5 Tips for Goal Setting

I always function better when I have a goal to work toward. In high school, I spent hours studying because I wanted to be valedictorian. In college, I spent hours helping with Penn State’s THON because I wanted to dance. Recently, I spent hours running because I wanted to complete a half marathon.

When I decide I want to achieve something, I do it. Some of my goals are easier to reach than others, and some are more meaningful. But you know what? They’re all important.

They’re important because they prove to me that I can do anything I set my mind to. I know, I know—that’s really cheesy and a giant cliché, but it’s true. Setting goals and sticking to them has built my self-confidence, improved my self-discipline and made me a happier, healthier and just plain awesomer (I know that’s not a word; just go with it) person! Whether my goal is to run a marathon or see all 50 license plates while driving, I’m always working toward something that will make me one thing: happy.

Happy Dog

My newest goal in life is to be as happy as this dog. (Source)

Sometimes, however, setting a goal and sticking to it is easier said than done. I’ve set plenty of goals that I haven’t accomplished, and often times it’s because I’ve set myself up for failure—like that time I decided I should start to eat more healthfully the day before Thanksgiving. Yeah… Not my best idea.

Want some pointers to help you set (and accomplish!) your next goal? I’ve laid out a few simple tips to get you started!

1. Start small. Want to run a marathon? Great idea! Want to make your first training run 10 miles? Terrible idea! Turn your big goal into a series of smaller goals. It makes achieving the end result a much less daunting task!

2. Get support. No matter what your goal is, having someone to support you throughout your journey is key to your success. Whether it’s your best friend, your mom or an online community, you’re much more likely to achieve your goal when you have someone in your corner!

3. Celebrate small victories. Is your goal to lose five pounds? Then pat yourself on the back when you snack on a handful of almonds instead of a handful of M&Ms! Want to get an A in your biology class? Then give yourself a high-five when you ace a quiz! Every step in the right direction counts, and you should give yourself credit when you get that much closer to your goal.

4. Learn from mistakes. As important as it is to celebrate when you’re doing well, it’s just as important to recognize that you’ll probably slip up here and there along the way. You might have a second slice of cake or skip a training run, but no goal was reached without overcoming a few obstacles. Don’t let one small mishap discourage you from sticking to your goal!

5. Do it for you. Whatever it is you decide you want to achieve, make sure you’re doing it for the most important person in your life: you! Don’t do something just to please other people, and don’t ever NOT do something because you’re afraid someone else might think it’s stupid, silly or impossible. The best part about setting a goal is the feeling of satisfaction you get after reaching it, but you won’t have that feeling if you’re not doing it for you!

What is one goal you can set for yourself today, big or small? How can you incorporate these tips into achieving it?

Going the Distance

I have some exciting news to share with you all… I ran my longest distance EVER yesterday morning—11.41 miles, to be exact. WOO HOO!

11 Mile Run

Is it just me, or does the little running man look like he’s about to face plant?

I only have four more weeks until my first half-marathon! Can you believe it? If you would have told me I’d be training for a half-marathon a year ago, I probably would have laughed obnoxiously in your face. I mean, this is a girl whose running experience consisted of a year of middle school cross-country until last fall, when I started to train for the Hope Express. Was I physically active before that? Yes. Was I a runner? No.

Sunday’s run was rough. Not only was it longer than anything I’ve done before, but it consisted of three pretty monstrous hills. Luckily, the first one was the hardest, when I still had the most energy. I kid you not, I was probably running uphill for five minutes straight. That might not seem like much, but give it a try before you roll your eyes!

I’ll admit, my legs (especially my calves and my booty!) were begging me to walk throughout my two-hour trek. My brain, however, meant business and told my legs to zip it—sometimes kindly, sometimes… Colorfully.

This run definitely proved to me how important it is to believe in your abilities. Sure, I’ve been training for more than a month now, but that’s only half the battle. Being mentally tough and shutting up the whining voices in my head (Please don’t make me run anymore, please!) is the other half—the more difficult half.

At one point or another, we’re all challenged to do something we don’t think we’re capable of doing. The trick to succeeding, however, isn’t physical. It’s mental. We’ve all heard how important it is to “believe in yourself,” but it’s true! It doesn’t matter how hard you train or how much you practice—if you don’t think you can do something, you can’t. It’s that simple.

So, next time you have to do something that seems so impossible you want to quit before you even start, remind yourself of how [insert super positive adjective here] you are! Tell the Debbie Downers that live in your head to take a hike, focus on how much more awesome you’re going to be after you accomplish this impossible task, and get to it!

What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to do? How did you get through it?

Knowing When to Quit

I’m not a quitter. Unless, of course, you count the time I quit softball in first grade after being tagged out at first base after my first time at bat in my first game ever. I guess I didn’t give things much of a chance back then… Oops.

I’m not a quitter. In fact, I’m a pusher.

Pusher

No, not that kind of pusher. (Source)

I push myself. I pushed myself to make top grades in high school, I pushed myself to spend 46 hours straight on my feet during Penn State’s THON and I pushed myself to attend a giant conference all by myself.

I’ve pushed myself to do some really awesome things. But sometimes I push myself too much.

Part of it has to do with my competitive spirit—I hate to lose, unless I know I’ve done my absolute best. Most of it, however, has to do with the standard I hold myself to. Sure, beating others is a great ego boost, but I’m more concerned about beating myself—never giving less than my best and doing better than I did before.

While that’s all fine and good, pushing too hard can backfire. It can lead to burnout (been there), emotional breakdowns (done that) and, most recently, injury.

Until last week, my knee was killing me due to an IT band problem, and the only reason it feels somewhat better now is because of some anti-inflammatory drug a doctor prescribed me. The thing is, my knee had really been bothering me for three weeks. Three weeks! It took me that long to finally admit that something might be wrong and schedule an appointment with an orthopedic doctor. Between making the appointment and seeing the doctor, all I did was worry that I’d have to stop running and my give up my goal of completing a half-marathon.

It was then that I realized I needed to learn when to quit.

I don’t mean quitting something because it’s tough. If I did that, I wouldn’t even be training for a half-marathon in the first place. I mean learning to quit pushing myself so damn hard all the time and realizing that it’s OK to not only need a break, but to take one sometimes, too.

This might seem like a “duh” moment to some of you, but for me it was an “ah ha” one. As a lifelong over-achiever, I’m hardwired to do a million things at once, do them all perfectly and not ask for help, even if I desperately need it. Pulling back the reins and and listening to myself and my body will take a little time, but it’s an adjustment I want (and need) to make.

Have you ever pushed yourself too far—mentally, emotionally or physically?

Five Ways I Like to Sweeten Up My Life

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you all had a faaaabulous weekend! I know I did—I spent it in California! Don’t worry, I’ll give you all the details in a post later this week.

In my post about controlling cravings, one of my tips talked about finding sources of sweetness in your life that don’t come covered in chocolate. Since I’ve been sugar-free for almost two weeks, I’ve definitely needed to use this tip in my own life! For a long time, if I was feeling sad, lonely or bored, I’d turn to food (and most often, sweets) to comfort myself or occupy my time. Now, however, I’ve found new, better coping mechanisms, and I want to share them with you!

Keep in mind that these are what work for me; what works for you could be completely different! The five items below are simply ways that I like to take care of myself that don’t involve cakes and cookies. These alternatives give me the same feelings of happiness or stress relief, and they’re WAY healthier!

Massage

(Source)

  1. Cuddle Time – This is one of my favorite things to do, yet I never seem to get enough of it! Instead of reaching for a package of Oreos to give myself that warm and fuzzy feeling, I slide across the couch until I’m practically smothering my boyfriend. Hey, sometimes a little human touch is all we need! Besides, I know he likes it, haha.
  2. Exercise – Though a tough workout can suck the life out of me while it’s happening, the natural high I get afterward is SO worth it! If you ever need a little pick-me-up, I think exercise is the way to go—even if it’s just a walk on a beautiful day. For a more relaxing experience, try running or yoga.
  3. Massage – One of my favorite things in the world, a massage can always make me feel better! Though the “real thing” is awesome, a shoulder rub from my boyfriend or self-massage with my foam roller can do the trick, too!
  4. Reading – If you’re like me, a good book can be the perfect escape when you need to get away from reality for a minute. I love being able to immerse myself in another world and forget about anything that might be stressing me out, even if it is just for an hour or so. Though fiction is great, there are some fantastic non-fiction books out there about health and wellness, and sometimes I find those ones are even better at helping me overcome cravings!
  5. Comedy – Laughter is the best medicine, right? Watching television shows like New Girl or The Office never fail to make me laugh, and often times that’s just what I need! If I’m not in the mood for TV, DYAC never fails me.

There you have it! Those are just a few ways that I like to add a little relaxation, laughter and sweetness to my life! These alternatives are more fulfilling, fun and satisfying than any kind of sugary treat you could eat—I promise. Next time a craving strikes, give one of them a try!

What are some of your favorite ways to sweeten up your life?

NEDAwareness Week

Guess what? It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week! To be honest, I didn’t realize that until Monday night. Not too late, but still—I would like to have dedicated Monday’s post to this important issue!

As someone who’s struggled with disordered eating, warped body image and low self-esteem, I know how comforting it can be to connect with others who are going through the same thing. In fact, that connection is what attracted me to the blogosphere in the first place. Reading so many stories about women who have battled and overcome eating disorders gave me a sense of community, even if I never actually met any of them.

Dealing with any type of eating disorder is an incredibly isolating and frustrating experience. My struggles caused me to cut myself off from anything I perceived as a threat, and in college, this often meant avoiding what most people value the most: a social life. As much as I wanted to have one, I simply couldn’t enjoy myself when I was out with my friends. I’d be panicking about how many calories were in my drink, worrying about how fat I looked in my outfit or plotting the binge I’d have once I got home.

I could have used a sign like this back in college! (Source)

Despite my best efforts, my disordered eating eventually killed my social life. I’d get phone calls and texts asking me to go out, but by my senior year, I was almost always saying no. If I did go out, I was the first to go home and had earned the nickname “grandma.” Needless to say, the invites came less and less, until they were nonexistent.

But really—can I blame my friends? No, I don’t think so. None of them had any idea what I was struggling with, and I made no attempt to tell them. I couldn’t. For the longest time, the thought of telling anyone absolutely terrified me.

That’s all mostly changed now. Though I still feel pretty uncomfortable talking to anyone about this (except my boyfriend) out loud, writing is a completely different story. And while it’s therapeutic for me to put my thoughts and feelings down on paper, what I really want my writing to do is help someone else. To have even just one person read my story and know she isn’t alone, that someone else understands what she’s going through, would make putting myself out there totally worth it.

NEDAwareness Week ends March 3, but that doesn’t mean the discussion has to stop there. I encourage each and every one of you to keep the conversation going and to remind each other of just how beautiful and unique we all really are! Not sure how to do that? Check out Operation Beautiful, an incredible movement that’s reminding people how awesome they are everyday with something as simple as a sticky note.

Have you ever left (or found!) an Operation Beautiful note? How did it make you feel?