Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Goals and Rewards

The interesting thing about being a little messy and disorganized is that when I finally do set myself to cleaning I find letters and pictures, journals and pamphlets that sit patiently waiting like time capsules to remind me of how life and people change when I'm not looking.

I've been on a bit of a cleaning spree lately. I think I've been hoping that if I can purge the clutter and restore some order to my environment that my mind might follow suit. I decided to tackle my desk drawer last week. Mostly it was stuffed with old deposit slips, memos and post it notes with phrases like "pickles Thursday" which have long since lost their meaning.

I also came across a glitzy document labeled "Goals and Rewards" in large rainbow colored font. The sheet laid out six weight-related goals with corresponding rewards of increasing value. Gifts ranged from a new movie which I could purchase once I fell below 270 pounds to a European vacation which I'm to take when I get down to 180 pounds.

There were a few things about the list that struck me. Firstly, it was colorful and full of pictures. Each goal was printed in the largest font possible. Clearly, I spent a lot of time on it and designed it to be eye catching, but then I folded it eight times and stuffed it unceremoniously in the back of my desk.

Secondly, for all its embellishment that would seem to shout, "You can do it and get cool stuff along the way!" the list whispers a different message, hissing, "You can't do this." For each goal, it's not enough to reach a certain weight. I clearly laid out that I must also, "stay there for one week" before I earn a reward. From the beginning, I believed that I would regain any weight I managed to lose. The rewards themselves also demonstrate my lack of faith. For 50 pounds, I stated I would buy myself a brand new VW Beetle convertible! I knew when I created this list that it would be a very long time before I would be able to afford such a thing, but that was irrelevant, because I never imagined I would lose the weight.

So why did I neglect the list and tuck it away in a dark place? One reason is that undoubtedly, as I began to lose weight I realized that the change I felt and saw was a reward in itself, something that couldn't be purchased. The other reason is that I have a bad habit of not believing in my dreams. I didn't believe I could lose even 5 pounds when I wrote the list. I was hoping the promise of tangible reward would push me ahead, but I never expected success. For the first thirty pounds, I was able to rely on fear for my health, a shear terror that enabled me to pass up all baked goods and candy.

Now, as my rational mind has banished some of the fear, I need my dreams to push me along the next leg of my journey. I need to honestly believe that I can do this. I need to know how I can do it and I need to visualize my success. I need to make my dream concrete. I have to break them down into smaller units and to brainstorm ways to overcome obstacles. I need to mentally rehearse my reactions to the holidays and parties and bad days. I need to plan over and over again to make exercise a part of my life. I both need and deserve to focus on and believe in my dreams.

I think that's what we all need, not just in weight loss, but in life in general. So take a second to check in with yourself. Do you believe in your dreams? Are you doing everything you can to chase them?

1 comment:

Karyn said...

I find it very interesting that you look at that list and hear the voice telling you that you will never do it. That is good. The more we understand ourselves, the better our chance of permanent success.

You are absolutely right that you need to REALLY believe you can do it. You need to visualize your success along the way - as well as the end result....10 years from now, still living a healthy life but at a much smaller size.

I love what you said about not needing the glitzy rewards...the changes we feel and see in ourselves is by far the best reward ever!