Personal goals have been a struggle for me for a very long time.
It took me years to quit soda, almost two decades to start blogging regularly and that’s just the start of it.
If there is one positive with the pandemic for me personally it has been the opportunity to reset and refocus on goals that I’ve been chasing for as long as I can remember. Some of my highlights so far are:
- I haven’t had a beer since Halloween of 2020 (something that was hard enough to do that I even wrote blog posts about it).
- I haven’t had a soda since Halloween 2021 (with one exception at a place without other options). This was even harder for me than beer as, more than just a social habit, I was physically addicted to soda.
- I’ve hit at least 10,000 steps almost every day since January 20, 2021.
- I’ve published a blog post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday since July 2021.
The list goes on and I’m pretty proud of all of these accomplishments but there is a dark side.
We, as people, tend to always want to do more and “up” our previous record, streak, etc. I’m no stranger to this and the thought has been something on my mind a lot as of late.
This year I have a few streaks I’m trying to accomplish including reading 100 books, walking 10,000 steps every day and a number of others. They’re fun and keep me occupied but, what’s next?
If I walk every day how can I top it? If I read 100 books will I shoot for 150 next year? When will I hit the point when I’m no longer reading books but just scanning them to hit an imaginary number?
If there’s a lesson I’ve learned is that gamification through streaks and similar methods is fun for habit building but isn’t sustainable in the long run. At some point I will no longer be able to walk 10,000 steps in a day, I may not finish a few of the books in my queue and I will miss a post on this site. Not long ago I would’ve considered any one of those things failures. Today I realize they’re just life. Once life changes, through more travel a change in hobbies or for any reason good or bad so must these streaks, nothing lasts forever.
So what does this all mean? It means that I’m going to push to finish some of the streaks I set out for this year to prove to myself, at least in a year when I really don’t have anything else to do, that they can be done. Then I’m going to stop worrying about them. Already the step goal often means, especially during the miserable Florida summer, that I don’t do any other exercises and the “no beer” thing was never meant to be a final “thing.” It was meant to change the habit we had formed of hanging out in our local bar when we had nothing else worth doing.
I can always look back at this year and say “I accomplished this or that” but I’ve lost the reason I pursue so many of the habits I’ve been working on. They’re no longer always because I enjoy a walk, or a book or that I have something to say. They’ve become a goal I must complete to continue with the game.
It’s time to stop playing the game and to start living life doing whatever I need to on a daily basis.