Goals in the Context of the Rest of Your Life

by Charles Platkin, PhD

in the Context of the Rest of Your Life

Oftentimes we set goals without thinking about how they’re going to affect other people. But you don’t live in a vacuum. Your actions and decisions affect your family, co-workers and friends to one degree or another. Not only that, but the people around you influence you as well.

Therefore, when setting and planning goals, you need to consider these relationships by asking questions such as:

How does this goal affect my family?
How will my family influence my ability to achieve my goal?
How do my responsibilities at work influence my goal?
How does this goal affect my friends and co-workers?
How might these friends and co-workers influence my goal?

If you sense that the pursuit of your goal is creating friction with other people, you need to confront this issue head-on before you go any further. Discuss your goals with your loved ones. More than likely they’ll be pleased that you’ve decided to make a positive change. If they have any worries, you can assure them that you’ve thought it through and you know what you’re doing.

For example, let’s say you’re married and decide to train for an upcoming 10K run. In all likelihood, your spouse will be thrilled for you and happy to see you in great physical shape. But he or she might also be concerned that such training will cut into the time you spend with your family. To offset that concern, you might suggest that your spouse join you in some aspects of the training, or you could offer to cut down on other solitary activities such as watching TV or doing the crossword puzzle, and use that time to prepare for the 10K.

Another example: Your spouse decides to bring home ice cream, cake and other high-calorie treats on a regular basis claiming that it’s for his or her own enjoyment and adding some comment like, “Why should I suffer just because you’ve decided to ?” Again, you need to consider and discuss these feelings as part of your planning process. Talking with your family and friends about the healthy food changes you are making should help to gain their support.

Another personality to prepare for is the food pusher. All of us know someone in the family or among our friends who is a food pusher. These are the people who are always telling you that you look great, and in fact, “You’re getting too thin.” “How can one bite hurt?” they ask. Or, “You have to at least have a taste.” Or perhaps they keep telling you, “You’re fine just the way you are,” and, “You don’t need to lose weight.”

Your purported “support group” may not want to see you “suffer” through yet another diet. But they may also be trying to sabotage you because they are jealous of your newfound goals or because they feel guilty about not having made the same choice to pursue a healthier lifestyle. Your family and friends could be undermining your best intentions to lose and control your weight.

Try to have an answer ready for these diet saboteurs. Mentally rehearse a few key phrases like, “Oh, no thanks. I couldn’t eat another thing.” Or even try the truth: “I’m dieting, and eating that piece of cake will throw me completely off track.”

Ego threats could also negatively affect your goals. Even people with high self-esteem are apt to doubt themselves when people they care about question their abilities. Ego threats come from a variety of sources, but the most powerful come from the people closest to you, which is why they’re so dangerous. You trust these people, and their undermining comments hurt you.

Parents are famous for posing ego threats: “You’ll never be able to lose weight, so why try,” or “You, exercise? You mean going from the couch to the kitchen?” As a response to these threats, you might tell yourself, “I’m going to starve myself and lose 75 pounds in two months even if it’s the last thing I do,” or, “I’m going to get my body looking like a supermodel.” When you’re determined to prove someone wrong you may set unreasonably high goals for yourself and lose touch not only with what’s important but also with what’s realistic.

Or you can use ego threats as an excuse to give up. It’s not unusual for people to internalize other people’s doubts, thus jeopardizing their chances of achieving their goals. To do that, however, is to allow what other people think of your goals to be more important than what you think of yourself.

Sometimes the desire to prove doubters wrong actually provides you with the energy you need to succeed just to prove to yourself you have what it takes. But you can’t let other people’s doubts or threats to your ego influence you to change your goal in a way that would be detrimental to your achieving it.

When setting your goals, anticipate these situations, and plan for them in advance. Mentally rehearse your responses and reactions. Rehearse staying on track in spite of these obstacles.

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