Friday, May 19, 2006

S.M.A.R.T. Goals, or Some Things I'm Learning from My Yoga Book

OK, let's get something out in the open. I have arthritis. I have had arthritis since the day I was born, literally. I use a power chair most of the time because I am in bad shape physically. I am doing yoga.

For a while I was almost apologizing to people because when they found out (usually because my very proud husband told them) they would look at me with a mixture of sadness (poor thing, she thinks she can do something like yoga), incredulousness (how dare she even undertake to try something so strenuous or can she even do any of those poses close to correct?), and something very close to anger or at the very least upset-ness (why should she even attempt anything like yoga when I won't!?).

Seeing their expressions and hearing their sometimes confused and oh-so-polite questions afterwards made me more than just a little self-conscious and uncomfortable. This would encourage me to apologize for doing the yoga by saying, "I have to modify some of the poses, but, yes, I am doing yoga." It wasn't until recently I realized I was apologizing at all. That I must modify some of the poses should be a given. That I have to modify them is a necessity, but this does not mean I am not doing yoga.

Since realizing this I sat down and re-read my yoga book and more things clicked than they had before in the first reading. One of those things was just how I had set myself up to fail in my weight-loss attempts before by either being too rigid and unbending in the goal setting as well as being too vague on what I wanted to accomplish: to lose weight and not gain it back.

"SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-framed." (Yoga for Weight-Loss: the 4-Week Slimming Plan, Celia Hawe, Barnes & Noble publishers, p. 34) I had to read and re-read this a couple of times before it really fell into place for me, especially after reading an example of the un-SMART goal setting she listed:
My Yoga for Weight-Loss goal is to
lose 10 lbs.
I will have achieved this by
2 weeks from now
I know I will have achieved it because I will
weigh in on my bathroom scales 10lbs lighter
and feel

This is a very familiar way of setting goals for my weight-loss and one the author, Celia Hawe, is also familiar with. I had to really think about why this was not a SMART goal. It fits into the categories of specific and attainable, as she points out, but it isn't realistically attainable because other factors we cannot foresee weigh in - what if it is time for the monthly or what if it was a very stressful week or few days in the time frame? This makes it far more difficult to lose weight and you retain water. Even though it has a time-frame for the completion of the goal, it isn't SMART, which means all factors need to be in place.

Now I have begun setting myself Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-framed goals, just not far into the distant future. I am not going to lose weight or get into better shape by doing the yoga in the future, it is done by doing it one day at a time, and this is how I am setting my goals: one day at a time. So far it is working, even though I am having to almost constantly with the impatient part of myself that wants to have an out-lined plan of what I'm going to do and when I am going to do it.

Each day comes with goals, not a to-do list of all of the things I need to accomplish. I have a to-do list, how can you get by without one? But, I look at everything before me and distinguish between what goals I need to set for my own personal self and not as a part of a to-do list that I can have a better chance of letting go or telling myself I can catch up on that tomorrow, or the next day, or next week.

For example, a couple of my goals for today included doing my yoga routine and take my morning meds. This was on my goal list which was totally separate from all of the other things that make up tasks for a day. In setting goals and tasks each day has begun to move along more smoothly and I am accomplishing things for myself and not just the household, B, or writing. In accomplishing things for myself my confidence is growing and I am seeing a positive change in my attitude at times (of course I can't see it all the time because I am not perfect and do not change as quickly as I would like to); my body is changing to the positive and is looking better, and although it will take a while to get to the body I want, I am more confident I will achieve it, and if I don't I know I am going to feel better.

Another interesting thing Celia Hawe says in her book is, "...many diet program advocate sticking up a photograph of someone whose body you wish yours could look like, in a place where it might prove a timely reminder, such as the fridge door. But you are not Julia Roberts or Kate Moss, and never can be." (Ibid p.33) This released me in so many ways from feeling like I had to be a certain way. It gave me room to be me. I needed that. I needed the space to be myself, to discover my own body and shape and size and feel more like I was on an adventure than the horrific I'm-on-a-diet-and-exercise-plan-to-lose-weight mentality.

I like SMART goals, and this book. It is helping me change, mentally and emotionally, what needs to be changed in order to progress, not just get caught in the yo-yo weight loss I've done forever in the past. In short, I am encouraged to the core of my being, and I like that. I've needed this encouragement for a very long time, and even though B has tried to instill it in me, I had to discover this for myself. Never fear though, he did help: he got me to buy the book!

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