How to be Joyful in the Process of Working on Your Goals

Cheer on the small victories, celebrate yourself, and other tricks for making the journey more rewarding.

How many times have you gotten down on yourself because you haven’t reached the goal—or goals—you’ve set for yourself? Maybe you haven’t hit oversplit territory yet, or you’re still struggling with a stiff lower back in your bridge, or you feel frustrated that you don’t look like the rhythmic gymnast you follow on Instagram even though you’ve been training for months maybe even years...

It’s easy to have high standards when it comes to how we value our own effort and achievement. We so often set the bar high on ourselves, piling on the pressure to achieve, minimizing any progress we have made by comparing it to the lofty goals we’ve set for ourselves. We expect a lot from ourselves, and it’s great that self-improvement is a focus. But sometimes we need to just step back and be a bit saner with the ways we approach our training.

"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it."

Maya Angelou

How would you inspire a friend who’s just starting their flexibility training, or is feeling like they aren’t making progress fast enough? You might encourage them to stay consistent and carve out a little extra time for stretching each week, reassuring them when they feel like they’re not flexible enough (remember, that’s exactly what stretching is for!), and in general cheering them on. So, the things that you do—or would do—for a friend…you can also do for yourself! How can you treat yourself with the same patience, kindness, and love?

When it’s our own lives, it’s easy to get caught up in our ambitions and lose perspective. Having a strong vision can serve an important purpose, helping you craft plans and create a structure that’ll lead you in the direction of your goals. But when you put too much focus on the end destination instead of staying grounded in the present, it’s easy to fall out of balance. Discounting your present situation—and the progress you have made—can lead to disappointment and getting down on yourself When it’s a friend, it’s easier to see things from a wider perspective and to recognize the gains you’ve made. When it’s ourselves, we’re emotionally attached to the outcome and it’s easy to judge ourselves too harshly. So, how can you dial back the self-judgment and pursue your goals with joy instead of making yourself miserable?

Photo by Aziz Acharki

First of all, when you have a big vision or goal, it’s important to break it down into small, achievable steps. If you’ve got your eyes set on a flat split, you’ll need to break that goal down into steps you can take each week that will help you get there. You’ll also need to be realistic. Have an injury you’re recovering from? You might have to move at a slower pace, and mix up the training sessions with physical therapy from a trusted professional. Have a busy work schedule and can only fit in training two times a week? Well, commit to those two days and see if you can sprinkle in anything else—even a few minutes to open your hips after a day spent in front of the computer will do the body good. Remember every minute counts! You don’t have to do 45 minutes every time you stretch. You may just need a 15-minute session to relax and unwind after a stressful day.

After you make a plan to break your goal down into smaller steps, make sure that those steps are specific and measurable. Think about setting a goal along the lines of “45-minute training sessions, 3x a week,” and then schedule it on your smartphone or add it to your desk calendar! These are important appointments with yourself, so do your best not to reschedule.

Now that you’ve defined the steps you can take in the direction of your vision, it’s time to have some fun. When you hit your weekly goal, celebrate! Be happy knowing that you’re working towards the higher version of yourself. Prove to yourself that you can commit, follow through, and make it happen. Even if you fall off the wagon for a week or two (or more!), it’s important to dust off the missteps and put yourself back on the path towards your goals. When you can celebrate the small steps, you’ll be more excited by the whole journey.

Be your own cheerleader and find ways to show yourself some extra self-love. Maybe it means treating yourself to a night off, or a long-overdue get together with a friend, or doing something for yourself that you’ve been meaning to for a while. Use your flexibility training as a channel to be your best self, and you might notice other things in your life starting to shift towards your highest goals, too. You’ve got this!

"It’s our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

J. K. Rowling

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