Keep Two Thoughts

Personal essays

Goals - Essay from Newsletter 72

Action vs Aspiration

Long term

Sunday would have been my 28th anniversary.

I suppose that’s not correct.

Sunday was still the 28th anniversary of the day I got married. The fact that Kim is no longer with us doesn’t change that fact.

I’d looked at her parents and my parents and had thought ahead to the day that Kim and I would have celebrated our 50th anniversary together. We didn’t even make it to our 25th.

For the past four years I’ve both celebrated our anniversary and the 24 years we had together and commemorated it by visiting her grave.

A 50th anniversary isn’t the sort of goal I want to talk about today.

You can do the things you need to do to make it to 50 and still not get there.

There’s nothing wrong with aspirational goals. Looking forward to 50 reminds you of marriage being a long race you run together.

It helps you recommit.

It reminds you to take care of yourself.

It helps you plan.

If you really want to work in a certain field, what is it you need to do now to prepare the way?

Medium term

A few months ago I noticed that I’d lost enough weight that if I continued at even half that rate, I should be able to be down to my wedding weight by my anniversary.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t make it.

Hitting a specific weight is also not the sort of goal I want to talk about today.

Getting to that weight is, perhaps, more in my control than getting to my 50th anniversary.

But really, all I control are the actions I take each day to get to that goal.

Having the goal kept me eating right and encouraged me to add exercise. The exercise resulted in some weight gain. It sounds like a feeble excuse but I can see that my body’s composition has changed.

So what

Here’s the problem with a specific weight goal: if you miss it, it’s demoralizing. There’s a huge “what’s the point” in the back of your head and it’s easy to just stop all the good things you’re doing.

A friend texted, “so what. Choose another date.”

It makes sense.

But missing goals has a real effect.

Kim smoked cigarettes when I met her. I didn’t want to be married to a smoker but I wanted to be married to her. She agreed to quit smoking but only wanted to quit once. She wanted to quit and be done with it.

It took her three times. The second time was on our honeymoon. I think by 28 years ago today I was begging her to smoke again. The third time was that new year’s eve.

To her, smoking was linked to studying so she asked if I would mind until she finished her Masters that May - nearly a year after we were married. She finished her Masters and quit smoking and that time it held.

So when it didn’t work the first time, Kim was years ahead of my friend’s advice, “so what. Choose another date.”

Allowing time for change

A friend of mine was engaged in losing weight slowly years ago.

She just wasn’t in a rush.

She steadily lost weight at a rate that would frustrate other people but she said something that made a lot of sense to me.

Think about all of the people we know who have lost weight quickly.

Many of them put that weight back on.

She reasoned that it was because in their heads they were a heavy person who had lost weight.

With her slow and steady approach, her mind had time to adjust to her as a person who honestly is this new weight.

She could look in the mirror and see herself as she was.

She could adjust her food and fitness as she evolved.

Short term

I was overweight when I met Kim but during the year we dated I put on thirty pounds.

During our first year of marriage I put on another thirty pounds.

Over the next twenty years I gained and lost a little here or there. I mostly gained. Whatever it was, I never made up for those two years of massive weight gain.

Pre-pandemic I spoke at a lot of conferences and even if you allow for the camera adding ten pounds, my lifestyle had added the rest.

And so I set my sights on first getting down to my wedding weight and then getting down to the weight at which I met Kim.

I made concrete goals for cooking and eating each day.

Those are goals that I can meet. Did I get enough protein and fiber and not too much fat and sugar.

I made concrete goals for moving and exercising each day.

Those are goals that I can meet. Did I walk enough? Did I take the time to do something strength related?

Those are the goals I am talking about today.

If I do all that I need to do and don’t meet my deadlines for weight loss… so what. I’ll choose another date.

Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 72. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe

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