Toward Reasonable Goals

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Feeling stressed? So am I.

Not only are most of us busier than we've ever been, working for less money than we've made before, but everywhere we turn there is some new demand placed on us for improvement and perfection. What you could be, if only you had enough. Enough determination, perseverance, self-control, focus, money. Seven habits in 30 days. 20 pounds in ten. Four hours a week to early retirement. From $100 to $1,000,000 in a heartbeat. Meaningful goals. Prioritized objectives. A better you: organized, pulled together, fit, focused, financially sound, sexually fulfilled, regular, balanced and treading lightly on the planet. Millions of ways to help you get a life.

This is what went through my head during a recent visit to the grocery store, and a casual glance at the New Year offerings on the covers of magazines presented at the checkout counter.

Chances are that you will be making some goals for 2018. And I would argue for setting goals that are actually attainable, and likely to make your life more enjoyable when you attain them.

Some advocate setting big and audacious goals. Like this:

I WILL RIDE MY BIKE TO WORK THIS YEAR EVERY DAY, NO MATTER WHAT, RAIN OR SHINE (OR BLACK ICE)!

The problem is that when the bar is set too high, you may give up after a a couple of attempts. Unless you are already fully committed to a car-free lifestyle, there are several things wrong with this goal:

  1. It sets you up for failure. If anything comes up (and you know it will), you have failed.
  2. There is no middle ground: it's either complete success, or it's a failure.
  3. There is no way to redeem the failure. If for some reason you cannot, or choose not to ride on a given day, you have alre ady failed for the whole year.

So instead, why not set modest and incremental goals, which have some very tangible benefits:

  1. They are easier to reach.
  2. They are easier to modify.
  3. They are not likely to make you feel like a failure.
  4. Reaching them gives you a sense of accomplishment, and may encourage you to pursue more ambitious goals.

You could set a small, modest goal like this:

I will ride my bike x-number of miles this year.

This type of goal has some advantages:

  1. It can be broken up into manageable monthly, weekly and daily chunks.
  2. You can exceed you goal! If you exceed it temporarily, it's easier to forgive yourself if you fall behind another time.
  3. Conversely, if you've fallen behind, you haven't failed. You can simply catch up in a week or a month.
  4. Partial success is possible. 800 miles out of a planned thousand is a worthy achievement.

Don't ruin the joy of your biking experience through setting overly rigid goals. Especially if you are a relatively new cyclist. Focus on small victories and modest goals that will enhance your enjoyment of cycling. Like these:

  • I will keep my biking stuff in one place, so it's convenient for me to hop on my bike when I feel like it.
  • I will make a list of places that are easy for me to get to by bike, and try to ride there whenever I can.
  • I will have my bike tuned, and learn how to do a safety check, so that I know my bike's ready when I am.
  • I will challenge myself a once or twice a month to do a bike ride that tests my comfort zone (longer distance, challenging terrain or weather, heavier traffic, etc.)
  • When making my daily transportation choices, I will consider my bike as a viable option.

Here's to the New Year, and millions of car-bound Chicagoans making the switch to the short and doable bike trip!