They are your friend, so long as they are not your enemy

Goals are exciting! Just ask Andres Cantor, the famous soccer announcer. But goals are also tricky business. Just ask this poor schmuck.

Goals have a nasty habit of working against you and not for you if you’re not careful with them. Set a goal that’s too ambitious or too long-term, and it can be discouraging when progress towards it seems slow. Set one that’s too small or easily achievable, and you start to question the efficacy of goals at all.

I learned this lesson after many failed attempts at shedding the pounds over the years. I set completely unrealistic goals (mostly along the lines of: ‘I can probably lose all this weight in like three months!’) and when it became clear those goals were out of reach, I slid backwards.

But goals, when done right, are extremely powerful weapons in any loser’s arsenal. They help keep you on track, provide a good barometer for how far you’ve come, and god damn does it feel good to meet them.

This time last year, I knew losing weight was the little-g goal, but I hadn’t really set any Goals. I was just starting out on this journey, and my past experience failing to come close to reaching any goals I set for myself had turned me off from the whole exercise. Instead, I set vague expectations of where I’d like to end up and by what time frame.

After a few successful weeks though, I realized that I needed to start setting a few goals to keep me on track. The first goals were shorter term: losing 10 pounds each month through the summer. Once I started settling into a grove, the longer-term goals came into focus: first, get back down to 215 pounds, roughly what I weighed by the time I graduated high school. Second, hit the 100 pounds lost threshold. And third, get below 200 pounds, for the first time in roughly 15 years.

So I had short term goals, I had long term goals. The most important ones, however, were those I came up with along the way, the ones that helped bridge the chasm between short and long term.

I’m hesitant to offer advice on what those goals—let’s call them bridge goals—should be, except to say every person’s are going to be different. For some, those goals could center on physical fitness and exercise. For others, it’s all about sticking to a specific diet. Still others will have their sights on a certain clothing size or weight.

For me, my bridge goals centered on running. I started the Couch to 5K app over the winter with an eye on completing my first-ever 5K in the spring. Once I hit that goal, I set another: a 10K by the summer. And when that too came and went, I added yet another: a half marathon in the fall.

Good bridge goals are ones that bring you closer to your long-term goals almost by accident. And as luck would have it, running is a great way to boost weight loss. Much has been written about the “diet vs. exercise to lose weight” debate —a debate I’ll delve into at some later date—but what’s indisputable is that cardio is the best exercise for burning calories and running is the most effective cardio.

By May, my long-term goals were suddenly within sight. I crossed the 100-pounds lost threshold with a few weeks to spare before the 1-year anniversary of this blog, and as I type this, I’m the lightest I’ve been in well over a decade.

But of course, the journey isn’t over just yet. I’m immensely proud of how far I’ve come in the last year—reflecting back through old photos and memories still leaves me gobsmacked sometimes—but I know there is still work to be done and better days ahead. And, armed with the knowledge that I can do it and a blueprint for success, I’m confident I’ll get there soon.