Heather earned her MS in Health Sciences at The University of Memphis, is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, and currently works at Hutchison School teaching wellness and training athletic teams.She loves Friday pizza & movie night with her husband and kids, the Smoky Mountains, and yoga. She hates body shaming. And she will be joining us monthly to talk about wellness for six months!
I had this conversation with my 15-year-old son the other day:
Jack: “Mom, I just wanted to let you know that I’ve set a New Year’s Resolution to do extra chores to earn money and put in my savings account.”
Me: “That sounds great! What made you decide on that goal?”
Jack: “Oh, no reason. I just think it sounds like a nifty thing to do.”
Me: “Wow. Good for you, son! I’m glad to hear it!
Jack: “So, I’m gonna skip the Grizz game with my friends on Saturday. I’d rather spend the weekend raking the yard, doing laundry, and helping my sisters with their homework. And also, Mom… you’re the greatest.”
Um… why are you laughing? What? You’ve not had a conversation like that with your teenager? Jeez. What kind of parent are you?
Baaaaahahaha! Okay, fine. Maaaaaaaybe our conversation didn’t go exactly like that. I just thought you needed a good belly laugh today. You’re welcome.
Speaking truthfully now, that idealized goal for Jack is hardly different than some goals we set for ourselves. I’d be waiting until the twelfth of never for that goal of Jack’s to be met, as many of us would who set goals like, “I want to start exercising”, “I want to lose weight”, or “I want to start a new career.” As they stand, these are not goals. They are wishes, theories, and what-ifs.
Here’s the thing: Goals don’t “work” unless they are attached to a larger purpose that we value. Think about it. The nature of a goal is generally to make ourselves do something that we know we need to do, but don’t really want to do. It’s not all that much fun to save money; spending is definitely more exciting. If exercising consistently was as enjoyable as binge-watching Netflix, we wouldn’t have the obesity epidemic that we are currently experiencing. And Brene Brown would never have achieved her popularity if so many people didn’t identify with how awful it feels to be vulnerable in putting yourself out there when trying something new, like finding a new job or dating. In and of themselves, goals are often a total drag. So, why on earth would we spend longer than a few weeks doing something that makes us uncomfortable? We don’t like discomfort. That’s just human nature, and why New Year goals usually fizzle out by February or March.
Now I’ll tell you the actual conversation I had with Jack, and the crucial piece of information that I left out.
Since, like, birth, Jack has been relatively obsessed with cars. He desperately wants one when he turns 16 next year. He also knows he must contribute a significant portion of the cost of the car, or getting one when he turns 16 ain’t happening.
Aaaaaah, how this changes the equation! The idea of getting a car for Jack is exciting, motivating, and inspiring. These feelings overshadow the drab theory of working and saving money. With the larger purpose serving as the impetus, the once-nebulous theory of saving money becomes interesting, manageable, specific, time-bound, and attainable (remember SMART goals?). The “theory” now becomes goals, or stepping stones, to getting what he really wants:
- I will do extra chores on Saturdays to earn extra money.
- I will deposit money I earn or receive as gifts into my savings account.
- I will earn my life guard certificate so I can work this summer.
…SO THAT I CAN BUY A CAR WHEN I TURN 16 NEXT JANUARY!
Say what you want about teenagers, and I would commiserate with you; I have two teens at home and spend all day with them at work. I know how they can… be. I would also say, however, that they are probably the age bracket that’s best at setting and attaining goals; simply because they have so many big picture desires that they are striving toward. They have a vision of where they want to be in 5 years, and the only way they can get there is one goal, one stepping stone, at a time.
No one asks adults what teens are asked all the time, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Somewhere along the path to adulthood we stop asking ourselves where/who we want to be in 5 years…in 2 years…in 6 months, and we settle for where we have landed – whether or not it’s where we want to be. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to set goals when we don’t know what we’re reaching for, or what we really want. The truth is that we never stop growing up. We just stop aspiring to be better versions of ourselves.
What do you really want for yourself, say, one year from now? How are you going to get there?
Do you want to lose weight because what you really want is to confidently start dating by this time next year?
Do you want to start exercising because what you really want is to lower your cholesterol and chances of premature heart disease that runs in your family?
Do you want to sit down for dinner 4 nights per week with your family because what you really want is time with your teenage son/daughter, knowing that this time next year s/he will get the car, and having him/her home for dinner will be a rare event?
Look at your goals. Can you identify the larger purpose/vision for which each goal serves as a stepping stone?
If not, then hone your inner teenager. Sass-talk your dog or roll your eyes at yourself in the mirror. Do whatever it takes to imagine and then state what you want for yourself in the next few years (in the wellness coaching world, we call this “creating a vision statement”), and then set a goal (or a series of goals) to get you there. Watch how these revamped resolutions take on new meaning for you, and how you’ll want to achieve them.
If this is still a struggle for you, if you are stuck in finding your direction, or if you don’t know where to start, get someone to help you. Talk it over with a close friend or hire a life or wellness coach.
Never stop growing up. Envision your best self. Set goals to become that person you see in your teenage mind’s eye.
Check this out for a fun 100 Day Exercise Challenge!