A little fluffy around the middle...
I work in a goal based business. In healthcare, we like to set goals like crazy. You want to lose 20 pounds? Totally possible! You want to lower your blood sugar? I've got a plan for you! The biggest problem with being a cheerleader (and I was), is that regular human beings have a problem maintaining motivation when results are sparse. The easiest metaphor is weight loss. Most patients I have, would love to lose some weight. Especially right now. All the goodies that have been showered down our throats, laced with love, have added up. We're all a little fluffy around the middle come New Year's Day. The problem with weight gain, is that it's fun while you're doing it. Are you counting calories? Probably not. Weighing your food? Heck no. But here we are, consequences making our clothing shrink. Jerk consequences. Unfortunately, the inches don't drip off as quickly (or easily) as they were accumulated. It takes good old fashioned hard work. Sweat. Deprivation (no oreos?!!!). Yet it can takes weeks to notice a substantial change. How frustrating is that? Some of us can look at a cheesecake and go up a size. In this scenario, people get frustrated. At first, you may have been reeling with optimism, ready to take on the world! But after a few weeks, your energy starts to wane, and cheating commences. Motivation lost. Bum Bum BUM (dramatic music here).
Crawling there with our fingernails...
This is basically the same story for every goal, ever. Granted, there are some type A workaholics (hello, my name is Audrey...HI AUDREY), that create maintain motivation and stubbornness until reaching the finish line on our feet, or crawling there with our fingernails. It's just happening. I realize that's a rarity. For most of the population, attaining personal goals chan be a huge challenge. Do not fear! I have some insights and suggestions to help you keep those resolutions going strong! First, it helps to at least identify what you want to create in your life. There are a few ways to go about this:
- Make a list on paper in two columns. Long and short-term goals. Short-term goals are awesome, because they allow you to feel progress more quickly (and reward), while long-term goals are sometimes open-ended, leaving us saying, "Oh that can wait until next year." For example, a great short-term goal would be making time to meditate for five minutes every night. This takes little effort, and you can reap the rewards almost instantly. Also, take note about how much control you have over attaining the goal. If your goal is to win the lottery, that's not a whole lot of control. While losing ten pounds in the next two months, is totally possible.
- Vision boards!!!! I can't tell you how much I love vision boards. I heard about these for the first time about ten years ago. It's basically a collage of all the things you want to invite into your life. For example, if you want to travel, pictures of Italy, Thailand, and Mexico can be pasted up as a constant reminder that you're prioritizing travel. Some people like to print out words of feelings they want to feel in the future. Like freedom, love, laughter, family etc... Do you want a new relationship? Print a pic of your favorite fictional couple from your latest Netflix binge on there. (Make sure they aren't dysfunctional). Fitness goals? Post pics of fit people you admire, to harness some motivation to get you to the gym. My daughter and I create new vision boards every New Year, and review last year's successes. It's a fantastic tradition. This year, we made a trip to the craft store for supplies, inked up the printer, and went wild! I delight in witnessing our personal evolutions with what we hold dear. My collage was heavy with writing inspiration, while my daughter clung to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Smart girl! This board serves as a compass in your decision making. Does you new job offer support your desire to rebuild orphanages in Mexico? Better rethink. It's a fantastic exercise to not only identify your desires, but reinforce them daily.
- Share your goals. In my clinic, other than one on one counseling, I also assist people with smoking cessation. One of the first things I recommend when someone picks a quit date, is to tell their entire support system about their goal. This creates accountability. These people that love you, aren't going to bum you a cigarette if they know you're quitting. Likewise, if you're trying to lose weight, dinner can be a fabulous sushi place instead of Chuck-O-Rama. That's what friends are for. In fact, many people find that just by sharing your goals, these loved ones make the decision to follow suit with their own changes! It's contagious.
My anthem in grad school. It's all about the climb :)
From zero to epic flosser...
Change is a process. Some people take to new habits quickly and seamlessly, while the rest of us are still trying to figure out what a burpee is. There are a few things you might be interested in learning before hunkering down in your new habit. There are actual stages of change. It's a thing. You don't go from zero to epic flosser overnight. You have to work your way there.
- Precontemplation: This is before you want to think about changing anything at all. Life is awesome. You love everything exactly as it is, and would like to keep it that way.
- Contemplation: Hmmm. I don't know. Maybe I could exercise a little. I don't like how short of breath I was when bringing in the groceries last night. I guess I could maybe do yoga while wearing my yoga pants.
- Preparation: If I'm going to lose 20 pounds, I need a new workout outfit, Spotify playlist, and a Pinterest board dedicated to low-fat meal options. Let's get pinning!
- Action: New gym membership- check! Time blocked out of my schedule to dedicate to exercise- check! Action is the first time you walk through those glass doors and hear the beep of that membership card. It's on!
- Maintenance: It's not so excruciating to talk yourself out the door to the gym as it used to be. You may find yourself looking forward to your workout time, experiencing an elevated mood, and your skinny jeans are looking far less intimidating. You aren't likely to quit now. It's getting easier every day.
- Relapse: Like anything, there are good days and bad days. Some days have boiled chicken and grapefruit on the menu, while others end in chocolate. The key here is not giving up the game just because you have a bad day. Get back on the metaphorical horse and kick some booty back at the gym tomorrow. Don't give up!
This process is a cycle. Think of it as a circle that continues over and over. Too many people look at change itself as a linear experience, that it has a beginning and an end. Ask a recovering alcoholic if there is an end to their recovery. Heck no! That's a change they work on every day, even after 30 years without a drop. It's the same with any change, whether you're becoming vegan, starting a new workout routine, or writing a daily haiku.
Pinky promise me...
There is a hiccup to this process. Some people find that when they make a change for the better, friends and family become frustrated and resistant to the change. Of course, there are a handful of supportive people that engage in the new behavior with their loved one to create a supportive network, and reinforce the change. While others go down kicking and screaming with any utterance that their way of life may be threatened. This happens with diet, smoking, alcohol, exercise...I could go on. At the end of the day, if your people aren't supportive- I'd reevaluate the folks you have on your team. If you aren't being lifted up and praised for your efforts at becoming more awesome than you already are? Someone is threatened. Don't let anyone dim your light. Pinky promise me. There you go. So there you have it. Making and keeping goals. It's in the bag with just a few simple exercises and insights. Go get your vision board on, you know you want to.