Attainable Goals vs. the World

It’s Friday, January 11. Chance are, you set a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get in shape (in 2018, roughly 45% of resolutions vowed to do this). Yet, statistically, the obesity rate in the United States continues to rise. It’s no secret that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail and merely 8% of those resolutions made are actually achieved.

That’s pretty grim, no?

According to the Independent, athletic social network Strava has determined that the second Friday of the year (that’s today) is unofficially “Quitter’s Day” — the day when motivation tends to falter and a large percentage of that 80% has already given up on their goals. I’m not okay with this and you shouldn’t be either. So what do we do about it?

Ultimately, we start by addressing the problem — your goals suck.

When we make New Year’s resolution, we usually set big-picture goals that are unattainable or we set goals that are too vague to achieve. “I want to get fit” is a great goal on paper but in practice it’s shit. It’s a big-picture goal that you can’t just go out and achieve.

I wear a ring on a necklace inspired by the Uncharted video game series. Main character Nathan Drake wears a ring he lifted from the Museo Maritimo in Colombia that once supposedly belonged to the late English explorer Sir Francis Drake. Engraved on the ring you’ll find 29 Januarie 1596 (the day after the reported death of the explorer), 9-32-79 indicating the coordinates of Drake’s empty coffin discovered off the coast of Panama and the phrase Sic Parvis Magna — a Latin phrase roughly translated as Greatness From Small Beginnings or Great Things come from Small Achievements.

Herein lies the magic secret to achieving your big-picture goals. It’s not attacking a beast of a goal, but instead going after the little devils that make up the beast.

Allow me to let one of my favorite characters illustrate this further:

What Can We Learn About Achieving Goals From Scott Pilgrim?

Scott is an unassuming 23-year-old musician in Toronto that, despite dating 17-year-old Knives Chau (SCANDAL!), falls in love with his (literal) dream girl Ramona Flowers. Scott immediately sets out to talk to Ramona more and start a relationship with her (our hero’s big-picture goal).

But much like we can’t achieve our big-picture beast without first attacking its many devils, Scott can’t have a happy life with Ramona unless he defeats her Seven Evil Exes.

Small Goal 1: Matthew Patel

Right out of the gate, we find one of the hardest things to deal with when pursuing a new goal. Scott has no idea about the League of Ramona’s Evil Exes, even after his first obstacle — Matthew Patel — repeatedly warns him of the upcoming fight. Matthew eventually confronts Scott before a Sex Bob-omb concert. Scott responds by using his existing battle skills (explained in the graphic novels, not so much in the movie) to defeat the first ex. After easily taking down Matthew, Scott is rewarded a measly $2.40 before he and Ramona decide to be a couple.

This was (and will continue to be) Scott’s easiest fight. He didn’t know the situation before him and was certainly not prepared for it. However, he used his existing skillset to knock out the simple hurdle that stood between him and getting closer to living forever with Ramona. You can easily draw a parallel with yourself here — taking that first step, the one that requires arguably the smallest amount of work and only requires skills you already have. If your goal is to get in shape, this step could be visiting a local gym you’re interested in. You know how to drive, you know how to speak, you know how to spend money, ask questions and sign your name (if it’s the right gym for you). Just like the $2.40 Scott received, however, this first step may not result in a big payoff (yet) but it’s a step in the right direction.

Goal 1: accomplished.

Small Goal 2: Lucas Lee

Scott’s next goal requires a little finesse. Pro skateboarder and actor Lucas Lee is in town shooting a movie and he just so happens to also be Ramona’s ex. High off the fumes of his previous win and with hearts in his eyes from Ramona, Scott meets Lucas on set where he proceeds to get his scrawny ass kicked. Lucas is a tough guy and, together with his many stunt doubles, has fighting skills that Scott simply can’t compete with. Realizing this, Scott takes a different approach and convinces Lucas to attempt an impossible and very dangerous skateboard stunt that proves fatal for the cocky actor. Scott learns that some of his foes are going to require brainpower in addition to fighting skills and he’s rewarded $14 in coins and a mithril skateboard he can’t use (because he isn’t proficient in that skill) as a result.

So Scott was feeling pretty good about defeating the first ex — much like you’re feeling good about joining that gym. So you ride high and take off toward your next goal, which could be accomplishing your first workout or losing your first five pounds. But what you may find out is that Keto is an impossible diet to follow or that running is literally the WORST. You can allow yourself to accept defeat or you can be like Scott and decide to go a different path — like Paleo or boxing (two of my personal favorites). If that doesn’t work, you find a different approach. And you keep stabbing away until you’ve accomplished your goal.

Goal 2 Deceived and Achieved

Small Goal 3: Todd Ingram

Todd Ingram is the bass player in the famous band Clash at Demonhead — a band that’s fronted by Scott’s ex-girlfriend Natalie V (Envy) Adams. Once Scott learns that Todd partially caused Envy’s disgusting new personality, Scott calls him a “cocky cock” and attempts to fight him. He’s largely unsuccessful in his endeavor because Todd possesses psychic vegan powers that make him a stronger fighter and better bass player. Envy at one point tells Scott “You can’t win this fight.” In the graphic novel, however, Todd is defeated after his powers are removed by the Vegan Police once they charge him with consuming gelato and chicken parmesan. In the movie, the Vegan Police arrive after Scott tricks Todd into consuming dairy creamer.

While the defeat of Todd happens in two different ways in the two adaptations of the Scott Pilgrim story, there’s a lot that can be learned from this battle. This is another example of how Scott stood up against odds that were heavily stacked against him. And although he was seemingly defeated several times in this struggle, he kept returning with a new approach each time (fighting, bass-battling and cunning). This goes right along with how we accomplished our second small goal above. But I think it’s also important to note that Envy told Scott he was going to lose. I explained in my previous post that sometimes you’re on your own if you want to accomplish something. You will likely be faced with negative people who will either refuse to support you or will try to drag you down every chance they get. Scott was yearning for closure with Envy but he didn’t let her get to him when she told him he was destined to lose the fight. Likewise, we can’t lose sight of our ultimate goal no matter how much those closest to us try to dissuade us.

Goal 3: Tricked into consuming dairy and finalized

Small Goal 4: Roxie Richter

Each time Scott refers to Ramona’s ex-boyfriends, she corrects him by saying “exes.” When he asks why she keeps saying this …

Roxie Richter was Ramona’s college roommate during her “sexy” bi-curious phase and while she still has a soft spot (literally) for Ramona, she is filled with rage when it comes to Scott, prompting her to attack him with reckless abandon. Refusing to fight a girl, Scott gets Knives’ dad to battle her in the graphic novel and Ramona to fight her in the movie. Roxie is then defeated after being touched on her secret erogenous zone behind her knee that Ramona knows and informs Scott about.

Scott certainly did not expect one of Ramona’s exes to be a girl but that was the situation he found himself in. We, too, often don’t expect a lot of the obstacles that are put in our way but it’s up to us to take them on regardless. The fight phrase is Stay ready so you never have to get ready and that certainly applies here. You will be thrown curveballs you won’t know how to deal with and it’s entirely up to you to decide how you handle it.

Roxie’s blind rage and inferiority complex both contribute to her demise but she would have never been defeated had Scott not gotten a bit of information from Ramona. We can often gain access to information that will help us succeed by researching, asking our peers and superiors, and from just flat-out experience! Don’t let the unknown prevent you from achieving your ultimate goal — or even your smaller goals!

Goal 4: Kicked in the balls

Small Goals 5 and 6: Kyle and Ken Katayanagi

In what is one of my favorite movie scenes of all time, evil exes 5 and 6 take the form of two handsome Japanese twins whose DJ act is up against Sex Bob-omb in an “amp vs. amp” semifinals match in the battle of the bands. The twins summon a Double Dragon character from their amp stack that promptly attacks Scott’s band, blowing them over and nearly destroying their equipment. The crowd is impressed and the venue’s roof is blown off. Unsatisfied with the outcome and enraged by the sight of Ramona hanging with Gideon, Scott rallies his band and stomps his Yeti distortion pedal, which summons an actual Yeti that obliterates the Double Dragon and, ultimately, the twins.

Sex Bob-omb lead man Stephen Stills is none-too-pleased to find out they’re facing the twins in this semi-final matchup, drawing up a diagram of them and proclaiming that they are “totally badass.” But Scott doesn’t care — he’s angry, he’s determined, he’s focused. This leads him to keep his head on straight despite the minor setback during the show. We, too, will suffer many setbacks while achieving our big-picture goal. Unintentional weight gain, a missed gym session, a failed diet … anything can derail us but with enough focus (and distortion) we can overcome any double-dragon that gives us grief on our journey.

Goals 5 and 6: Desecrated

Small Goal 7: Gideon Graves

In the film adaptation, Scott enters Gideon’s newly opened Chaos Theater where a Scott-less Sex Bob-omb is playing a show to celebrate their new record deal with G-Man (Scott’s bass-playing duties being assumed by Young Neil). When he makes his intentions to fight Gideon known, Scott confesses his true love for Ramona, earning him the Power of Love sword (he receives this earlier in the graphic novel). Gideon is able to take the sword from Scott and kills him with it, sending Scott to a dreamlike afterworld. Fortunately for Scott, he received an extra life after defeating the twins that he uses to return to the club for a do-over. This time, he has a new focus — he wants to fight Gideon for himself. This motivation leads Scott to slay Gideon who shatters into 7,777,777 coins that rain on the crowd.

Scott had good intentions when he entered the club on that fateful night but his focus was skewed. At this point, his motivation was to simply achieve the goal because it was what was expected of him –- it was just what was “next” — and he paid for it with his life. While dying as a result of turbulent focus is a little extreme, it’s safe to say that we often let the overall goal overshadow our reasoning for achieving it in the first place. In the weight-loss example, we can be motivated by the desire to lose weight or look good in a bikini, but in the end, our goal should focus more on what we can prove to ourselves than what we can prove to our peers. A desire to show yourself what you’re capable of or make yourself happy can often be stronger than the desire to impress others. This is illustrated when Scott respawns in the club and alerts Gideon that he’s there to fight for himself. The focus has shifted and the passion has renewed. Regrouping and approaching with a fresh mindset is totally allowed while going out to reach our final goal.

Goal 7: Achieved and reward collected

Bonus Level Goal: NegaScott

Jumping back to the graphic novel version of the story, NegaScott appears to remind Scott of all the mistakes he’s made in the past. In the final volume of the story, Scott wants to battle NegaScott, looking at him as another obstacle to overcome, but Kim encourages him to stop running and accept responsibility for his past. This decision causes Scott to merge with the Nega version of himself, thereby restoring his memory. In the film, NegaScott emerges as a final boss once Gideon is defeated. A battle is not shown, however, Scott and NegaScott are seen having a friendly conversation about a hip brunch spot, presumably having made plans to meet there.

More often than not, when we go on life-changing journeys it ends up being ourselves that act as our biggest obstacle. Just like Scott, we often remember our past failings — the opportunities we missed, the whole pizza we ate, the workout we missed, the money we wasted — and instead of accepting it and moving toward our greater goal, we choose to battle the memory. This causes us to stay in a constant battle with our past selves instead of putting our effort into our future selves. In doing so, you’ve made yourself your worst enemy.

But in reality, we could just as easily be our own best friend! In the story, Scott explains that he and NegaScott surprisingly have a lot in common and in choosing to befriend his past mistakes and work with them, he’s able to gain the confidence to press on with his mission of making Ramona his forever. We, too, are much better off when we accept our mistakes, learn from them and stop battling them. Maybe even offer to take them out for brunch.

Bonus Level Goal: Taken out for French Toast and Achieved

Though it may have required getting started with an existing toolset, trying something different after failing, ignoring naysayers, asking for help, staying focused in the face of the impossible, changing focus mid-goal and accepting his past screw-ups … in the end, Scott Pilgrim was able to hold Ramona’s hand as they gravitated toward their next door in subspace.

A life with Ramona Flowers is a difficult goal to achieve but one worth chipping away at and fighting for.

Just like your weight-loss goal.

Or creativity goal.

Or financial goal.

Or travel goal.

Or any other goal that’s worth setting.

If you want more geeky info on setting attainable goals, check out this article from Nerdfitness.

So what are YOU doing in 2019?

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