Episode 135 | The Moving Goalpost in ACL Rehab

Show Notes:

In this episode, we dive into a mindset episode. The moving goalpost is a phenomenon we all experience in life, but it rings especially true in the ACL rehab process. We cover how this mindset can impact our journey from the initial phases to the very end. If you’re feeling you’re running out of steam or stuck, this ones for you.

What is up team? Getting straight into it today. I’m going to try and keep it short and sweet for you. I remember very clearly during my ACL rehab, my second one in particular, back in 2013, I remember those milestones that you hit. I remember hitting that extension milestone that I needed to. Then I was onto the next, trying to get my flexion onto the next, trying to get stronger onto the next, trying to basically start running, and then on and on it went — the moving goalpost. I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with this. This has been a concept that has been very constant in my life if you will, and I’m sure many of you feel with this. And it’s something we do in life without knowing we’re doing it — the moving goalposts. Let’s dive into this for specifically, let me give you an example that probably applies to many of you listening.

In high school, for me, the goalpost was college; in college, the goalpost was to graduate; and then the goalpost after that was to get my doctorate. And maybe for you, it might be to get a job or go to do the internship or whatever next that might be. After my doctorate, it was to land my dream job. After my dream job, it was to start my own business, then the next thing, then the next thing, then the next thing. You guys get me here. It’s climbing one mountain and then you get to the top of it and then you see another one in the distance with a higher peak. You see something that you’re constantly trying to go after and obtain, and potentially not necessarily satisfied or appreciating the current milestone or the goalpost that you have hit, right? Sure, there are moments where you might appreciate these goalposts, but do we really appreciate them and what you’ve accomplished with it or potentially, the journey to get there?

And I know this one might sound cheesy, but just hear me out. This is something that we all do in life and can really apply to an ACL rehab, and I’ll share that in a second. But I’m just as guilty as anyone when it comes to this moving goalpost phenomenon. And I’ve always been someone who has pushed myself since I was super young. From my story of being bullied as an overweight kid to my ACL rehab, to just first generation of immigrant parents who sacrificed basically everything for me and my brother to come and do our thing here. And it was crazy. We just saw them recently and we were talking about that story. Just really what they had gone through from not being able to speak English, being fired from multiple jobs to just kind of doing their thing and building their own business, and then being able to provide a life for us. And sometimes that feeling of the moving goalpost or feeling this innate pressure of sometimes maybe feeling we owe it to them, right? The hard work that they put in and making it worth it. 

And to some degree, maybe there’s a little bit of merit. But it’s also something that I think internally is what’s expected. It’s to just maximize your human potential, doing what you can as a person and what the gifts you’ve been given. And you think all of these things culminate into keep doing the thing, keep moving forward, keep accomplishing more and more goals. And sure there is merit in that, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes I also do wonder if it is just the culture and current culture that we live in. A feeling you need to just kind of grind, keep striving for the thing, or maybe ” not having enough.” I think sometimes we almost have to anchor ourselves back to like, what is it that we’re doing this for? 

In reality, it comes back to the pursuit of happiness. I know it does for me. And sometimes it’s something that we probably don’t reflect on enough of why are we doing what we are doing. And you guys are probably listening right now. It’s like, “Wow, this is like a deep philosophical episode today.” But I’m feeling a little bit of just energy, if you will, to be able to share these experiences and also how this can really apply to ACL rehab. Let’s dive into it. 

You’re doing this for a specific reason. It’s not because you want to trust me. No one wants to be in this process. It’s because getting through this and accomplishing this whole process allows you to accomplish the other goals that you have for yourself. It’s standing in the way for you to be able to do the thing that you want to do. Your goal right now is to get through this ACL rehab process, to understand it more, and to be able to hit these milestones so you can just do the thing.

How does this concept of the moving goalpost specifically apply to the ACL rehab process? Look, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. We all do this when we’re striving towards goals in life. In this ACL rehab process, it is no different. We are just trying to get to the end, and so we’re just so focused on that. And sometimes what’s going to get us there to that end actually, or maybe give us the nudge that we need, is to actually look back.

So appreciate the incredible work you’ve put in and those goalposts that you have hit. And make sure you’re celebrating every little win in this process. You guys have heard me say this before. But I really do think that given the length of time, it’s not just this four-week ACL rehab recovery, simple ankle sprain, or I pulled this muscle.

It’s a big deal and it could dramatically change your life. It has changed my life in so many different ways. A lot for the positive, but there are definitely some negative sides to it. And I’m sure all of you listening have experienced this. This is where being able to celebrate every little milestone that you hit, every win and every ” goalpost” that you hit is going to be so key.

You got that extension in that heel pop. Dope. That’s awesome. 10 degrees of knee flexion. Right on. Hit 70% symmetry of your quad strength. Let’s go run for the first time, jump for the first time, or maybe it’s just the little things that you don’t even realize. Looking back, maybe it’s being able to actually walk every day or go to school or work without any problems. Not having people stare at you like a weirdo because you’re on crutches or might have a brace. And they’re like, what’s wrong with that person? Or maybe it’s just the ability to literally get in your car and drive, get to a place that you know you weren’t able to do before. Maybe it’s taking the stairs, maybe it’s getting in the shower with ease, going to the gym to just let a stress outlet do its thing. It’s all the little things in this process that we can sometimes take for granted, especially in that post-op, where you’re just like, “Man, I just want to be able to not be in pain or to be able to just go to the bathroom. All these daily things that we do take for granted and then we look back and we’re like, ah, we’re there, we’re done. Check the box.

This is where I’m going to ask you: What does success look like to you? What does it look like for your ACL rehab? And then the thing that I’m going to encourage you to do is write down your next goalpost if you will. Now, I want you to write down your previous goalposts and look at how far you have come. Seriously, write them down. Just write all the little things that you have accomplished, looking back from where you are now and then previously from the injury and the surgery. And then just all the things that you have successfully completed or those goalposts. And maybe you’re early in this process. Set a reminder to come back to this in a month or a few months, then celebrate what you’ve accomplished.

Seriously, don’t just move on. Celebrate. I can be guilty of this and I’m trying to do a better job. So this is also accountability for myself to just kind of celebrate these moments. And then do that repeatedly for the ones to come. But make sure you always look back on this process. Because a lot of times we’re just looking ahead, trying to get to the end, and I totally get that.

But it’s going to be a constant goalpost that’s moving. And think of it, instead of this constant pursuit of the next thing as each goal kind of being its own game or maybe a field or a court that you’re playing on versus this constant goalpost and not appreciating what it is that you have accomplished prior to that. Win that. And then move on to the next thing, the next court, or the next game, or the next field. But don’t forget that record, if you will. It’s really easy for us to reach that certain milestone and immediately just move on the moving goalposts as we’ve been talking about, not either celebrating the current achievement or thinking it is just kind of what’s a part of what’s expected. And I do get that and I am literally the person who’s like, you know what, it’s just what I expected. I don’t need to glorify this. We just need to move on to the next thing. 

But in reality, we also do need to appreciate these milestones and these achievements. And it’s important to celebrate them and it’s important to be able to understand that in life. We always have these moving goalposts, and I think we’ve been conditioned to this stuff to just keep rolling, to get to the end thing and then you’re going to try and make another goalpost after that. What I think we need to do is just take a second to make sure our definitions of success and happiness and what we want this process to look like, the outcomes to align. You also want to be able to look back and make sure that for all the goals that you have met, you can appreciate those and, especially appreciate the journey.

Because to me, you hear this whole process versus outcomes. To me, it really is about this process what you’re learning and what you gain from it, and this opportunity versus the outcome. But don’t get me wrong, everyone wants to get to the end of this and be able to do the thing. I’m all for it. Here we’re trying to be practical and the reality of it, but it’s also to appreciate that journey and how hard you’ve worked.

No one’s going to know that more than you. If you find yourself being hard on yourself or being like, what is this ACL process? I don’t feel like I’m doing anything productive or meeting any of these ” goalposts.” Look back, look at what you have done, even that, first cycle through your bike, right?

That first revolution, you’re like, man, that’s really cool. A huge milestone. That you kind of feel is pretty cool, but then who knows if the people around you’re like, ah, it’s what’s expected but celebrate that and all the things that are to come. Don’t get caught up in the moving goalposts of ACL rehab. In life, in reality, allow yourself to be in the moment, and be where your feet are. And then of course, move forward, aim towards the thing, do the thing. But be able to look back and appreciate the journey. 

All right, team, that’s going to do it for today. Thank you all so much for listening. This is your host, Ravi Patel, signing off.

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