When we want to accomplish something new many of us set a goal. Sounds easy enough, goals are something most of us have. They are a common part of our society. Yet so often they are the root cause of much stress and guilt even, because so many of us need help with achieving them.
You know what they are, plans for getting a resolution list tackled or setting a big goal for the ‘future’ and where you want to be. For others it may be small, but elusive. Whatever your goals are, it’s good to think big and shoot for the stars and it’s good to start small and make a change – just remember we need a plan for getting there.
But before we start talking about how to successfully accomplish goals, let’s first take a look at what prevents us from getting there. Let’s identify some classic situations that result in failure. Then we can gather some tools and think about creating some steps we can use to achieve those goals.
As we take that leap towards achieving a new goal what is it that causes us to crash and keep us from getting there? After all, we know what we want, so what’s stopping us?
Why do we fail?
1. We lose the momentum.
When we start out of the gate in high gear and try to run full speed ahead we simply burn out. It’s not reasonable or sustainable for us to labor ourselves like that. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare?
The tool: Slow and steady wins the race. When we make small and meaningful changes, we can set a pace that allows us to finish that goal.
For example, the classic New Year’s resolution is to lose weight and get fit, so what do we do? We join the gym, start a diet, completely change our routine and then CRASH – we simply burn out.
A better approach would be starting with small and meaningful steps that are easily achievable. We need to easily incorporate change into our lives or it can become a stressor. If the goal is eating better and losing weight. Then let’s talk about things like adding in a piece of fresh fruit with every meal? Or starting your day with a big green smoothie or adding in a big bowl of nutritious, filling and delicious soup before dinner? These aren’t huge steps, but little steps become big ones.
Then we can look into adding an exercise routine that easily incorporates into your life. Not some radical change, but something that is small and manageable and joyful even. We are more likely to repeat things that do not stress us out and are received with a positive feeling like “I can’t wait to do that again” or “that was pretty fun”.
2. We are overwhelmed with our choices.
So many of us grab fragmented bits and pieces of information from random sources and then get overwhelmed with what to do with all of it. Too often sources on the internet or TV (or wherever you are getting your information) are trying to hook you for a sale. They have a ‘magic’ pill or a piece of exercise equipment or that perfect diet plan to get you where you want to go. This is not always based in science and well, they don’t always work! At least not with sustainable or healthy results.
The tool: When we address our unique needs, we can make simple manageable changes over-time (often based in science) that nourish our bio-individuality.
For example, diets don’t work (in my opinion) because they are too restrictive and most of us will suffer from deprivation and end up ‘cheating’ which leads to guilt and that whole cycle of nonsense. So let’s think about shifting our thoughts to what we can do today to improve where we are. Again, if the goal is dieting to lose weight then let’s concentrate on a way to add healthy food choices into our diet, rather than trying to take things out.
Here’s a better approach. I think everyone can agree that more fruits and vegetables are a good thing. Any long term healthy eating plan has them in it regardless of the diet plan or what the diet dictocrats say. So think about trying to build your meals with extra vegetables and some fruit. This could be as simple as a salad before dinner and/or a larger portion of them on your plate. Think, building towards a goal of half your plate in vegetables. You will get fuller faster and crowd out the other stuff. By ‘adding in’ instead of taking things out, you don’t feel deprived, you aren’t adding another stressor and once you add something in and feel good with the results, you’re more likely to repeat the process. Little steps become big ones over time.
3. We don’t know how to bridge the gap.
We know where we want to go, but we don’t know how to get there. We miss the ‘bridge’ between information and application. When we set a goal and focus only on that goal it can become overwhelming. Yes, we need to keep that eye on the prize, but too often when that’s the only thing we focus on, the ‘goal’ can become the weapon.
The tool: By focusing on the small achievable steps to get there we will pave the way.
For example, you want to lose weight (you think), but what you really want to do is feel better in your clothes. So you start a ‘program’ that involves diet and heavy exercise, then you begin to weigh yourself every day. You become obsessed with the numbers and lose sight of any achievements. The scale is no longer a way to measure your accomplishments, but the measure itself. In the interim, you might not be losing weight, but your clothes might fit better, but you don’t really notice because you’re focused on a number.
A better approach is to understand what steps are involved to reach your goal and focus on reaching each step as the goal. So here’s what that might look like. The same person who wants to feel better in their clothes needs to know that it won’t happen overnight. That said, going into any diet program that includes increased muscle building exercise will build muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat, so understanding that going in is reason enough to not pay too close attention to the numbers on the scale.
Incorporating an exercise routine that’s manageable for the person based on their lifestyle is essential. That is an ideal first step and goal to focus on achieving. Also let’s assume this same person has a habit of drinking excess calories. Adding a small goal of switching out sugary drinks for water or even naturally flavored water is a good small goal to focus on and it’s achievable. Do you see where this is going? Adding in small steps and focusing on them as the short term goal is more realistic and less likely to cause added stress. We react better to things that are easier and manageable, because they are then safe and predictable. Eventually the smaller goals will get you to the larger goal at hand without the stress of something too big to handle.
4. We try to do it alone.
This one is often hard to acknowledge, but can also have the greatest impact. When it’s just you it’s easy to put things off or not show up at all.
The tool: Find your tribe, flock with other birds of a feather, call it what you like – having the support you get from a group or an accountability partner is often the biggest motivator. Groups and accountability partners will be there to support you where you are and where you want to go. These can be powerful sources of inspiration, encouragement, and the will to keep going in a way that we can only get from those personal connections with one another.
For example, you are feeling overwhelmed in your life. Maybe you are a new mom trying to settle into a routine that feels right to you – but what is right? You are also trying to nurse your new baby, but things aren’t going as planned. Suddenly you find yourself in a life that doesn’t feels like yours and it’s causing feelings of uncertainty and a roller coaster of emotions.
So here’s what a good approach to finding resolve may look like. You reach out to the local La Leche League for breastfeeding support and guidance. Then you look for other moms in the area who get together for playdates, tea, or even exercise meetups at the local park (you get the idea). Then you can really dial it up a notch and make a lasting change for the better in your life and place some attention back to your needs too – by working on your essential self-care. You join a support group who meets through webinars as a group or in person at a local meeting place or even one-on-one coaching with a trusted health coach. These types of activities offer the support you need, because they meet you where you are. Good support will reach out a helping hand to help guide you through your unique situation and needs.
Whatever it is, just being able to find your tribe and know that you’re not alone and support is there can be the difference between sinking into a terrible rut versus swimming beautifully through your new life. That’s when the support of others is so beneficial and often essential to your peace of mind.
So why do we have goals?
Now that we’ve covered some of the reasons why we fail and how to prevent it. Let’s talk about one really big question to keep in mind when you set a goal – WHY is this a goal? Then ask yourself, what is the why to your why? This may sound crazy, but really, think about it. For example, a woman with some mid-life weight gain wants to lose the weight. Not just because she wants to look better, but because she wants to feel better, to be healthier, so she can live a long life, so she can be around for when her children have babies, she wants to be present with clarity in her life for a long time. When you peel away the layers, what’s at the core? Once you identify that, then you can really effect change – mindful change with intentional goals.
So go ahead and set those goals, gather your tools and create the steps towards achieving them. Live your best life. Oh and don’t forget to enjoy the ride. Remember, the past is gone, the future hasn’t happened yet, your life is now.