"Goals vs. Reality vs. Expectations."

Some might be reading this and you’re thinking, “You should just try harder. Don’t be afraid to fail. Change your reality.” And that brings me to my second point: pursuit of goals takes sacrifice.

In my last post (the two-parter), I suggested a few ways to reload your training if you’re feeling a little flat. In that, I very briefly discussed assessing your goals as well as your habits in and outside the gym. Obviously our goals are important and we should be in the practice of defining them. Try writing them down and sharing them with other people. You will be far more likely to achieve them if you do these two things.

However, if you have done that, we can self-sabotage by having unrealistic expectations. At the end of my last post, I encouraged you to make sure that your expectations of yourself line up with your goals. Today, I am going to detail this point, using myself as an example, because it is probably a misalignment between goals, expectations and reality that keep us from doing what we want, and being who we want to be.

We hear all the time “If you dream it, you can achieve it!” I hate to burst your bubble but this is false. No matter how hard I work, no matter how strongly I feel about my dream, I will never play on the US Women’s National soccer team. I will also likely never own an Aston Martin. I will probably not “cure” obesity, even though I’m convinced I know how (side note: when I graduated college, I actually talked with my dad on our entire bumpy U-haul drive back to Minneapolis about how my mission in life was to reverse childhood obesity). These are all actual dreams (or goals) that I have had in my life. Some were earnest - see: childhood obesity - and some were not but would be nice - see: own Aston Martin.

So what happened? At what point did I realize that these goals were not going to happen? Well, I sat back and thought about what is actually realistic. Being realistic told me that, relative to all the other women they’d be looking to bring into the national soccer team program, I was not talented enough, both from a genetic standpoint and also from a situational standpoint. Hard work would not have been an issue - my work ethic is fierce - but being in the right programs at the right time, being seen by the right recruiters and coaches, playing in the right games was not the situation I found myself in. Could I have changed that? Maybe. Maybe not. But reality told me that the odds were not in my favor. Owning an Aston Martin (I’m a big James Bond fan) would be sweet but not very responsible. If I ever had that kind of money, there are about a million other things I would do with it before I would sink it into a fancy car. Realistically, not a good idea. Curing obesity, while an admirable sentiment, could not be done alone and quite frankly would (again, in my opinion) require an entire overhaul of our national food system, which will likely not happen in my lifetime. Realistically, I can re-frame this goal to take steps towards helping people be healthier and lead a more balanced lifestyle. I hope to touch as many people as I can as I pursue this goal but I am no longer naive enough to believe that I can enact that level of national (and governmental) change.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, my updated goals include: owning a house, starting a family and helping people, including myself, balance the mind and the body to live a more fulfilling life.)

Some might be reading this and you’re thinking, “You should just try harder. Don’t be afraid to fail. Change your reality.” And that brings me to my second point: pursuit of goals takes sacrifice. So after looking at your goals and your current situation realistically, you can make the determination to change your situation and make them more achievable. There will likely be things you’ll have to start doing that you don’t do now and there will be things that you do now that you’ll have to stop doing. You will have to weigh these changes against what you imagine the outcome of achieving your goal will be.

People who have worked with me on nutrition have heard me say that, depending on our goal, we will fall somewhere on parallel continuum's of Accuracy and Flexibility. As accuracy increases, flexibility decreases and vice versa. But that takes sacrifice. If you want to lose ten pounds, you have to be realistic and manage your expectations. First, most likely, it’s not going to fall off in two weeks. Realistically, that’s not really feasible, nor healthy. Second, if you want to lose ten pounds in a short amount of time, you cannot afford to eat clean the entire week only to binge on pizza and beer on the weekend. Your expectations don’t line up with your habits. Conversely, let’s say you’re just looking to eat better, support your workouts and if you lose some weight along the way, then great. You can afford to be less Accurate and more Flexible.

This also holds true to our training. I can’t tell you how many times, in my coaching career, I’ve heard people say, “I want to be able to do a pull-up,” so we will use that as our example. First, can you realistically do a pull-up? Not everyone can pursue this as a goal right away. There might be mobility issues or even weight loss that needs to be addressed prior to working towards the pull-up. Once we’ve addressed those realities, we can assess what is missing from us being able to perform the movement.

Most often, it’s strength. As your coach, I would ask you these questions:
1) Are you making a point to come to the classes where we specifically drill the pull-up as well as any shoulder-related strength?
2) Have you asked a coach about what drills you could do during Open Gym to improve your pull-up?
3) Are you putting in extra work outside of classes to achieve this skill?

If you answered “no” to any of these, you need to reassess and make sure your expectations line up with your habits. While your coaches are good, most of our athletes don’t just magically get a pull-up by simply showing up to class.

Other examples might include wanting to back squat double body weight: Are you going to strength class? Have you talked with Coach Tony about how you should eat, train and recover to achieve this? Perhaps you want to improve your snatch technique: Are you going to weightlifting on Sundays? Have you talked with Coach Chris and Coach Josh about what you can be doing to achieve this? It’s the season of CrossFit Games Regionals. You watch the competition and decide you want to do that: Have you asked a coach about the process? Are those athletes doing movements that you don’t yet have in your toolbox? Are you willing to prioritize nutrition, sleep and recovery above all other things so training at that level can be support? Perhaps you should try a local competition and see what the atmosphere is like.

Whatever it may be, here is your process:
1) Write it down
2) Assess the reality of that goal
3) Tell someone about it - they might offer beneficial feedback or resources to help you achieve or adjust
4) Set realistic expectations of yourself. Make sure your habits, your wants, line up with what would be required to attain the goal. And don’t be afraid to call the audible and change course.

Just because I’m not on the US Women’s National team doesn’t make me a failure, and just because you have to adjust your goal won’t make you one either. I promise if you keep realistic expectations and keep a good support system around you, you might just achieve it if you believe it.

Until next time,
Coach Caitlin