Unexpectedly, a few weeks ago, I had a major aha about goal-setting and superstition. And it all started with a few goldfish. This epiphany grew into a wider realization of a major roadblock that holds us back from attaining our goals.
One chilly September day, my son, my friend, and I were at the Broomall Fire Company Carnival. It’s one of those events where you could win goldfish if you played particular games. My four-year-old son delighted in “winning” two of these goldfish (he “won” them for two reasons – 1. everyone who pays 5 bucks wins a fish and 2. they’ll literally give away the fish when it’s 30 minutes to closing time), and passersby were “generous” enough to offer us two additional fishies. We left the carnival with a small plastic tank containing four new friends for my son, all of whom he named “Swimmy”.
Fast-forward a week or so, and two of the Swimmys had already gone to the great fishbowl in the sky. However, the other two remained with us, peacefully swimming in a fancy aquarium a client was nice enough to give us.
My babysitter/mom observed the fish one day, and started to comment on how great it was that two of these guys remained. Then she stopped herself: “Oh, I better not jinx it!” On hearing this observation, all I could think was, “Superstitious much?!”
I couldn’t shake this moment, where my mom could not dare enjoy watching those cute little orange swimmers cruise around their fish tank for fear that it would somehow result in a future negative outcome. I recognized her superstition in myself and others, leading me to wonder:
Does superstition hold us back from attaining our goals?
OK, if you’ve born with me through this goldfish example, let me translate it in terms of fitness, working out, and weight management. It could just be the breakthrough you need to attain your personal goals.
Here are a few questions I want you to consider related to not only your fitness but also your life:
- Do you avoid celebrating a milestone because you worry it might “jinx” your progress?
- Does fear prevent your from thinking big or setting ambitious goals?
- Is it impossible to relax and trust that you can meet your goals?
If you recognize yourself in any of these questions, I am going to suggest that you engage in self-sabotage. It’s the kind of thinking that prevents you from losing weight, meeting fitness milestones, and kicking butt at life in general. If you think so negatively from the outset of your endeavor, how are you going to accomplish your bigger goals?
Before you really immerse yourself in a new goal, you need to reframe your mindset. Don’t dwell on the past when you may have fallen short on your ultimate aim. Don’t eat that bag of cookies before you’ve had a chance to give your new diet a try. Have some faith that you can achieve your hopes and dreams.
So how do you do this, you ask? Well, here are some ideas to get you thinking positively:
- Celebrate small successes. Did you just accomplish a strength milestone or lose a few inches? Go ahead, celebrate it! Whether it’s a movie night, a mani-pedi, or a shopping trip, make sure you come through on the reward you promised yourself for achieving a small goal.
- Acknowledge your plan, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Let others know your goals, and don’t be shy about voicing the behavioral and lifestyle changes necessary to achieve your goal. I’m sure your girlfriends will understand if you have to pass on the margarita at happy hour because you are eating clean to lose weight.
- Believe that what you’re doing will work. You will never get out of the gate if you don’t think you can finish the race. Commit to your plan and own it.
- Repeat a mantra when you’re feeling doubt creeping in. This will help you stay on track. My personal favorite is, “I WILL THRIVE!”
- See yourself at the end of your goal. What it will look like, what it will feel like? Will you be slimmer, stronger, leaner, faster?
- Focus on the horizon instead of the rabbit hole. Don’t burrow yourself in, focusing only on the negative aspects of your lifestyle change. For example, if you’re having a less than stellar eating day and can feel yourself wanting to break your plan, take a walk outside or think something larger than this day and this meal.
I bet that if you change your “step-on-a-crack” mentality, it’ll be a lot easier to achieve what you want. If my mom could have taken a step back and just enjoyed those two little fishy friends circling that tank, I bet she would have felt more relaxed or simply delighted in the joy that is nature. If you can acknowledge your progress and give yourself credit for getting closer to your goal, it’ll be easier to plan your next steps to making it happen.