So, yesterday I had a rather satisfying breakthrough moment; I completed my first muscle-up. Muscle-ups, a kind of rhythmic pull-up that requires you to pull yourself above the bar as though you were trying to climb over it, have always been an extremely difficult movement for me. While I am rather strong and very well conditioned, a muscle-up requires gymnastic and explosive qualities that I simply don’t possess. Achieving this movement was about much more than just being able to do some trivial physical feat, it was about achieving a personal goal I had set 8 weeks earlier.
On the day I walked into Crossfit Hartford (the first crossfit gym I’ve ever been a member at), I set an 8 week goal to achieve my first muscle-up. Over the weeks that followed, I supplemented my traditional workouts with additional drills and mobility work that would help me to gain the needed abilities to complete a muscle-up. Then yesterday, 3 days shy of the 8 week mark, thanks to my amazing coaches at Crossfit Hartford (Pagan, Talbot, Durrett, Doyle, Norland and Stef) I hit my goal.
I didn’t just do something difficulty, I laid down the gauntlet that I was going to achieve something within a specific timeframe, and I did it. I’m not going to lie, it felt fucking amazing. That feeling that comes from personal achievement is something that simply cannot be replicated in other areas of life. No matter how small the goal, achieving it creates a sense of confidence that motivates us on to the next goal. As I sat there feeling that sense of accomplishment, and yet already planning my next personal goal, I was immediately reminded of a conversation I had with my younger (24) brother just a few weeks ago.
While walking around manhattan, my brother and I were debating the meaning of being goal-oriented. Our fundemental disagreement centered around whether having goals and being goal-oriented are truly one and the same thing. It was, and is, my belief that they are related but not interchangeable. Having goals means to have a destination in mind (not matter how far off they might be). Being goal oriented, however, means not just have a destination in mind, but also setting checkpoints along the way to ensure you’re still on-route. I believe whole-heartedly in this difference, because I believe that being goal-oriented is a more rigorous and deliberate way of living. It doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a better way to live, but I do feel that it is a more effective way to live… IF achieving your goals is important. I myself have lived in both of these categories and when I made myself into a goal-oriented person, my life made a 180 for the better.
From the time I was young, I always had these big audacious goals. Whether it was saying that I would one day start my own company or that I would continue my athletic career at the collegiate level, I had no shortage of “goals” that was sure I would one day achieve. Fast forward a few years to my sophomore year in college and I was overweight and underachieving. Weight about 225lbs and maintaing about a B- average, I could not have been further my goals of a few years ago. In fact, I was wandering further and further away from them with each passing day. That was until the one day I realized the truth of the situation. While I had a vision for the future, I had no roadmap to get there. I had nothing to strive for on a daily or weekly basis to keep me motivated and focused.
I can’t tell you what made me come to this realization or why it happened so quickly, but I immediately decided that I needed to make a massive change. I had to do more than just set goals for the future, I develop a series of shorter-term goals that would keep me on track. My quest to change myself didn’t start by changing my big goals – I still wanted to become a collegiate athlete and put myself on the academic track to be a corporate leader – rather it started by figuring out what steps I could take right now to put myself on track to reach those bigger goals.
The first thing I did was make a commitment getting physically healthy. I decided that I would make a real attempt to walk onto the Lehigh wrestling team that coming fall (less than 6 months from the moment I made the decision). The second thing that I did was make an academic commitment to finish each semester with a better cumulative GPA than the semester before. To keep myself focused I would set additional daily/week goals that I could continually check-off. These goals were things like, “Spend an hour a day in the library” or “run 25 miles every week.” I slowly morphed into a different person. I naturally became more organized and efficient. I also started to see that the more I stuck to my plan, the greater the results I saw and the easier it became to stay committed. In less than 7 months I had taken myself from 225lbs and a 2.7 GPA to 157lbs and a 3.0 GPA. I walked onto the Lehigh Wrestling team and made myself a true academic leader. But, most importantly, I turned myself from a person who had goals to a goal-oriented person.
Over the past 13 years, since my sophomore year in college, I’ve centered my life around this idea of being goal-oriented. I’ve challenged myself to improve physically, mentally, professionally and emotionally. Along the way I’ve achieved things I’ve never thought possible. I’ve built my own companies, I’ve visited 30+ countries, I’ve run a 3:18 marathon and even overcome my battle with depression. But, with each success, comes the increased hunger to achieve more. I’ve become addicted to the struggle for progress because of the high that comes from achievement. Some may say that’s a terrible way to live, but I see it as the most satisfying way to live. Why? Because, I get to feel that real elation of achievement on a regular basis. Without knowing what success truly feels like, or being truly aware of my own capabilities – how would I really be able to believe that I can achieve those big audacious goals that I see in my future?
In the end, achieving that muscle-up (the first new goal I’ve set and reached since moving to Connecticut) stood for something so more than the movement itself. It was a true reminder of the importance of not just having goals, but of being a goal-oriented. Over the next 6 months I’ve got some pretty big and audacious goals. I may not achieve every single one of them, but the key to me achieving any of them will be based on my commitment to setting small attainable milestones along the way.
So I ask you, what are your goals and how are you going to achieve them? Because the how is much more important than the what.
**Thanks again to my friends and coaches who truly motivate me. I’ve been blessed to have a group of people – you all know who you are – who challenge me to become my best-self on a daily basis.