How to Achieve a Goal Full of Blood, Sweat and Tears


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The Goal-Getter Paradox

Written by Liz Van Winkle


2019 was the year of the muscle-up…until it wasn’t. 

I started doing CrossFit in the spring of 2012. In that time, I’ve conquered, with relative competency, almost all of the necessary skills. A couple of the last movements alluding me were the bar and ring muscle-ups. So I decided that I would finally dedicate time, effort, and energy to getting those movements into my repertoire. I stated to anyone who would listen that 2019 would be it — the year I get my muscle-ups! 

As resolutions tend to do, working on those 2019 goals started out so well. In January, I began regularly attending Coach Jenny’s Gymnastics Club. I worked on my kipping, lat strength, pull-ups; I was quickly acquiring more power and fluidity on the bar. My fellow gymnasts complimented my progress, encouraging me that I was “so close” and I’d have that muscle-up “in no time.” I fed off of their confidence in me and was feeling great! 

I set a goal date of June 1st to hit that bar muscle-up. June 1st was a Saturday — perfect! I’d be able to do it in Gymnastics Club in front of my coach and all the people who were sharing in this journey with me. I was AMPED. I warmed up, successfully made some spotted attempts, and then I felt ready to get my first one. But, try as I might, thirty five minutes later, my attempts — and my ego — were getting worse and worse. June 1st was NOT the day of my first muscle-up.   

But! I did not despair. “Setting a date of June 1st was totally arbitrary!” I told myself. I still have seven more months in the year of the muscle-up to make it happen. 

However, the lack of a clear plan, along with a wavering belief in myself, I began to get worse. My resolve to practice drills, strict pulling, and even to attend Gymnastics Club was waning as the days without a muscle-up dragged on. Instead of getting up on the rig, I played a lot of Spikeball out on Friendship Beach. I left the gym early on days when I easily could have stayed for twenty extra minutes to practice. 

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All of sudden, it was October. OKAY FINE COME ON there were three more months in the year; time to put the nose back to the grindstone and make it happen! I reset my sights on my resolution and believed I could still make it happen. Attending Gymnastics Club was going to be difficult with my husband’s winter schedule, but luckily, I work at the gym! So I set a goal to “work on” muscle-ups three times a week. Again, I did not clearly define what this would mean (we’ll come back to this recurring, major error in a bit) but I decided I’d at least start logging my muscle-up work. From October 8th to November 30th, I wrote down eight workouts that I did. Four of those were in the first week of logging. 

Are you beginning to pick up my pattern yet? If not, let me spell it out for you. Being overly excited, making an extreme commitment without a clear plan, eventually getting sidetracked, and ultimately not following through. 

Alas, I made one more semi-valiant effort on December 31st 2019. Jenny was once again right there with me, trying to spot and coach me through it; letting me know she believed in me. I knew, though, that I didn’t put the work in. I knew this was nothing more than a last ditch effort to prove to myself that I hadn’t wasted a year. I left the gym on that day crying, with a rip on my palm, feeling like shit. 

I let myself wallow in that ugly-cry, self-loathing mode for the ten minute drive home. 

Sometimes, failure can be the best thing to happen to us. 

Ultimately, I figured I had a choice to make. 

Choice #1 = I could chalk muscle-ups up to something that I just will never be able to do. Tell myself that high level gymnastics is a young person’s game, I’m just not naturally good at that stuff like other people are, I’m too heavy, gymnastics is lame anyway; I’ll just focus on fun stuff like weightlifting… 

Choice #2 = I could use this as a wake-up call; a bigger reflection of my goal setting practices and motivational patterns. Reevaluate and recommit. 

When I pulled into my driveway and had finally composed myself, I read a text from Jeff that said, in part, “having to work harder at something makes it intensely yours. If it was easy you wouldn’t value it or covet it at all. You’re 85% of the way there but what got you to the 85% won’t get you to 100%.”

He was right, of course (why does that happen so much?!). I truly like doing hard things. I want to be challenged by things that I have to work for. And I am surrounded by a community of leaders, coaches, and athletes who share that same mindset and drive. What would I say to another Friendshipper, or my friend, or my child, in this same position? Choice #2 was the only option.  

Onwards and upwards to 2020. 

Based on my process (or lack thereof) and outcomes of 2019, I knew that I needed a better plan. All of the people who are better at muscle-ups than I am have something obvious in common – they are great pullers. So, I made a tangible plan. I would complete fifty strict pull-ups and fifty strict ring dips per week. The beauty here was that I am completely in control of this goal. I either complete the reps or I don’t. Three months on this plan, then I’ll move on to the next stage. 

Setting goals and trying our best — regardless of the outcome — is something that is special. So often we can get caught up in the day-to-day, the comfortable monotony of our routine. When we stop taking the time to evaluate where we are and where we want to go, we find ourselves treading water, wasting our most valuable asset — time. Having something to work on and strive towards helps give us direction, positively influences our choices, and allows us the opportunity to continue to learn about ourselves. No one wants to lead a life without direction, achievement, and pride. 

A goal doesn’t have to be something monumental; in fact, it can be trickier to set out that way. Instead, make a list of things that pave the path to greatness. Doing something epic is really achieved by the summation of checking off smaller goals. It is in the daily grind, the healthy choices, the positive thoughts; one huge moment born of countless smaller ones. 

At the onset of this new year, I also set my intentions on goals for outside of working out. Actionable items to help me continue to strive to be the best coach, employee, mom, wife, daughter, and human that I can be. Gym-related goals can be extremely motivating, and the payoff can feel great, but fitness and physicality are just small pieces of who we are. It is important to strengthen all aspects of our lives and we can set goals to develop who we are just like we can develop what we can do. For me, this means less screentime at home, more reading, additional mindset practice, and getting more sleep. 

Become someone who welcomes challenge, who seeks out ways in which to improve, and who practices correcting course and adjusting when things don’t go as planned. In the event that you’re faced with an unwelcome challenge (an injury, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job), you’ll be ready. You’ll have trained yourself to possess the fortitude, will, and general sticktoitiveness that is necessary to get through whatever you are going through. 

We are lucky enough to have a place to build the mental, emotional, and physical muscle we need to make our lives the best they can be. It is up to you to take ownership of what you want to do and who you want to become. Build yourself a plan and then stay the course. Personally and professionally, I can’t wait to see what Friendship will do in 2020!  

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