The power of goals

By Lisa Sugarman

We all have goals that motivate us. You know, ambitions or aspirations or intentions that stir and inspire us to fight harder or go longer or be more devoted than we normally would be. And I think it’s fair to say that most people live in blissful ignorance of what they’re truly capable of, unless they have some kind of a carrot to chase that draws out their full potential. Cause let’s face it, when we’ve got some kind of emotional or physical or tangible goal dangling in front of us, it usually makes the wheels turn a little faster.

See, what I’ve always found so interesting is how vastly different peoples’ goals can be. And more interesting still, is how broad the measurement is for achieving them. I mean, for some people, their big goal may just be getting up out of bed every morning, getting dressed, and making it to work on time. While for others, it’s breaking physical barriers like climbing all forty-eight of the White Mountains’ 4000 footers or being the first American Ninja or skiing K2. Or maybe your goal is to smoke less or lose a hundred pounds or do three complete boy-style pushups without your forearms snapping.

And in terms of reaching your goals, think of it this way: A mile is still a mile no matter how long it takes you to run it. In other words, whatever your dream is, you’ll eventually get there at a pace that’s very uniquely your own. Because when it comes to goals, pace is really irrelevant. The bottom line is achievement of the goal, not how long acquisition actually takes.

Here’s the perfect example of exactly what I’m talking about.

Last Sunday, I ran a 5K road race with about 125 of my closest fourth, fifth, and sixth-grade girlfriends; all of whom I coach, along with an inspiring and devoted group of six other women. The race was the climax of our six-week season. We’ve all spent the last month and a half coaching this group of girls, training for and working toward 125 different goals. So interesting, isn’t it? Such a huge group of people, all working toward what appears to be the same end, but with 125 different mini goals woven just under the surface. Fascinating.

Fit Girls Run Club Marblehead. 125 girls strong. 125 different goals. 125 success stories.

Fit Girls Run Club Marblehead.
125 girls strong. 125 different goals. 125 success stories.

For some, their goal was breaking a ten-minute mile or running a sub-eight for the first time. Or running without cramps. Or just making it around the course without stopping. Or without any sort of running-induced vomiting. While for others, just finishing the 3.1 mile run was all that mattered—regardless of how they looked crossing the line. Because after all, tripping into the end zone ass over elbow still gets you the six points, according to any NFL standard. Breaking the plane is a touchdown, regardless of how ugly it looks on the instant replay.

So I’m very proud to say that all of our girls and their friends and families and running buddies broke the plane and got the job done—because pace, as I’ve also learned, is completely relative. Every single one of them crossed the exact same finish line. And the cheers for the first girls were exactly as loud as they were for the last ones. That’s because each and every one of them instinctively knew what it meant to have a goal and to work toward it, regardless of what the goal was. So there was a mutual respect for everyone accomplishing what they set out to do.

And that right there is why I love having goals. It’s why finding something to metaphorically aim at—whatever that something is—ensures that you’re always aiming for something. Because shooting off rounds into wide open space without a target to hit generally won’t score you any marksmanship points. At best, it’ll just graze someone in the ass. That’s because without an objective you can’t very well have a mission, now can you?

Now of course, the best-case scenario is to have someone there with you to hold you accountable to your goal. And while it’s not absolutely necessary in terms of actually being successful, it’s mighty helpful in the long run if you’ve got someone calling you out when you’re slacking off. But not everyone has that luxury. Meaning you just have to police yourself. And while being responsible for ourselves isn’t always that easy, it’s more than doable with some modest effort.

So while it’s most definitely helpful to have a coach or a mentor or a sidekick to help keep your eye on the prize, the most important thing to have is a goal in the first place. Any kind of goal that keeps the momentum going. Because without something moving you forward, you’re really just standing still. And that doesn’t really accomplish anything, now does it?

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on

Traditions help make us who we are

51af975c061ae_imageBy Lisa Sugarman

When you think about it, I’ll bet every one of us has some kind of tradition we look forward to. Those quirky or unique or sentimental things we anticipate every year, or at certain points in our lives.

Things like celebrating the New Year with a Polar Plunge or having a Super Bowl commercials party or running the bulls in Pamplona—although that’s more of a reach goal for me than a tradition at this point. But not for long.

Or maybe it’s something a little more conservative, but no less odd, like watching the presidential turkey pardons on CNN. (Don’t judge, they can be incredibly emotional.) Or maybe it’s an annual tradition like making pumpkin whoopie pies for Thanksgiving or running a New Year’s Day road race wearing nothing but a red bikini and a Santa hat. (People do it.) The point is, we all have our own kooky or meaningful rituals that we get excited about. Things that we either do on our own or share with the people we love, especially our kids.

And Dave and I for sure have our own collection of traditions—special stuff we did when we were kids—that we’ve tried to weave into our life with our own girls. Everything from backyard overnights in pop tents to skiing the White Mountains every winter to running the local Thanksgiving Day road race. And whether they carry them along with them into their adult lives or not, they’re things that will always have meaning to them. They’re memories that will always be able to warm them, no matter where they are in their lives.

One of these traditions is about to make a comeback in our family, if only for one brief day. It’s a memory that I’ve carried for decades, quietly keeping my fingers crossed that my girls would someday be able to acquire their own memory of the same tradition.

Although it’s a one-off, the kind of happening that comes along once and isn’t repeated until the next generation takes their turn, it’s a tradition that’s earned a special place in my heart. It’s the one, the only, Powder Puff football game.

And if you live in Marblehead, or right next door in Swampscott or in another small town somewhere else in the US or Canada, then you know exactly what I’m talking about and the game needs zero explanation. For those of you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m very sorry for your loss.

What I’m talking about is the annual tradition of senior girls playing one winner-take-all touch football game against their arch rivals. A game that, regardless of whether or not you recall the final score, you remember the day with such vivid color that it’s like the memory was doctored with the chrome filter from an iPhone. That’s because the hype and the energy and the unity that we all felt throughout that one football game, could very easily match the hype of any guy’s annual Thanksgiving Day game.

See, it was the one day when it didn’t matter what clique you were in or who your friends were or what other sport you played because party lines were blurred to such a beautiful degree that all anyone saw that day was their football sister running and throwing and catching beside them. Everyone had the same goal of steamrolling the other team and doing as many end-zone dances as possible in forty minutes.

It was a day when the only thing you brought onto the field was your camaraderie. Nothing else.

And now that my senior daughter is only a week away from playing out her own game, I’ve gotta say that imagining that tradition coming full circle puts a lump in my throat the size of, well, a football. And as if the lump wasn’t big enough, imagine how much bigger it got after she asked me what my jersey number was so that she could get the same number and carry on the tradition? Yes, I bawled. It was unavoidable.

Suffice it to say, she ended up getting a different number. Good-old fifty was already taken. But that’s okay. All things being equal, I’m actually happier that she’ll run onto the field with her own number—living her version of the tradition. All that really matters to me is that she thought enough of the experience and of our relationship to even consider wearing my number at all. Proof of the raw power of traditions.

So the bottom line to all this is that whatever your traditions are, do whatever sort of work you have to do to preserve them, because at the end of the day, having them allows us to become a special part of something much larger than ourselves. And that right there is a whole lot of something.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on

Big moments are everywhere you turn

imagesWSDOTDLDBy Lisa Sugarman

Milestones. That’s an interesting word, isn’t it? Especially when you’re a parent.

I mean, it can apply to so many different things. Like, maybe it’s your baby’s first steps or words or solid foods. Or it could be your daughter’s first date or her first ATM card or your toddler finally being able to blow the gunk out of his nose on his own. (That’s a big one.) There are tons of scenarios. Way too many to list off here.

And what I find funny—well, maybe more interesting than funny—is that every one of these landmarks produces a very specific kind of reaction from us. And those reactions can range from absolute joy all the way to full-on-sweaty-palms panic. And everything in between.

Webster’s defines milestones as a very important event or advance. But as far as I’m concerned, at this particular moment in my life, I define it with one simple word. College.

It’s almost impossible to wade through all the sensations attached to watching your first kid click the Submit button on her college applications. It’s weird, because in that tiny moment, while her finger is hovering above the Enter button, all the other milestones you’ve ever gone through as a parent just rush your brain all at once, sort of like a massive blitz on the QB. And in just that split second, while her finger is coming down on the key, your mind goes back to when they were little and still doing a commando crawl around the living room. It flashes to them eating Gerber oatmeal and bananas and taking their first steps and pooping on your duvet for the first time. Good times. Gooooood times.

And while every milestone is significant, this one in particular’s got real teeth, as far as milestones go. It clamps its spikey canines down right around your heart and just bites straight through all the soft tissue in an explosion of emotions. In fact, so much stuff is simultaneously released from the heart at that moment that you almost expect it to stop beating. Yet somehow, it keeps going.

One thing I didn’t expect, though, when Riley finally pressed the button and sent all of her applications up into the cloud, was the overwhelming sense of anticlimacticness. I guess on some level I always imagined that a milestone this big would automatically come with a full fireworks display shooting up from her laptop and at least a high-school-level marching band parading through the kitchen playing Celebration. But it didn’t happen. There were just crickets. Lots of crickets.

I also expected that she’d somehow feel the significance of the milestone the same way I was. You know, in a way that compelled her to want to sit on my lap and burry her head in my neck and want to be snuggled and kissed on the forehead. (I have a slightly overzealous imagination.) Needless to say, I practically had to manhandle her to get a quick kiss before she left for work. I figured out later that what she was actually relishing in was the feeling of finally being free of the ball and chain that is The Common Application.

That’s when I had to remind myself that we all transition through these big moments in our life very differently depending on which side of the viewfinder we’re on. Because as much as I wish that we were all in sync with the way we perceive and feel these big milestones, we’re just not.

When we’re kids, we don’t pay too much attention to the big moments, or, for that matter, anything beyond Friday Night Football and not running out of concealer. As adults, though, we’re hyper-aware of every single second of time with our kids, especially these big life-defining moments. And I suppose that’s just the way it’s always going to be. And that’s because ignorance is bliss, right? I’m sure if I asked my mom what it was like when I dropped my college applications in the mail, she’d probably say that I bolted out of the house to hang out with my friends while she cried herself into a puffy mess on the couch.

So while, in the great scheme of milestones, I feel like the college process is definitely a biggie, I know that it’s just one more in an ongoing, never-ending story of Big Moments that we all cycle through. And the truth is, as much as I feel like this one deserved a healthy pause and some legitimate fanfare, I’m sure that the moment we open the first tuition bill will involve something even more significant. Something like smelling salts seems about right.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on

I feel pretty…oh, so pretty!

By Lisa Sugarman

My forehead is just too damn high. I wish I had more thigh gap. This Bohemian-looking curly hair is throwing me over the edge. Why can’t I be just two inches taller? I wish I had thicker eyebrows. If only my index toe looked a little less like a finger and a little more like a toe.

If you’re a girl, or, for that matter, a guy who has a wife or a daughter or a sister or a girlfriend, then you’re either saying or hearing things like this on a pretty regular basis.

images68XLFG9RThat’s because, according to the Dove beauty products company, only four percent of women around the world consider themselves beautiful. I say again, only four itty-bitty percent. That leaves another ninety-six percent who think they’re somehow flawed. And as far as I’m concerned, as the mother of two daughters and a girls cross country coach, that s**t’s gotta stop.

I see it every day, girls beating themselves up about everything that they aren’t instead of celebrating all the beautiful things that they are. I see it with my daughters. I see it with my friends. I see it with strangers. Because, in addition to writing, I work in a school where I see it constantly. And it’s sad. It’s sad because if we siphoned off even a fraction of the time we spent feeling inadequate and repurposed it to honor the things that make us unique and beautiful, we’d put the anti-depressant drug companies out of business. Because, in the same way that muscle weighs three times more than fat; praise weighs at least three times more than criticism.

Look, I’m sure it would take very little effort for me to write eight hundred words about the things I wish I could change about myself. In fact, I’ll bet you cash money that none of us would have a problem scribbling down a whole list of things we’d like to transform.

But be honest, doesn’t it seem a little absurd to you that most of us focus on everything that’s wrong with us instead of everything that makes us beautiful? Because, when you think about it, conflict, at its roots, stems from unhappy people. And if people could just learn to be happy in their own skins, I think they’d be less inclined to bitch about, well, everything else. Cause in case you haven’t noticed, it’s very rare to find a truly happy person who’s also a complainer.

You and I both know that most of us spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over the things we wish we could change and not nearly enough time celebrating the things that make us the beautiful people we are. That’s because, somewhere back in history, some moron decided to come up with the phrase nobody’s perfect. And while that’s absolutely, one hundred percent true, I think it may’ve caused almost all of humanity to try to prove that wrong and be the first.

It’s just too bad that way back in the beginning, mankind didn’t interpret it the other way around and feel relieved by the idea that perfect is unattainable. I honestly think it would’ve taken all the pressure off every one to try to measure up.

See, I know it’s become human nature to dissect ourselves, no matter how centered or grounded we are. We just can’t help it. Even in spite of our best efforts to withstand the temptation, we’re all more or less incapable of shutting off the urge to focus on our flaws. And I think that’s just because everywhere we turn there are always people around us who we just keep comparing ourselves to, even when we know we shouldn’t.

We start out doing it as kids, always measuring ourselves against the faster or taller or prettier or smarter or more popular kids. And we keep doing it as adults, constantly comparing ourselves to the people we work with, or our friends, or our neighbors. Too many people have this crazy-looking yardstick that they measure everything against—one that measures things like stuff and status instead of heart and soul and inner beauty. To me, it seems like ninety-nine times out of a hundred the things we beat ourselves up about are actually the things that the rest of the world loves about us. Ironic, isn’t it?

Let’s do this… every time we get the urge to diss ourselves, do what George did on Seinfeld and reverse it. Do the opposite. Force yourself to replace the diss with something positive. It worked for George. His entire ridiculous life turned around and everything started going his way. So I feel like it’s got a good chance of catching on for the rest of us.

So repeat after me, I feel pretty, oh, so pretty. I feel pretty and witty and bright! And I pity any girl (or boy) who isn’t me tonight.

There, now doesn’t that feel better?

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on

Seaside Book Nook rates LIFE: It Is What It Is as a 5-star MUST READ!

untitled (3)So apparently LIFE: It Is What It Is made the book reviewer from Seaside Book Nook laugh until her sides hurt. And that, my friends, is about the end-all-be-all of book reviews as far as I’m concerned.

Oh yeah, and they also gave it a 5 sea star must-read review.

See the full review by clicking on the Seaside Book Nook logo above.