A man’s usefulness depends upon his living up to his ideals insofar as he can. It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. All daring and courage, all iron endurance of misfortune make for a finer, nobler type of manhood. Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy and the duty of life.
— Theodore Roosevelt
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Oh my Jesus, this hurts. I am actually praying to Jesus about how much it hurts, not taking his name in vain, because to get through this workout is going to require divine intervention. My lungs hurt, my legs hurt and I am only 7 minutes in with 7 more to go.
“Layci, this is not pain, it is discomfort and you can be uncomfortable for a long time.”
Did Jesus just talk to me during this workout? Wait, nope, that was Ben Bergeron in my head, a famous CrossFit elite coach.
Pick up the big dog food bag and load it into the cart, the car and the house without any help. Qualify for Regional’s CrossFit competition. Play with my kids in the yard without getting exhausted. Live independently into my 90s. Back-squat 300 pounds. Do 10 pull-ups. Find my physical potential. Be in the best shape of my life at 40. Place in the top 15 percent of the world for the CrossFit Open. Eat a healthy, balanced plate 85 percent of the time.
Some of these are my goals, and some are the goals of people I work out with.
Understanding the difference between a goal and a resolution is the key to progression in any endeavour. A resolution is a general statement about the way you want things to be. For example I want to be healthier, I want my business to be more successful, I want to nurture my creativity — these are all resolutions. Goals, however, are where the rubber meets the road. Goals are measurable attainments that we succeed or fail at. I am going to lower my body fat by 6 percent, I am going to increase my profit margin by 3 percent, I am going to write 500 words a day for a month — these are goals.
Learning to set measurable goals is a critical skill to take your fitness as well as your business to the next level. If you cannot define the next level, you will never know when you have arrived. Measurable goals are the guideposts on the route to the summit.
My coach has taught me that any time we start something new, we go through three levels of adaptation. First level: You get better each time you practice it. This is the fun level. Every day is a PR (personal record) Party.
Second level: Put together a plan with measurable goals to make strength gains. This is the level where you fail, a lot, but you also get a lot better.
Third level: Refine the movement to take off the microscopic hairs that make you slow and inefficient. This is where champions are born.
One of the hallmarks of a well-run CrossFit program is that your coaches and your community know your goals. In fact, they help you define your goals and push you to never settle. You know what happens when you say a goal out loud, to people? It gets real, fast. Saying what you want and that you are planning to go after it is an act of vulnerability. All of a sudden, every workout has a purpose. If you don’t add that extra weight to the bar, you are choosing to not work toward your goals today. But guess what, your lifting buddies and your coaches, they know your goals now, too, because you told them. They are going to give you that side eye and ask you if you really want it or if you are just messing around. They are going to hold you accountable to yourself and make you look fear in the face. It is not comfortable.
If you hesitate to share goals you set, I would challenge that you are not really being humble. If we peel back the layers, I think you are probably motivated primarily by fear.
I agree heartily with Mr. Roosevelt that while it is hard to fail, it is much worse to never have tried to succeed. I believe that we were built to live big, full, powerful and dynamic lives. This kind of life does not happen by accident. It is not just for the lucky. It happens when we allow ourselves to be real and vulnerable enough to set goals that matter. It means sharing your life with people and allowing them to speak into it and letting them know when you fail. It means being brave and leaving your ego at the door.
Set some measurable, solid goals, personal or professional, and then tell someone who can hold you accountable. It makes those hours upon hours of hard work and discomfort so much more bearable when you know why you keep showing up. And when people are invested in your success with you, it makes every victory that much sweeter. It is no longer your quiet triumph. It is a group celebration, it is a community victory and it is that energy that you now invest in the goals of others.
Setting goals and sharing them gives the people watching you permission to do the same. Allow yourself to make someone brave. We all want to live embracing “the full joy and duty of life.”
• Layci Nelson owns Nelson Management Strategies and the Iron and Mortar Summit. In addition to lifting weights and making her lungs burn, she enjoys exploring the Yakima Valley with her two young boys, her astoundingly patient husband, and their little dog, too.
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