You can do it (whatever it is)! Here’s how
Jarryd Reed wants to do the splits. This is not just so that the 22-year-old fitness expert and trainer can impress and motivate his clients; it’s part of a larger aspiration. Reed (Personal Fitness Trainer ’21) visits his local climbing gym to keep in shape, relieve stress and have fun.
“But every time I try to do a more complex move on the wall, I can't get my leg up,” he says.
“I don’t have the mobility. My hip flexors and groin are way too tight to get my leg where it needs to go so I can get to the next hold.”
Who’s not climbing toward something?
The new year is often a starting point for pursuing all kinds of goals, not just fitness: pay off a debt, learn to play a musical instrument, eat less sugar, make a career change, and so on. But the approach Reed would suggest for improving flexibility and strength can be applied to any aspect of life where you just want to get a leg up.
Stretching the metaphor, we look at how his plan can be put toward upward mobility in general. Here are Reed’s eight tips for reaching your goal, even if the splits isn’t it.
1. Define the goal
Reed bases his approach to goal setting on SMART, a commonly used tool for putting ambitions within reach. There are variations, but it usually stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. In any case, carefully defining your goal is the only way to start.
“It can’t be too broad,” Reed says. “Be a better climber” would be too big, too fuzzy. Break it down. That is, first learn to do the splits. Or, master and memorize the basic scales before expecting to pull off that blistering guitar solo.
2. Treat yourself right
Say someone is holding onto a coupon for a free spin class but is hesitant, says Reed. Sometimes, a goal requires facing fear, which can take time. Goal-setters need to allow themselves that time. It will help to understand motivations, work out the pros and cons, and commit.
“It gives you a good idea on how to work on yourself,” says Reed.
3. Be realistic
“Everyone wants to go from zero to 100,” says Reed. “That’s how people’s mentality works.”
But that’s not how life works. Not only do you need to choose a goal that is attainable, you have to be reasonable about doing it. Don’t make it too easy; it should still be challenging, says Reed.
“Everyone wants to go from zero to 100.”
But don’t make it ridiculously hard either. You can’t sacrifice three months of your grocery budget to pay off a credit card, for example, but maybe you can trim your latte allowance and put the savings to good use.
4. Choose your friends
“I find that people do a lot better in their goal setting if they surround themselves with people who have similar mindsets,” says Reed.
To that end, he’s enlisted a friend to join him on his path to successfully executing the splits. To make the accountability fun, they’ve even set a friendly wager.
5. Identify obstacles
Reed knows that factors beyond his control might prevent him from doing the splits. But he also knows how he can work around them.
“I did some research on what bones and muscles come into play,” Reed says.
By investigating common challenges at the outset, he found that positioning his body in the wrong way means those bones and muscles won’t align properly. He avoided that from the start. For any goal, some more literally than others, “you have to set yourself up for success,” says Reed.
6. Measure your progress
In addition to setting start and end points for your goal, choose times along the way for assessment, Reed recommends. Once a week, he takes pictures of his progress and measures how much further his feet reach in opposite, somewhat painful directions.
Not only does measurement track forward momentum, it creates a positive feedback loop. Maybe you’ve cut the sugar in your coffee from three to two packs in a month, and now you hardly notice it. Maybe you even feel a little better. Proof that the effort is paying off can inspire more even effort. “It’s really beneficial to see that,” Reed says.
7. Make the most of failure
“People have expectations of themselves,” says Reed. “If you don’t meet them, it doesn’t mean you have to quit.”
To him, it means the opposite. If, say, you’ve yet to take the plunge and start working for yourself by the date you hoped, that’s OK. Return to your plan, reassess the timeframe and obstacles. Let yourself feel disappointed, says Reed, but don’t dwell on it. “You have to realize you can do it better. You have to reset and keep going.”
“People have expectations of themselves. If you don’t meet them, it doesn’t mean you have to quit.”
For motivation, revisit tip 6. Perhaps you’ve done your market research, investigated financing, even looked at the cost of office space. “Nine times out of 10, some progress happened. There’s nothing to be ashamed about. You’re almost there.”
8. Succeed and repeat
Congratulations! You can now do the splits – or whatever you set out to do. Take time to celebrate, but not too much. Now that you’ve achieved your goal, “Make a new one,” says Reed. The top of the climbing wall of life is always just beyond the next hold.
“If someone says they went as big as they could go, did as well as they could do, I feel like they’re lying to themselves,” says Reed. Return to tip 1, stronger, happier, better than the first time around, and start again. “There’s always something you can go on to from that.”
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