Are you setting the wrong kind of goal?

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If you think you need more self-discipline in your eating and lifestyle, then you are probably setting the wrong goal! Most of us set what are called “should goals” – I should eat more salads, I should go to bed earlier, I should drink less, I should snack less, I should exercise more…

The problem with “should goals” is that they are set out of a sense of “should” or obligation rather than what you are authentically interested in…Should goals feel flat, lifeless and often are not sustained. Instead, set a gift goal.


Gift Goals


A gift goal is what Tara Mohr,  leadership guru and author of the book Playing Big, calls a goal that feels joyful to pursue. This gift goal is aligned with your values, what you truly want, and your personality. They feel like a gift *for yourself*. Here are some sample reworks of traditional goals vs gift goals:

  • Instead of eating salad every day, a gift might mean making more warm soup with vegetables packed in your lunch
  • Rather than the goal of going to the gym, a gift goal might be meeting with a friend and doing a yoga class together.
  • Instead of setting the goal to eat a veggie platter instead of a bag of chips, a gift goal might be going for a walk for 20 minutes after work to help release stress.


Gift goals are very personal to each of us – they are in the eye of the beholder.


As part of my 2020 theme “finding my edge”, I have set a gift goal of participating in an Olympic-distance triathlon in June 2020. You might be wondering – how is this a gift goal?


Since the fall, I have been shifting the physical part of my self-care routine to focus on consistently running, biking (indoor cycling) and swimming.

  • I run with one of my favourite people in the world, so that is truly joyful and up-lifting.
  • I have been going to indoor cycling classes where there are lots of people, great music and a great vibe in the class. It is not about the calories burned. It is about finding my own limit and realizing that I can do and enjoying the challenge.
  • And swimming? After about 10 hours in the pool, I have found that swimming (specifically breath control) is getting easier. There is no tech allowed – so I can go into my own mental escape while swimming.

I have gotten into an uplifting groove with this routine. With the consistent cardiovascular movement, I have felt improved energy and mental wellness. I am not approaching this goal from a weight perspective, which would carry no joy for me. I am truly enjoying the process of working on this part of my lifestyle. I am adding in new kinds of workouts, focusing on their purpose and tracking my progress each week. This endeavour is purely for myself. And I am really enjoying it. This goal aligns with my values of health and continual learning. My personality is very much around goal-setting, and working toward something in the future.


After building a solid base this fall, proving to myself that I could enjoy and sustain this routine, I have now taken the plunge and have signed up for the Chinook Olympic-Distance Triathlon June 20, 2020. I have completed two sprint triathlons five years ago, so this triathlon goal is not totally out of my reach. My routine this fall showed me that it is possible to do the needed “work” and more importantly, that I could enjoy this “work”.


I feel excited by this goal. For me, it is a gift for my body to be able to celebrate what it can do and to feel the joy in feeling stronger and faster. I am finding that with some pre-planning and out-of-the-box thinking, I am able to fit in my different training days, usually in the mornings before work or first thing on the weekends, or while my kids are at hockey practice.

Most important, I am enjoying the process of this journey and finding my own edge in this part of my life.

As you think about your lifestyle, what goals have you set as should goals? How can you shift those shoulds into goals that would feel like a real gift for yourself?

Kristyn Hall
Kristyn Hall
Kristyn Hall MSc, RD Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian Calgary, AB.

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