Lower Your Expectations

I got a Fitbit about a year ago, paid for with some last-minute expiring airline miles. Since then I’ve been wearing it almost every day, tracking my steps and activity levels for the past 12 months.

In the warmer months, I would fairly easily reach the standardized goal of 10,000 steps per day, especially if I went for a bike ride (somehow it knew my legs were moving?). But as I started working again, the combination of sitting at my internship, standing in place at my retail job, and lying around exhausted at home meant that on the average weekday I would only get 6,500 step – sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. This was significantly far off the goal of 10,000 and there was no way that I would go for a 3,500 step walk after I got home from work. Nope, 6,500 would do for the day.

10,000 steps is the “recommended” amount of steps to maintain weight, but it’s also just one indicator of activity, and a pretty arbitrary one at that. That’s why in January, I lowered the goal on my Fitbit app to 8,000 steps a day.

At first I felt guilty. Couldn’t I just step it up? Was I really so lazy/out of shape/worthless/exhausted that I couldn’t meet this bare minimum? This was supposed to be a key barometer of fitness?

Over time I realized that though I had decreased the expected steps per day, I was actually walking more. Instead of averaging 6,500 steps, over the past month I’ve hit 8,000 every single day. Now when I get home from work with only 6,500 steps, I know that just one quick walk with my dog to the cul de sac up the street will get me to my goal. I’m much more likely to do that quick walk than try and rally myself for a 30 minute plus hike to get to 10,000 steps. And once I started hitting my goal regularly, I found myself even more motivated. now that I’ve hit my step goal every  day for a month I am reluctant to break the chain of success. Now even if I’m 2,000 steps off of my goal I’ll walk in place while I watch TV or pace around the house while I’m on the phone.

A lower goal has actually led to increased activity.

I’m trying to apply this logic to the other goals in my life. Sometimes that means shifting my thinking from “play ukulele for 30 minutes a day” to “play ukulele every day”. Sometimes that means being more realistic about how much money I’m actually expected to make this year and pushing myself to earn just a little bit more than that.

Setting a more attainable expectation means that I’m more likely to achieve it,  rather than giving up along the way, and thus I’m able to slowly increase my goals, meeting them along the way.

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