Setting goals and enrolling accountability partners in your health and wellness journey has long been considered the best way to achieve success. In the past, this work was most often done with the assistance of a personal trainer or, in some cases, self-motivated individuals with a bit of knowledge could give it a go with a notebook and a pen. Fast forward to the digital age and the options for training and tracking abound.
Today’s trainers are amazing partners who are more accessible than ever and armed with upgraded tools. Added to the mix are inspirational social media accounts to follow and activity trackers to chart your progress every step of the way. But when it comes to your personal wellness journey, has the ease with which you can share, care and compete tipped the scales from being beneficial to stressful?
While many are still struggling to get off the couch, others have swung the pendulum too far in the opposite direction, thanks to the 24/7 monitoring that is now available. A glance at your wrist, a scroll through your feed or a virtual check-in from your trainer reminds you of the things you haven’t done that you should or scolds you for the things you shouldn’t do that you have. Is this helping or hurting? Here are three ideas for how you can bring sanity to the unrealistic expectations you may be placing on yourself by tracking and documenting every single thing you do:
1. Accountability Ally
First, what or whomever you’ve decided can help you create and stick to your goals should be viewed as an accountability ally. An ally is a partner and a collaborator.
Whether you are tracking a daily goal on your device, checking in with a trainer or looking to a social celeb for what’s next, the relationship between you and your chosen “coach” should be viewed as a warrior and “walk-alongsider.” (O.K., so alongsider is not a real word, but you get the idea.)
You are the warrior. Your coach is in lockstep with you, providing feedback, suggestions and “atta-boys” (or girls) throughout the battle. You are the one in the fight; you may need coaching here and there, but it’s yours to win or lose.
Avoid treating your coach as the person at the finish line with all the answers. You shouldn’t rely on him, her or it to tell you what to do every step of the way. You’ve trained, you’re on the field, so trust your gut and do your thing. Alternatively, avoid positioning your coach behind you pushing you up the hill. Look to your coach as needed, but trust that you have everything necessary inside.
2. Renegotiate Relationships
Second, your ally should never be seen as a detractor, an enemy or an opponent. From time to time, you’ll need to renegotiate your relationship with whatever coach you’ve chosen because life will get in the way. While a select few dedicated fitness die-hards may be able to surmount any obstacle, most of us need a pass here and there.
If you need a break or foresee obstacles getting in your way for a day, a week or even an extended period, talk it out and be realistic. Illness, travel and work deadlines are all a part of life and so is burnout. While it may be possible to soldier on, sometimes you just need to shift the goal post. And you are in charge of the shifting.
Whether your coach is a real-life person or a virtual one, the renegotiation must start in your own head. You must communicate clearly and align your internal messages for ultimate success. Learn to underpromise and overdeliver for yourself. Commit to goals and outcomes entirely within your control today—don’t aim for something that is only possible in an altered future state. Set goals that empower you rather than add to your stress level. And don’t forget that you can change your daily goals even if you are using a device.
3. Purposeful Pause
Every so often, you should step out on the wire without a net. Turn off the notifications on your tracker, choose and execute a workout alone and ignore social media for a day (or more). Simply move because you can and it feels good.
A lifelong relationship with movement means that you perceive it as a gift rather than a chore. On occasion, our coaches—whether human or digital—need to be turned off to see if this is true. You know enough to make it a day or maybe even a week without being nudged. Listen to your body, do what feels good and trust that whatever does or doesn’t happen will not make or break you.
Your wellness journey is comprised of ups and downs, highlight reels and clips for the cutting room floor. How you react to it all is what defines you. Learn to take a deep breath and enjoy the ride.