The risks of setting goals too high

I am a week away from possibly achieving a big goal, a monster goal — one I have essentially been working on since 2004.

Ultraman Canada is July 30-31 and Aug. 1.

It has me thinking about many of my friends and clients that have set big goals and the consequences good and bad that can come along with such a thing. I’d like to share a few stories, and talk about a solution.

It is very common for us at the gym to hear about post partum depression.

A woman (or a couple) spend a lot of time waiting for a single event, could be nine months of pregnancy or could be 14 years of trying to get pregnant and then nine months of pregnancy.

Then in the blink of an eye (granted, one to two days of labour may not feel like a blink of an eye, but compared to a lifespan….) it’s over.

This baby has arrived, and the joy and bliss of the magical pregnancy and unlimited possibilities is replaced with a great amount of crying, sleepless nights, long relentless days and the reality of a newborn (beautiful as it is). Looking in the mirror at the physical changes and the new lifestyle can be really tough (so I‘m told – as a man who is not yet a parent, my experience is definitely second hand through friends and clients!) and the struggle is very real.

Another scenario I watched last year was coaching four people to their first Ironman Triathlon.

A massive goal that seems nearly years in the making for most.

After the race, all smiles and exhaustion, it was great to see the glow in each of them, but again, a few months later and I could see the depression set in. This year I have watched helplessly as three of these fine people could not restart and let their swim goggles, bikes, and running shoes sit unused as they got swallowed back up in life.

So what can we do about this ‘anti climax’ issue?

First, one more story, because this one contains the answer!

Another big goal seeker was given an amazing opportunity – to fly in a CF-18 Fighter Jet with the Canadian Air Forces.

He had a ton of hoops to jump through to be eligible as a normal citizen, and one of those hoops was to drop about 60 lbs.

We worked together, he dropped the weight, he went for a jet ride and it was indeed the thrill of a lifetime!

In fact, he went on a few rides in trade for hundreds hours of volunteer work for the forces and the jet rides were their way of saying thanks.

Then it happened: (and it happens a LOT), the big goal was accomplished. Check mark! Done! (Now what?)

Well, the weight restriction was off, so a little relaxation in the eating came first, and the gym routine and cardio could wait for a while, after all, a rest was surely earned.

A week off became a month, then another and another, soon it was a year, then two etc.

At 336 lbs, my friend called me for help again, but this time was different. We talked about big goals, and about ‘what’s next’, about ‘why’ we were going to do this and how it would be different.

By setting multiple small goals around the big goal (drop 100 lbs) and really talking about a lifestyle change rather than a single event, my friend is now down over 120 lbs in the past 18 months and really living life again.

And this time, the change is permanent. It’s different because from the start, we were clear that there was no ‘finish line.’ There were a series of goals: to drop 100 lbs, to get to high school weight, to start playing hockey again, to climb a mountain, and the latest one, to run a Half Marathon.

As each goal approaches, more goals are encouraged to keep the momentum going and keep engaged in life.

For the post partum mom – that might mean to get in the gym and gain her pre-pregnancy body back – have the childcare room take care of the baby and give mom two hours of blissful ‘me’ time with her friends.

For the triathlete example, it’s about setting another goal –entering another race, or picking a new sport if the one you just finished isn’t a good fit.

Yes, take some time off but as soon as you can get back to doing something that fuels you and keeps you going!

What’s after Ultraman for me? I’ve got a few ideas brewing once I celebrate this goal and recover.

To quote a runner friend of mine: What’s YOUR goal? Set it, Plan it, Live it! (Bill Nielsen)

Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake. He can be reached at 403-887-7667 or check out for more information.

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