Setting Lifelines Not Deadlines

I talk about this more in Flourish: the beauty of setting lifelines not deadlines.

Using the term deadline indicates there’s an end: a result you achieve that is the end, that the process is over at a certain point in time.

This isn’t helpful because often people set goals that are restrictive, impossible to achieve because the deadline is too soon. Rome isn’t built in a day, neither are goals completed quickly. Nothing worth having comes without effort.

You can’t undo years of personal neglect in two or three months and then quit. Goal-seeking behavior is a lifestyle not an endpoint, so to keep striving to maintain health is imperative.

The gym has a whiteboard in the entrance foyer. Every week a new quote is written down. Last week the whiteboard proclaimed: “Don’t seek to be skinny by Tuesday. Strive to be fit. Fitness is forever.”

It’s true: setting a strict deadline to live up to demoralizes you, sets you up to fail. It’s better to remember that changing your life is a long-term process. It starts one habit at a time. Then you change another behavior. And so on.

It takes kindness and patience on the road to a new you. Focus on what you did do instead of what you couldn’t do. Cheer yourself on for pounding the treadmill 2 times instead of beating yourself up for not doing it 4 times.

I suspect a lot of goals people set aren’t based in science. Read the book Changeology by John C. Norcross because he details a scientifically-proven method of changing, a technique to make lasting changes.

We need to remember that it’s not ever too late in life to change something we’re not happy about, either an aspect of our lives or about ourselves. Completing one goal should not be the end; it should be the stepping-stone to other goals.

That’s why the mantra “Fitness is Forever” sums it up well: change is a process, and it’s not the result that counts.

The first part is the hardest. It’s often 80 percent mental, 20 percent the action: in terms of achieving success.

So: set a lifeline, not a deadline.

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Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She owns a resume writing and career help business. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and a fitness buff.

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