Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Dark Side of Goals

This month's guest post is by the Fight Geek, a Muay Thai practitioner and fight fan from Down Under who's been one of my favorite reads recently. He's got some strange and exotic training ideas (like Caveman training??). Anyway, read the post in an Aussie accent (as intended), and then check out his site for some great ideas, posts, and fight videos. - Nathan

Let me start off by stating the obvious: goals are good—M'kay. I set goals, I develop strategies to reach them, and I feel outstanding when I've accomplished them. But mis-handling goals can get you into serious trouble—particularly when it involves fitness, health or sport: the bread and butter of martial arts.
Here's three examples of what I mean . . .

Unrealistic Goals + Impatience =
Johnny was going through a mid-life crisis. He longed for the slender, toned and limber physique of his youth. Not being one to do things by halves, he went out and purchased a complete series of advanced yoga DVDs. Later on that day, his best mate found Johnny dead—lying in front of the TV, with his legs thrust over his head in a contorted plough pose. The only clue to the cause of his death was what he was watching on TV: A scantily-clad blond nymph bending over and touching her toes. Johnny's mate wasn't the smartest of dudes, but it didn't take a rocket scientist to work out what Johnny was up to just before he died . . .
So what does this cautionary tale teach us? Only dogs are anatomically designed to have their heads so close to their balls? Sure, there's that. But more importantly—unrealistic goals combined with an impatient attitude makes a potent cocktail—shunned by the wise and skulled by fools. Women want to be supermodels, men want to be superstars and athletes want to be superheroes. And they want it to happen NOW! Unfortunately genetics and 'the effort required' will prevent 95% of them from ever accomplishing such lofty goals. And many will be lucky to survive their half-arsed attempts at doing so.

The fact is, adopting unrealistic goals and giving in to impatient compulsion will almost certainly lead to failure—a nasty, soul-destroying, "I don't ever want to try again" type of failure.
To set realistic goals we must be brutally honest about our own abilities and set our goals accordingly. And we must also recognize that any goal worth achieving will take time. By all means, dream big dreams.
But big dreams are best accomplished by setting progressive, realistic goals, that are gradually achieved, over a long period of time.
Confusing Tools and Goals
Luke just joined his local gym. After watching some of the other dudes pushing some serious iron, Luke realized he was a serious wimp. But he had a plan. In the latest copy of Beefcake Development™ magazine he found a solution to his wimpiness in a six-page glossy 'review' of The MEGA-Workout 9000. Its the latest muscle-building equipment accompanied by ten instructional DVDs and a twelve month supply of the ultra-effective, patent-pending MEGA-Workout 9000 supplement—all for the low price of $3999.

It will be his—oh yes—The MEGA-Workout 9000 will be his.

Luke starts saving. He takes on extra hours at work and cuts back on expenses. He cancels his expensive gym membership and starts doing some bodyweight exercises at hom
e—he'll get into the serious training once his Mega-Workout 9000 arrives. After a while he stops working-out completely—he hasn't got the time anymore. And he's too tired after the long hours at work anyway! He's also too busy to prepare his own meals, so he starts to eat out more. Eight months down the track, he wakes up one morning and realizes he's thirty pounds heavier, stressed out of his brain, and feels like s*** (the 'it's-been-waiting-to-come-out-for-a-week' type of s***). He decides to take the money he's saved up and go on a well-deserved holiday . . .

If I had a buck for every person who's done something like this! (I'd probably squander it on redundant training gear—doh!). In today's world it's so easy to confuse the goal of bettering yourself with obsessive purchasing of must-have gear. What's holding you back from achieving the body of your dreams? What's stopping you from winning your next competition or tournament? It's obvious! You haven't got the latest training gear, workout DVD, weight-loss pill or muscle-potion. Money can solve all of your health and fitness problems—if only you had more of it!

No matter how impressive any piece of kit is, it's still only a tool. And the problem with most people isn't a lack of tools, but a lack of motivation to use the tools. Filling up your garage with training equipment isn't a useful goal—it's an avoidance strategy. One that's been promoted by a mass-market culture and uncritically swallowed-whole by most of us. Be harsh when determining what tools you actually need to achieve your goal. And never fall for the old chestnut: "I can't achieve my goals because I haven't got [insert cool product here]." Nine times out of ten there's a way of achieving your goals (or at least getting closer to them) without using the latest and greatest products.

Ignoring the Side-effects of Process
John's finally got the biggest guns at his gym. It's taken him three years, some serious cash, and a s***-load of illegal substances. Sure he's lost his 'unsupportive' girlfriend and his non-gym mates, his arms now have more tracks than a train station, and his ever-growing man-tits are starting turn-on the creepier dudes at the gym. But he's achieved his goal . . .
When a goal becomes so important that you're willing to do ANYTHING to achieve it—you really have got a serious problem on your hands. This kind of mentality has lead many a hard training athlete into a lifestyle of self-abuse, self-deception and ultimately self-hatred: steroid use, dangerous dieting practices, anorexia, bulimia, medication abuse, over-training, faddish training, exercise addiction—they're all collateral damage to those who fall victim to the 'goals at any cost' mentality. When it comes to health, fitness and sport, HOW you achieve your goals is just as important as WHAT goals you achieve.

Poorly chosen goals can often be more destructive than having no goals at all! Some goals are unachievable, some aren't worth achieving, and some can change your life forever (for better or worse). So be careful when setting your goals. Otherwise you could end up a drooling corpse in a compromising position with nothing but your friends deductive-skills to determine how you died. I for one don't want to be remembered as the dude who died trying to orally pleasure himself. How about you?



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