Modifying goals to fit the situation: a primer


We all start every new year with a list of goals, even if we don't make formal resolutions. Whether those goals involve fitness, mental health, our relationships with other people, the level of cleanliness we can achieve in our cars or houses is immaterial: sometimes, things happen that can throw us off track.

Take Crabby's recent foot injury, for example, and her reaction to it. Rather than sink into the couch with a permanent pout on her face (well, a *deeper* permanent pout), she experimented to see what she could do to stay active without further damaging herself. It might be overstating the case to say that she found things to do that she enjoys as much as running, but at least she kept moving.

Or, take my recent discovery (since it *is*, after all, all about me) that I have become quite frighteningly hypertensive.

Yep. Stage I hypertension (defined as a systolic blood pressure at or above 150 and/or a diastolic at or above 90) is in da hizzouse! It was a shock to learn that, especially as my BP was a nice, healthy, boring 110/68 as recently as March. Now I'm in stroke, aneurysm, and cardiac muscle remodeling territory.

That discovery brought my planning for the next year to a screeching halt and made me re-evaluate my short and long-term goals. I had to change my planning, change the things I wanted to do to meet the goals I had, and add another short-term goal to my list (ie: bring blood pressure back to a healthy level).

There are three very important things to do when you get hit by A Change In Circumstance.

The first is to look at the root cause of the problem that's causing the change. If your problem is, say, a workout-related injury, you'd take a look at your shoes. Are they worn out? Were you exercising, a la Coco, in stripper heels, thus spraining an ankle during your burpees? Were you overtraining? Were you just plain doing something wrong?

The second step, once you've identified the problem, is to take concrete actions to change it. For the Crab, that involved walking rather than running, and doing more low-intensity, stationary stuff. For me, it meant ditching everything in the pantry, fridge, and freezer that had more than 5% of the RDA of sodium in it. Then I made a grocery list of foods high in potassium and low in sodium. Just doing those two relatively simple things reassured me: it meant that I have control over this situation, at least to some degree, and thus can solve the problem.

The third step is to figure out ways to incorporate your change in circumstances into your long-term goals. This one is a toughie: if I can't eat any of the delicious, low-point, high-protein Boca Burgers I'd been snarfing down at an astonishing rate, how will I continue to lose weight? If Crabby can't go for her daily runs, how will she keep from strangling random strangers on the street?

The trick to making the third step work is to break your Big Goal down into much smaller baby steps than you might think is logical. Rather than looking at progress on a monthly or by-mile or by-five-pound scale, take it down to weekly, quarter-mile, or two-pound scale. That'll help you keep track of how well your Situation Modifications work with your Overall Goal.

I won't lie: even a minor roadblock can be a serious mental and physical blow. Not being able to do what you want to do sucks rocks at the best of times; it's worse when not being able to do what you want means that you'll have to reach a cherished end-point more slowly. However! It's important to remember that in most situations, we can keep control of at least a few small things, thus staying--and I hate to use this word, but it fits--empowered, and able to change our lives for the better.

Now I'm off to go clear the last cabinet and check my BP for the morning. I still intend to be able to run a 5K this spring, and I intend to be able to do it safely. In a weird way, the discovery that I'm hypertensive will actually *help* me achieve that particular goal, as the AHA recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate cardio daily for folks like me.

That's lookin' on the bright side, ain't it?

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