoever!

If anything, things had gotten worse.

I wanted to give up and drop the whole thing once and for all.

Nothing is worth giving up good food for! FTW, am I right??

Two days of reckless binge eating later, I started to feel guilty and decided to get back on the horse.

And no, the guilt didn't force me to stay focussed and I was back to square zero.

I was frustrated.

I wasn't getting any results. I was getting impatient.

If I was doing everything right why wasn't it working? I kept looking for new hacks, new diets, more intense workouts, still feeling massively pessimistic.

How was I supposed to win at this thing?

While these thoughts were churning inside my head, I found the answer in the words of a wise Stoic philosopher.

Image for post
Image for post

Epictetus refers to internalising one's goals when he talks about the trichotomy of control in the table above.

If I were to internalise my goals with respect to weight loss, it's clear that I can only control my diet and exercise routine.

Wouldn't it make sense to only measure the internalised aspects of my goal instead of hanging my self-esteem to a weighing machine?!

If I were playing a sport, say tennis, measuring my progress solely on matches won or lost is the easiest way to heartache. There's so much more that goes into becoming an athlete. It's more sensible to measure the hours of practice, and the time spent on perfecting my technique rather than just the wins and losses.

If I’d stick to measuring wins and losses, it is easy to get dejected after a losing streak, I might be tempted to give up. However, if I shift my focus to measuring how much I practice, while also competing against other players, I would show up to practice and I could use the external metric to test my skills.

It may not be perfect but the satisfaction of having done something is a pleasure that is very much underrated.

With my fitness goals, I made it easy for me to win so that I'd keep showing up everyday. I also gave myself the emotional reward of ticked boxes or streaks to make sure I kept at it.

I didn’t measure my weight for 3 months — I only counted the days I stuck to my diet plan and spent 30 mins exercising. I placed no restrictions on the type of exercise, or even the time of day when I’d have to do it. It was a simple and straightforward goal to just move for 30 minutes in whatever form : walk, dance, yoga, gym, run, fidget, just about anything; and make healthy choices at each meal to meet the daily calorie goal.

It felt like I was regaining control of my situation. I felt a tremendous amount of reassurance because of this simple shift in how I measured my progress on this goal.

When I did measure my weight once a month, I could see a direct correlation between effort and results. This seems very obvious, but what made things real for me was the fact that incorrectly measuring progress was making it harder for me to reach my goal.

The best way to reach one's goal is to simply stop thinking about the goal and take action. Why not set up systems that support taking action?

With this logic firmly embedded in my mind, I spent more time and energy on the things that I did control instead of obsessing about the end result which was based on both, things I controlled (exercise and diet) and things I didn't control (biological factors such as metabolic rate, unexpected things such as falling ill and being unable to meet the goal and so on)

It's a subtle shift, but very powerful.

Do the work, measure the work, measure what you control and pretty soon what's outside of your control will bend to your will.

Try it out and let me know how it goes for you!

Author of 'How to be a Lighthouse'. I write for those pursuing excellence and meaning.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store