One of the goals I set this year was actually set for me by someone else: the 100 Workouts Challenge at my gym. This is a nice example of a good goal: 100 workouts in a year is a bit of a challenge, but still doable with moderate effort. It's less than a workout every three days, but that's only if you break it down over the entire year.
It's just past the halfway point of the year, and that means there's been sufficient time to see how things are going. How am I doing? Well, see for yourself:
At the halfway point, I'm half way done. Not bad considering I didn't start until six weeks into the new year! How have I done it? Simple.
I did 1% of the total 50 times. That's it.
Since the tracking sheet is in a binder with everyone else's, as I try to get to mine I inevitably come across a few others before finally getting to the right one. This means I see how others are doing whether I want to or not. It's interesting to me to see how others are doing on their goals. I don't judge those who haven't made them; after all, everyone has their own reasons for showing up or not. I'm more concerned with how I am doing against my own 100 workouts goal than judging others who aren't. Besides, there are already a handful of people who have already beaten the 100 Workouts Challenge, so I'm not the Superman to judge anybody else anyway.
What I do want to know is why those who aren't going to beat this challenge aren't going to. My observations are twofold:
1. They set themselves up for failure with unreasonable expectations. Many of the date goals weren't reasonable. Many of them were set for May or June, meaning they would have to work out 5-6 days a week every week. Unless you're already working out almost all the time, you're not suddenly going to go from sedentary to being at the gym all the time.
Going to the gym is a habit, but not going to the gym is ALSO a habit. Setting a goal that requires you to be there almost every day just isn't realistic because you have to break the habit of not going and replace it with a habit of going, both at the same time! Doing one or the other (i.e., breaking a habit or building a new one) is hard enough; trying to do both is just asking to fail.
One of the dates that was set was less than 100 days from the begin date. That's basically impossible, but reflects the second important reason most people who aren't on track aren't:
2. They underestimate the amount of change, effort, or resources involved in attaining that goal. If your goal requires adding something to your life (rather than removing something, like eating less sugar, for example), that's going to require time. Since you are living 24 hours a day already even if you're doing very little in those 24, that means you're going to have to take time that you're doing something and reallocate it to that new thing.
If you're not already doing something with your 24 hours that pass every day already, then finding something to do with an hour or so is easy. But how many of us can say that their schedule is empty? After all, being too busy is one of the biggest complaints most people have. That means that if you want to attain this new goal, you're going to have to take something you already do and replace it with something else; you're not going to magically have a 25th hour in your day.
This is one reason that a lot of people start off strong and then fade. I see a lot of date blocks filled in in a row with little gap between dates, then the gaps get bigger, then bigger... At first, it's new and fun, and it's easy. Then as a week or two goes by, some of the other things that used to occupy that time start giving reminders of the "old" times as they get neglected. That leads to decision time: do I go back to what I used to do or do I stick with the new thing now that it's not the "new thing" anymore?
Since the old habit was probably around a lot longer than the new habit, the old one tends to win out in the end through sheer familiarity and comfort. Since it takes a month or more for working out to start having a real effect, the old ways have an even easier battle. It's easy to go back to the couch when it seems like the new working out habit isn't doing anything.
The realization of the amount of work and/or disruption this new habit involves also contributes to the easy victory for the old habits. That's why instead of looking at the challenge as [big, deep announcer voice] THE 100 WORKOUT CHALLENGE, I look at it as a hundred 1-workout challenges. Each time I fill in a date box, I've won that challenge. All I have to do is 99 more. Then 98 more. And so on. It's just like the old question, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."
How has it worked for me? Well, this (the only workout selfie I've ever taken) was taken not even 90 days in, and I've gotten even better since then:
What does this have to do with flying? Well, next week I'll apply these lessons to an aviation setting. See you next Wednesday!
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The author is an airline pilot, flight instructor, and adjunct college professor teaching aviation ground schools. He holds an ATP certificate with ERJ-145 and DHC-8 type ratings, as well as CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, and IGI certificates, and is a Master-level participant in the FAA's WINGS program and a former FAASafety Team representative. He is on Facebook as Larry the Flying Guy, has a Larry the Flying Guy YouTube channel, and is on Twitter as @Lairspeed.
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