Are you currently trying to lose weight or trying to get in shape? Maybe trying to lose just a couple inches of body fat or trying to get better at pull-ups? More specifically, are you trying to lose 2% body fat or trying to do 15 pull-ups unbroken (without dropping off the pull-up bar)?
I’m sure if you asked anyone that’s in close proximity to you right now they’d answer “yes” to at least one. Not that I think you should; it might not go over well if you asked the stranger next to you at the coffee shop if they’re trying to lose weight. Ask me how I know.
First off, I like it that you’re trying. This means you care and you’re at least aware of a goal you’d like to accomplish. Maybe you have that big shiny goal written in your daily planner or in big shiny letters written on your bathroom mirror. Maybe you’ve publicized that big shiny goal on Instagram about your plan for unbroken pull-ups or losing 2% body fat. Maybe it’s all you talk about to your significant other. You’ve set your sights on that big shiny goal and you’re trying to accomplish it.
Plan it, talk about it, visualize it. But do it.
Here’s the catch though - did you know all that goal setting and planning can actually deter you from actually doing anything about your goal? It’s not your fault - it’s the dopamine. The dopamine signaling in the brain that makes you feel oh so good after sex, drugs, or eating cupcakes, per say, is also tied into my “goal-planning ‘til the cows come home yet no work has been done yet” theory. Why? Because here’s the catch - you don’t actually have to do said sex, drugs, and eat cupcakes to get a dopamine response. You just have to THINK about it.
Dopamine increases for even a predicted reward.
Okay, let’s circle back to the pull-ups and body fat goals. Chemically, your brain receives signaling for that feel-good feeling if you reach your goal of pull-ups, or if no pull-up was ever done and you just thought about it a lot. Same for the loss of body fat. Just visualize that loss of body fat and it feels the same in your brain as actually losing the body fat. Again, it’s those crazy neurotransmitters (dopamine, specifically) to blame. It’s not your fault.
If you think about goals as the predicted rewards they are, you may be setting yourself up for failure.
I’m trying really hard to not say that I don’t like goals.
Don’t say you don’t like goals. Don't say you don’t like goals…
I’ll say instead that I don’t like the word trying when you should be working toward your goals.
If you say you’re trying to do something, you’re not committing and you’re giving yourself an easy out. If you’re just trying, you can’t really fail.
If you think about this more in terms of your daily life maybe it’ll hit home more and won’t cause such an emotional response of, “Janelle hates goals and doesn’t want me to try to do anything so she’s a downer and has no creativity and doesn’t appreciate my sparkly goal journal that I just bought off Etsy.” I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that browsing Etsy for your goal journal was just a form of procrastinating from you actually doing something to get to your goal. But that dopamine release while you shopped felt pretty good, didn’t it?
If you’re the chef of your family, and you cook dinner, even if you’re an awful cook, you’re actually cooking dinner. You’re not trying to cook dinner. You’re doing it.
If you take the 4:30pm class at the gym and you’re working out, you’re actually working out. You’re not trying to work out. You’re doing it.
I could go all day here but I think you get the gist.
In these two examples, you cooked dinner by cooking dinner and your worked out by working out. You accomplished the task by doing it, not trying it. Your dinner might have been burned or tasteless but you did it and your workout might not have been your best performance but you did it. You didn’t fail at either of these things. You did them by putting in work and if the results weren’t up to your standards, you’ll learn and do better next time.
So, back to those pull-ups and loss of body fat. Get into the gym and work on your pull-ups. Change one thing about your diet that you know is not causing you to lose body fat, like drinking soda or eating desserts. If you honestly don’t know how to accomplish a goal that you have, ask us - that’s what we are here for!
Whoop! That’s it! You’re doing it.
Keep adding to your doing inch by inch and day by day and all of a sudden - goal met! Your brain is happy and as evidence so is the pull-up bar and your jeans.
As long as goal setting means doing, then plan away! But remember, planning doesn’t accomplish the goal, neither does trying for a goal.