When it comes to setting goals or assessing progress, the common advice is to make your goals measurable.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure is the popular cliché.
The big question that often goes unchallenged is:
What are you measuring?
In a culture that encourages us to always push or strive for more, we can end up chasing a path to “progress” that leads us far from what we actually want most.
Take exercise as an example. You can set goals to be able to lift a certain number of pounds or run a certain distance or at a certain speed.
You can measure many different scores and types of metrics.
I have goals like this.
But by far my most important metric is found in what happens outside the gym. Because I don’t workout just to workout. I workout to fuel my life.
This metric isn’t always quantifiable, but it is clear:
Can I do the everyday activities of life? Can I do it all without pain?
An important function of exercise for me is the dopamine hit that “plugs in my brain” and facilitates my work.
I also exercise for the endorphin rush, and for the feeling of accomplishment I have when I do something I previously thought was outside the realm of my capacity.
That sense of accomplishment fuels my confidence and translates to my willingness to be seen in my work: to promote my business, to stand in my value, to outreach to clients.
I’m not training for the Olympics, for the CrossFit games, or for any other sport-specific competition.
I’m training for life.
To feel good in my body.
To have longevity in my body.
To reduce distress in my nervous system and keep myself regulated.
I train to keep my body in good condition to do the activities I love: flying trapeze, trampoline, swimming, hiking, climbing. And I train to keep my body in shape to do activities I haven’t yet discovered.
I train so that my body will be “fit for use” in all the ways I use it in my day — activities that I often take for granted and that, if unable to do them would drastically diminish the quality of my life:
Sitting to write and work, teaching yoga, offering healing.
Holding things in my hands without fear of dropping them, driving a car, getting dressed and undressed by myself, loading and unloading the dishwasher, putting dishes away, taking things off and putting things on high shelves or in low cabinets, sitting in and getting up from chairs, beds, the floor, the toilet, brushing my own hair, packing and carrying a backpack or a suitcase, walking city streets, walking up and down stairs, riding the subway while standing and not falling over.
Getting on and off boats, planes, trains. Running for the bus or the train without feeling winded.
Playing with my nieces and nephews. Sitting through a dinner or service or show without feeling pain. Exploring the world.
All of these things – and many more – are more important to me than any PR in the weight room.
Don’t get me wrong — I love pushing myself to a new edge, the thrill of lifting a heavy weight, the high of a new PR. It feels great, especially the ones that come out of nowhere or that I’ve worked toward with discipline over months.
When everything clicks and you can suddenly do something that once seemed like it was out of the realm of even your wildest dreams, it is magic.
But even the highest high eventually fades to memory.
Better than the magic of that one-time lift is the knowledge and confidence that I have the technique to do it again, and the foundational strength to do it repeatedly.
And in the long term, the ability to do the everyday things sustainably — and without pain during or after doing them — will feel better to me than the fleeting high of a PR.
Nothing kills flow or momentum like pain. Nothing puts a damper on your day like the discomfort of pain when sitting, or being unable to move without pain.
PRS are great. Achievmeents and accomplishments feel great.
But ultimately, I am doing this to create and sustain a high quality of living for a long and sustainable life.
I have a lot of years left in me, big work to do, and a lot of the world still to explore.
I want my body to be fit for the long haul.