A Sustainable You

We live in a culture where there seems to be constant pressure on how you can become a better you.

A Sustainable You
Photo by Noah Buscher / Unsplash

We live in a culture where there seems to be constant pressure on how you can become a better you. How do we become better informed, have better health, have better fitness, a better marriage, better parenting, better Jesus follower, better neighbor or citizen, the list goes on and on… 

What I have always found difficult is not aspiring to be better in one or more of these areas, but actually doing it and doing it for a substantial length of time. We set goals, we have dreams but we either delay in starting a plan to achieve them or we start a plan and realize it isn’t a very good one. 

Here’s the problem with becoming a better you, there needs to be a plan or process that is sustainable in order to achieve that next level. 

Key Thought: “If you don’t know if it is sustainable, you can’t know whether it will be successful 

 Let me give you three tips for creating sustainable plans or processes that will help you achieve your goals:  

  1. Be Realistic 

Becoming a better version of yourself is all about dreaming and having a vision of what is next, what is greater than what you currently have. It is great to dream big and to have grand visions, the most successful people are the ones who listen to those God-given dreams. 

But, within those dreams there is also a reality. God is not just a God of the supernatural, but He’s also the God of the ordinary and the practical.  

For example, if you currently are in a less than desirable physical stage and you decide to take up an active hobby like hiking, your goal needs to be realistic to your ability. Meaning, if you are now just getting off your couch and you have a big vision and goal of how you will see this fitness reality come in to play, your big goal shouldn’t be to hike the Arizona trail (800 miles long from Utah to Mexico). Maybe that’s your 5-10-year goal, but in a years’ time you aren’t going from the couch to completing a hike that would take 30-40 days. But, you could probably hike the Grand Canyon (17-20 miles long down and up) which is a very realistic one day hike that won’t be easy, but is achievable. 

One of the pitfalls dreamers fall into is they dream too big and overestimate what they can do in the short term, but underestimate what can be done in the long term. When there is a realistic element to setting our goals, we can stretch and pull ourselves in a way that will be difficult, but not impossible.  

  1. Start Slow 

Going hand in hand with being realistic about our dreams is starting slow in implementing the plan of that dream. This is the mistake that the non-dreamers, the doers seem to make so often.  

You have a dream/goal/vision and you just want to achieve it right away so you jump in to the deep end before you are fully ready. We said before you aren’t going to move from the couch to hiking 800 miles in a year, but you probably aren’t going from the couch to hiking a 6-mile trail in a day either. 

I believe this is the number one reason so many resolutions fail is because people who were doing nothing think all the sudden they can work out in the gym for an hour, read for 3 hours, pray for 30 minutes, eat healthy every meal. All of those are great things, but if you aren’t progressing slowly towards those levels, its bound for failure. 

What often happens is you try to go from 0 to 60 and either you fail completely, get discouraged and quit OR you “complete it” but cut corners along the way to where maybe you finished that hour workout but every technique was awful and won’t lead to long term results. You tell yourself you prayed for 30 minutes that day, but 20 minutes of it was spent dozing off or thinking about what you have going on that day. 

What starting slow allows us to do is keep that big goal out there (hiking the Grand Canyon), but taking small steps to get there (2-mile hikes 3 times a week for a month, 3-mile hikes 3 times a week for another month, etc.). And that allows us to measure progress along the way rather than just the ultimate completion of that goal. 

  1. Know Your Stage of Life 

The final piece of creating these sustainable plans to achieve our goals is being aware of the people and the situations around you. Does your spouse, parents, and the people who love you want you to have better health, a better spiritual life, and be happy with what you are achieving? Absolutely! But it’s important to ask at what cost? 

We may progress quickly towards our goals and see the increasing results and have the ability to exercise more, read more, spend more time on that new hobby, but what are you taking that time from? If you are married, have kids, and started a new exercise routine that takes an hour a day, 5 days a week, that’s great! But is that an additional hour your family doesn’t see you and you don’t get to invest in them? 

There is always an opportunity cost with bettering ourselves and often the cost is worth it, but what if the cost is creating angst at home or more stress in our jobs or strains on our friendships or stepping back from church? If you have a baby at home or little kids, it may not be sustainable for your family for you to be gone 10-12 hours every day. 

What often happens when we work towards goals without recognizing the stage of life we are in it leads to personal burnout or burnout from those closest to us because we are taking on more than we can balance, we are stealing from the wrong sources.  

My prayer for myself and you in this next year is that you dream big dreams, you set goals, you create new habits/plans/routines, and you become a better you! But, do so in a way that the better you can be a sustainable you.