Why I like (ridiculously) ambitious physical goals.
I’ll admit, there is something to be said for doable goals. Mainly it’s that you can work toward them for a while and then achieve them. It’s satisfying to see definite, measurable signs of progress.
But what I don’t like about those kinds of goals is that they’re over too quickly. If you start with a goal that feels doable you’re limited to only creating goals that don’t stretch you too far, that don’t require deep change. It’s like being stuck inside the borders of the known world. There’s nothing really new to discover.
A ridiculously ambitious goal on the other hand, sets you on the road of discovery.
I don’t know what physical feat you, the individual reading this, would call a doable goal, because in this moment we each have our own capacity. What makes a goal ridiculously ambitious isn’t the actual goal, it’s how hard it is to you.
If the push-up is something you can’t do right now, but with steady work you could do one in 3 to 6 months, that makes it a straightforward, doable goal.
If you struggle with getting up and down off the floor right now, the push-up might not even be on your radar of potential goals because it’s so above and beyond your current capacity. The commitment it will take to achieve the goal can be counted in terms of years, rather than months. I like these kinds of goals. This is a (ridiculously) ambitious goal.
The “ridiculously” is important. It brings levity into holding this goal. You mean it when you say it, but your whole identity isn’t tied up in it.
A ridiculously ambitious goal is one that you’re not sure you’ll be able to do.
I’ve mentioned before that my own personal goal is to be able to do a kong vault. Though sometimes my goals wander a bit to other really difficult physical feats that require a lot of strength and some other qualities, like balance, power, and plyometric elasticity in the wrists.
They’re the kind of things that if one just attempted them they would probably end up with an injury.
I’m not saying I’m a super athlete. What I’m saying is that setting oneself a five years maybe kind of goal not only allows the heart to soar with previously undreamt of possibilities, but it also keeps us focused, gives us something to work towards and keeps us challenging our capacity.
Again the problem with easier goals is that they’re over too quickly. If the goal is too close to the place you’re starting from you don’t really get to take the long road of self-discovery.
What I’m really after here is not so much the Kong Vault (though I am seriously pursuing that goal), my underlying goal is to continue to show up, because continuing to show up and explore my physical limits is what will serve me.
Each goal I attain on the way matters and is deeply motivating. It’s motivating to see change. And because one doesn’t finish with exercise any more than they finish with washing dishes, it’s better to have a goal that I can work on in stages that’s going to take me several years.
Why not choose something that will keep you engaged since you’ll be showing up anyway? And what could be more engaging than exploring the true outer limits of your physical potential?
Maybe you’re thinking that it would be too crushing to spend 5 years working toward something and never achieve it? But failure is impossible. If you keep showing up and lovingly challenging yourself, your capacity in all the domains of physical function will increase. That’s not failure. That’s success.
Or you might be thinking that you’d prefer more instantaneous gratification. Well, instant gratification probably isn’t actually satisfying, but I like a short turnover on my efforts and rewards as well. There will be many measurable rewards on your way to the ambitious goal.
Every ambitious goal can and should be dissected so that you know how to work toward that goal.
Take the Kong Vault as an example. Where to start?
If you look at the motion, you’ll see that there is a leap, which is a motion involving lower body explosive power. This could be achieved by squatting with weight or jumping. Then there is a straight arm impact which would necessitate developing wrist and shoulder strength in both the muscles and the non-contractile structures. This could be achieved by many shoulder pushing exercises and lower level plyometrics for the wrists. Then there is a quick tuck where the knees are pulled into the chest. This involves a lot of hip mobility as well as hip flexor and abdominal strength. And finally there is a slight push off from the arms, which would require a lot of shoulder mobility.
To efficiently create change from where I am now to what’s needed for the exercise, I can challenge each of these motions on their own before I attempt to string them together.
The most straightforward place to start would be in gathering basic strength in a plane of motion that’s similar to the plane of motion used in the completed motion. So, when you look at the arm position for the kong vault you can see that the starting position is pretty similar to a push up. A push up is an efficient body weight exercise that will help gain the basic strength needed. Or if you note the quick, tight tuck you can see that basic abdominal strength is a good starting point, and from there it could be made more specific to the tuck motion.
The measurable rewards on my path to the kong vault include:
- Gaining the ability to do a push-up
- Measurable increases in back extension and glute strength
- Measurable increases in abdominal strength (being able to to a candlestick or a sit-up)
- Increases in wrist and hip mobility (a better squat, which is useful for gardening endurance)
- More shoulder strength and mobility which in turn means that I don’t overload and aggravate my shoulders as often if at all
Basically what I’m trying to say is that if you can do an 18 inch Box Jump,73-Year Old Box Jumps then climbing stairs and getting down to and up off the floor will be no problem. It’s not about the goal. It’s about the lifestyle you want to have.
If you dream for a minute, what ridiculously ambitious goal presents itself to you?