Here we are...the end of 2017. So it happens. Every year. Everyone makes resolutions and goals in January and somewhere along March or April or maybe even sooner they are forgotten about or abandoned. Why is that? What is going on in the collective human psyche that prevents the majority of people from achieving and sustaining these goals?
Simply stated, we set goals that are unobtainable, short sighted and not in line with our values. Many people will set goals to lose weight, go to a gym, follow a diet, run a marathon. All of these goals are admirable to say the least but they are short sighted. The true goal, if I even want to use the word goal, is to make small incremental changes daily that lead to true behavior change, a shift in your way of living and your mindset every day.. a lifestyle change. I'm not saying that having something to work toward isn't helpful but these large goals often lead to failure and abandonment..
"The smarter approach is to learn to embrace the process. Too often we approach our lives’ biggest hurdles with dread, execute them with anxiety, and leave them with regret,” says Amy Cuddy , Social Psychologist and Associate Professor at Harvard's business school, in her book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.
“Instead, we need to nudge ourselves, moment by moment, by tweaking our body language, behaviour, and mind-set in our day-to-day lives.”
On the surface, that may seem counter-productive, like you aren't addressing the bigger picture, but Cuddy emphasizes the power of using long-term thinking for short-term planning. "You won't lose all the weight overnight, so your best option is to focus on making each day the best it can be. Look at the big goal as a string of daily or weekly goals that are easier to accomplish."
"A lot of research is showing us that we do much better when we focus on incremental change, on little bits of improvement," Cuddy say
Let's take the goal of losing weight for the purpose of our discussion. It's the number one self-reported goal for the new year. If you want to lose weight ask yourself "why?". Why is losing weight so important to me? Is it about wearing that little black dress or is it about something much deeper and inherently more important.
IT'S NOT ABOUT THE BLACK DRESS. It may seem like that would be a good motivator but it quickly dissipates because it is not intrinsically motivated. Losing weight to wear the black dress to your reunion or New Years Eve is about impressing others...but what is it really about?
To dig a bit deeper to the core of the issue ask yourself some of these questions:
1. What does being overweight mean to you?
2. What do you feel like you are missing out on?
3. How does the weight make you feel?
4. Where does it limit you?
5. What are some words that describe the extra weight you are carrying?
Now, ask yourself this question..."What would I feel like in 2-3 years if I actually embraced a healthier lifestyle and as a result gradually lost weight?" and "What would I feel like if absolutely nothing changed from today?"
These are the questions that dig deep in order to affect lasting change in any area of life. These questions and the conversation that it stimulates will connect you to the values that drive your behavior and thus effect behavior change and lifestyle change.
One of the first things you can do to move yourself forward on the path of true lasting lifestyle change is to expunge the word "diet" from your vocabulary, you will be better off immediately. The negative connotations from this word start you off on the wrong path immediately. Diet implies a short term sort of deprivation in most people's minds, instead think of it as making a choice every minute of every day to live healthier, your food choices are just part of that. Start slowly but keep moving forward.
If we move our thoughts and actions to small changes or tweaks every day all throughout the day before we know it we've made a significant lifestyle change. It's a mindset shift that needs to take place but it begins with small behavior changes and changing the way we talk to ourselves.
When you start by asking yourself what's important to you and why you want to lose weight or get healthy it becomes easier to be intentional with your daily behaviors. Each day your actions need to be aligned with your overall values and if they aren't you need to ask yourself "why not?".
So what is the real reason most people want to be healthier and lose weight? Is it about being able to run around with your kids or grandkids? Is it about not getting winded when you walk down the driveway to get the mail or up the stairs? Is it about going to the doctor's and feeling confidant that you are finally taking charge of your health? Is it about booking a flight to your next vacation without worrying about being cramped in the seat because you are too big? Is it about finally feeling good about yourself and not hiding behind the weight?
Connecting to your values and what's important to you makes this a lifestyle change. Setting small achievable goals for every day and taking it one day at a time. "Just for this morning I can make time for myself to eat a healthy breakfast and pack a snack". This in turn affects how you deal with stress at work, you don't overeat lunch because you took the time to pack a healthy snack for 10 a.m.
When you start taking care of yourself in one area of your health it becomes a cascade affect and celebrating these small achievements brings an internal level of satisfaction that goes a long way.
Connect to your values, nudge yourself daily, moment to moment and celebrate your success. And lastly...find yourself a good health coach that can support and guide you through this process. Most people who achieve goals consistently have a coach or a mentor, it may be time for you to enlist a health coach and I know just the person...wink wink.