Do You Want to Succeed at Your Goals? Or Do You Want to Be Excellent?

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2014This time last year I publicly laid out my 3 biggest goals for 2013.  I was terrified that I would fail and look like a fool.

Well, guess what?

I failed big time.  And even though I didn’t get the results I wanted, “feeling like a fool” is the furthest thing from my mind.  This post goes in depth into where I messed up, what I learned, and how you can avoid the same mistakes I’ve made.

Warning: This is a long post and it gets down and dirty with some stuff you might not be prepared to read.  It will force you to look at your own decisions and come to terms with the results of your actions.  It’s emotionally draining and at some parts disgusting.  If you are a woman, love a woman, or know a woman you should read it anyway.

Goal 1: lose 100 pounds

Result: 30 pounds lost

I’m up to a total of 60 pounds lost from my highest weight.  In real numbers that relates to 277, down to 247, down to 217.

I could beat myself up about the fact that I didn’t lose 100 pounds this year.  But damn, 30 is still pretty good.  It works out to just over half a pound lost per week.  Nice and steady.

Since losing so much weight, I sometimes notice people ogling me, checking out how much less space I take up.  It’s a weird sensation.  But what’s odder is the feeling I get when I notice how much less space I take up.  I walk through a hallway and the walls seem further apart.  I buckle my seatbelt and have too much belt left over.  I sit in a chair and have room left on the sides.

There are other little things too.  It’s easier to cross my legs.  I can stand up after sitting on the floor without using my hands to push up.  I breathe lighter.  It’s easier to carry my kids.  My sex life is better –  probably because I feel sexier.

What Went Wrong Right

I have had loads of compliments on how great I look.  It’s weird though, I get more of these compliments during ‘heavy’ weeks than I do after I’ve had a big loss.  I think that goes to show the scale should not be the only measure of success or failure.

Losing 100 pounds never should have been my focus in the first place.  Actually, most of the time it wasn’t.  Not shockingly, that’s why I failed at it.  When I changed my eating patterns and choices just over a year ago it was due to a complete mindset shift.  It wasn’t to lose weight, or because we should eat more vegetables, or because of some new fad diet I was trying.  

It was because I gained knowledge that changed the way I thought about food completely.  I went from eating food because of how it made me feel before I ate it, to eating food because of how it made me feel after.

I used to fantasize about a meal beforehand – how good it would taste or how much of it I would eat.  I was excited for the meal because of how delicious it would be.  I didn’t consider how crappy I felt the rest of the time and how a lot of that could be directly related to the types and amounts of food I was eating. Since I didn’t correlate how bad I felt to what I was eating, the only thing that felt good was eating crap.

Somehow I started reading about nutrition and whole foods.  That led me to discover countless food blogs, whole food enthusiasts, and several variations of whole foods diets all across the internet.  I also read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan and watched several documentaries about the food supply in the United States.

 The anecdotal (and documented) evidence suggesting a connection between a highly refined processed food diet and innumerable health issues was too much to ignore.  Specifically, I was interested in  its relation to depression, anxiety, and moodiness.  That’s why I cut out processed food – as an experiment to see if all of the stuff I was reading was true.  I continued because it was.

It wasn’t just about getting healthier – it was about stopping poisoning myself.  I started focusing on how I felt all the time, not just before and while I was eating.  I started craving the clarity, the focus, and the endless energy I get from eating healthy foods and avoiding crap.  So that’s what I focused on.

I only used the scale as a tool to confirm that I was on the right track.  Since my focus wasn’t on excessive weight loss, I didn’t have excessive weight loss.  I’m okay with that because instead of focusing on an arbitrary number that has no emotional meaning to me, I thought about how I felt every day and forced myself to connect those feelings with the foods I was eating.

This habit has solidified my commitment to eating real whole foods because I know how I feel when I do.  It also gives me a better tool for measuring success.  I no longer stare at the scale, mentally bashing myself because it hasn’t met my unjustified expectation of an acceptable weight.

Now my focus is on feeling better – not doing better.

Goal 2: pay off student loans & medical debt

Result: paid off old medical debt, got new medical debt, paid off part of student loans

We paid off  Zoey’s childbirth in the beginning of 2013.  After she was born (in 2012) I had a Paragard IUD inserted.  This is a hormone-free IUD that prevents pregnancy by leaching copper into your uterine cavity.  Copper is deadly to sperm.

Before I got pregnant I had a lot of issues with the pill so after Zoey was born my doctor suggested Paragard as a hormone-free alternative.  After very little research I agreed.  I was blinded by the promise of maintenance-free, hormone-free birth control.

My doctor warned me that my periods might be heavier for a while.  I was encouraged by the fact that this ‘usually subsides within 6 months’.  I tend to freak out less than most women about stuff like that, and I’d already had two kids that gave me firsthand experience with ‘heavy periods’.  I wasn’t worried.

That was a mistake.

The first month I passed several large blood clots.  These babies were the size of golf balls.  I went through an entire box of tampons and another box of pads in 4 days.  I had to limit the amount of time I was out of the house because I was bleeding so profusely I had to stay close to a bathroom lest I bleed through my outfit.  

 After a few months I could leave the house for a couple hours at a time – if I was armed with a super tampon, a pad, and 3 backups in my purse.  About 7 months after I had it installed (and the last week at my day job) something changed.  After several months of slowly getting lighter, my period hit in full force.

For three hours blood poured out of me.  I went to the bathroom every 30  minutes and had to clean up every time.  I was passing huge clots again.  

My doctor told me to go to the ER.

It took them 6 hours, 1 pregnancy test, 1 ultrasound, and $3000 to determine all of that was just a lovely side effect of the IUD.

This experience solidified my belief that we should be in complete control of our bodies and understand what we are doing to them.  I let my desire for something easy cloud my judgment and I paid for it – literally and figuratively.

Lesson learned.  Easy doesn’t come without a price.

What went Wrong right:

When I set the goal of being completely debt-free by the end of 2013, that was under the assumption that I would stay at my day job until our debt was paid off, or my business was in full swing.  Instead, I quit several months sooner than anticipated.  

I had been at a 10 on the loathing scale for a few months when I quit.  A direct attack on me by management  derailed the last shred of respect I had for the company and I knew it was time to go.  Not in a few months, but immediately.  Quitting early meant using a large sum of money that was allocated to paying off my student loan debt to cushion the financial gap as we rearranged our life.  It also meant adding that ER bill to our overall debt.  

Changing our plan delayed the end result, but it improved our current situation immediately.  I’ve talked about instant gratification before, but in some cases it’s necessary.  This is one of them.  It’s not good to have so much anger and resentment toward someone – especially someone you work for.  

If you aren’t careful, that kind of negative emotion will deplete all of your energy stores.  It will suck you dry and leave you bitter, jaded, and complacent.  Worst case, it will cause you to become the person you despise.

I wasn’t willing to do that, so we changed our plan.  Financial worry accounted for, this was the best decision I could have made.  Within days of quitting I started receiving compliments from people telling me how much a) better b) younger c) happier d) thinner I looked. 

Truth be told, I felt all of those things too.

Goal 3: quit day job, replace income

Result: open for business, income growing

I quit my job in May this year and started working for myself.  Since then I’ve talked a lot about how I love working for myself.  I’ve also mentioned the obvious benefits of working when and where you want.  But if I’m being honest, this transition has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life.

What Went Wrong Right

When I quit my job early we more than halved our income.  This meant it was necessary to pull the kids out of daycare (eliminating a $1200/month payment).  So aside from starting a new business, I also became a stay-at-home mom.  As a mother who suffered serious guilt for putting her kids in daycare in the first place, I was thrilled to spend this time with them. 

I was ecstatic when, after a few weeks, Zoey ended her “I cry all day long and never stop” phase.  Reggie was happier too – she stopped tantruming so much and started talking more.  My heart swelled as I watched the two of them became more than just sisters – they became friends.

But holy hell.

Being a stay-at-home mom is no joke.  Did you know that, on average, my kids are awake for 14 hours a day?  

That’s a 14 hour work day – every single day.  There are no weekends.  There are no holidays.  There is a lot of overtime (generally at 3 am). 

I didn’t anticipate how hard this would be when we made the decision to do it – especially in the midst of starting a business.  To call it challenging would be an understatement.  Thankfully it has also been the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

I spend quality time with my kids every day.  I have built a business that allows me to work when and where I want – and I get paid to do something that I would do for free.  Before I quit my day job, I imagined and hoped the life I dreamt of was possible.  Since then, I have proved to myself that it is.

It might be hard, but it’s worth every second.

This year has brought countless tears, mind blowing realizations, and epic changes.  I am stronger, smarter, and more self-reliant than I have ever been in my life.  I didn’t reach the big goals I set a year ago, but I’ve met hundreds of tiny goals between then and now.

This year, more than ever, I realize these are the ones that actually matter.  Anyone can set a big goal and hope for the best.  It’s a lot harder to break it into tiny pieces and work at it a little bit every single day…then realize you were shooting for the wrong thing and start over.

If you can do this, you will succeed  – not because of your commitment to the end result, but because of your commitment to excellence.