How many of us set massive goals for ourselves, especially around the New Year, only to give up soon after we notice we’re not making progress as quickly as we hoped? Or after that first moment we backslide slightly? It’s easy to drop out when the gap between today and our ultimate goal is large, looming, and overwhelming. It’s especially easy to walk away when we’re too focused on outputs, failing to notice the progress we’re making on our inputs.
Let me share more about what I mean by outputs and inputs, specifically.
Many of our patients come to Sound Medical Weight Loss for support during their weight loss journeys. Each patient’s goals are different: some have output goals (for example, to reach a certain number on the scale, or a certain jeans size) and others have input goals (for example, to be able to walk for 30 minutes six times a week).
The difference between the two?
We have full and complete control over our inputs. We can control whether we get that sixth walk in or not. In contrast, we have some control over outputs (e.g. we can impact our weight via our eating and workout habits), but outputs are also driven by other factors that may not be directly in our control (e.g. hormones, genetics, etc.)
If you’re always thinking about and obsessing over the outputs – for example, on the number that shows up on your scale – you’re bound to feel frustrated at times, and blame yourself/feel depressed for things that could be outside of your sphere of influence. This goes back to the failed New Year’s resolutions – have you ever tried your hardest at something, expected to see a certain result, failed to see that result, and then gave up entirely because you didn’t see the point of working so hard?
A well-circulated quote I’ve seen comes to mind: “Do not let what is out of your control interfere with all the things you can control.” -unknown
Focus instead on the inputs, on the hard work itself. Focus on your consistency – on meditating for five minutes daily this week, for example. Let success simply be that – not on what that meditation might help you achieve. You’ll be much more in control, will find joy in the process itself, and are much more likely to be pleasantly surprised by the outputs in the end.
A powerful role model here is Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who loved going to school. At 11 years old, Malala, along with her other female classmates, were no longer allowed to attend school once Taliban extremists took over her town. As young as she was, Malala began to speak out publicly on behalf of herself and all the girls in her town for their right to learn. This made her a target – and is why she was ultimately shot in the head by the Taliban. Miraculously, she survived, and even as she was in her hospital bed recovering, she again began plotting to speak out even more loudly for girls’ right to education. She established the Malala Fund, which ultimately earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
Malala’s focus was laser-like on the inputs – on speaking out against extremists who outlawed girls from going to school. It earned her a Nobel Peace Prize, an incredible output. It’s almost impossible to think about Malala focused on the Prize itself, though. That was an achievement – not the goal.
Let Malala be your model for the big journeys you’re taking. Focus on the inputs, on what’s important to you, and on what you can control. The outputs will come, and you’ll find yourself able to be more compassionate and patient with yourself along the way.