As we turn the page to a new year, many of us are taking stock of ourselves and possibly making a resolution or two (otherwise known as a Wish List… I will explain).
When we want certain things for ourselves, they can fall into different categories.
There are things like “I’d like to win the lottery” or “I wish I could live on a tropical island.”
Then there’s things that are a bit more middle of the road, and possibly even attainable, like, “I’d like to take up bowling” or “I want to read more books.”
These things are pretty straight forward. Either you are bowling or you aren’t. You are reading a few more books or you aren’t.
Here’s a thought. If you don’t end up bowling or reading more books, what will happen? Not much, right? Will your life or your health be in peril if these things don’t happen? Maybe you don’t get in to those activities as a form of pleasure, but you can find other ways to do that.
Then We have diet and exercise
The diet and exercise category often comes up this time of year. In these areas, it may be really easy to come up with some truly heart-felt things that we may want for ourselves. Things like “I want to lose 20 pounds” or “I’d like to get to the gym three days a week.” You can insert your own thoughts here if you want to.
The thing is, these goals can seem pretty reasonable. Not a pie-in-the-sky wish but something that isn’t too far out of reach. These goals may seem as straight forward as taking up bowling or reading more books.
Except that they have a great deal to do with our health and well-being. Because of that, they are much more complicated and all-encompassing. Unfortunately, they can be excruciatingly and frustratingly elusive.
If we are treating our diet and exercise goals like a Wish List, actually reaching our goals can fade. Instead, it requires planning.
Planning to Make Your Dreams Come True
FIRST, you have to throw out a few things. Nothing like a purge to start the New Year, right?
Here’s some common fantasies that turn our resolve into more of a Wish List:
1. “I just need to find my motivation.” As if motivation were a thing that we sometimes lose, like our glasses or car keys.
2. “It’s all about willpower.” Yes, willpower is a real thing. Trouble is, there are many things in our lives that deplete it, many of which we are not even aware of. Counting on willpower will never get you there.
3. “One day, my new habit will be effortless.” Maybe. But the truth is that our lives are fantastically messy all the time, our circumstances are always changing, and we need to make adjustments all the time. Effortless habits require us to be able to do them in all sorts of contexts. Easier said than done.
Once those ideas are thrown out, they can be replaced with some other, much more salient and well-researched ways to attack what we want for ourselves.
1. The BIG thing is to decide WHY you want to do something in the first place. If it is because you want to stop feeling guilty about how you look, that will not be enough. Your WHY needs to be something you actively want for yourself, like better health, more energy, fewer trips to the doctor. This is called an INTRINSIC reward. It is THE thing to have on board before you start the daily grind of figuring out how to make a change.
2. Realize that many of your habits are unconscious. We also respond to cues in our environment that keep us locked in to certain behaviors. This is why it is so difficult to just say, “I am going to give up cake (or potato chips or pizza).” Sooner or later, something comes along that we associate with eating one or more of these items, and we can’t help ourselves. What works is to once again review WHY you want to make a change, and then realize that cutting out some items is totally in line with that WHY. It is not just a matter of setting an intention.
3. Get your sights off the big goal. Really. Once again, just wishing you could lose 20 pounds (or whatever the goal) needs to be broken down into smaller benchmarks and accomplishments that have small but tangible rewards. Here it can be incredibly helpful to share your wins with others. Another way is to track your progress so that you can see a pattern of accomplishments (there are apps for that, or you can keep track of it in a journal or calendar). Review your progress regularly so that you can see the big picture. This may be the hardest thing to do of all. We are so used to looking for a big win to keep us going. Remember…too much change at once sends our brains and bodies into a tizzy. All they want is to return to “normal.”
What this Means on a Day-to-Day Basis
- Each day you need to start out with a clear plan for the small steps that you will need to do THAT DAY to keep you in line with your goals.
- Keep your mind on your BIG WHY, not the goal.
- Take stock of yourself, your distractions, and your beliefs. Realize that becoming aware of what those are can lead to being able to SOLVE PROBLEMS as you move along towards your goals.
- There are real life challenges and choices to make every day.
- Remember, you are creating a new normal.
Cheers and all the best in the New Year,
© 2022 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved.
Photo Credit: Torsten Asmus | iStock