Somehow January is already creeping to a close and if you’re like a large percentage of the population, this means you’ve created some kind of resolution in this new year.
It’s always puzzled me why people are so much more apt to start something in the beginning of a new year. I mean, I get the whole “clean slate” idea and the desire to start off on the right foot, but from a marketing perspective, it can often feel so fake to feel like you’re obliged to have a new year’s resolution. Companies prey on those they know will be more apt to buy a new workout program or start a new “lifestyle” that is of course guaranteed to change your life. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve convinced myself to do something like this for countless years, until I started catching on to my patterns of habit making and habit breaking. Which is why I’ve begun to set goals all throughout the year and take the focus off of one giant new year’s resolution. It not only takes the pressure off but gives me multiple things to work on through the year, keeping me more motivated and less likely to allow my goals to slowly fade into the background.
Even more often, these goals we create are food, weight or diet related. We want to take all the “bad” vices away; our favorite new year’s word is NO MORE. No more meat, no more sugar, No more carbs…new year, new you! Gotta drop that last 10 pounds of holiday treats we’ve been holding on to since November. But how sustainable is a continuous restriction? Not very, according to Business Insider. Approximately 80% of New Year resolutions fail by the second week of February. Yikes! That’s only a few weeks away, didn’t we just start this new venture? The few first weeks felt so motivating and exciting to be doing something new with the hopes of a drastic life change. Yet as each week passes, that shiny new feeling slowly starts to fade, life begins to happen again. Maybe even with some new challenges that have felt like road blocks to your goals.
So how on earth are we supposed to feel like we can stick with these goals? Not only in January, but for the other 11 months out of the year? Well, as the queen of “fresh starts” I sure have researched, experimented and learned from many trial and errors. Let’s dive into some simple, yet effective strategies you can implement to help your goals become consistent, attainable habits.
FOREGO THE LABELS.
We love to label things. Especially diets. Paleo, Keto, Vegan, Low carb, Whole30, you name it! Maybe because it gives us a sense of belonging, a group that we can feel like we fit in with and talk to others about. “Oh, I’m going keto as my new year’s resolution,” or “I can’t eat that if it’s not gluten free”. The issue with this is, it creates such a distinct restriction, people can often feel overwhelmed and unable to stick by their diet changes. You can eat well and not have to follow ANY diet. You don’t have to eat white rice and chicken every other day because you want to look lean! While some thrive off distinct lists of can and cannot, it is not for everyone. Especially people who are new to goal creating or implementing health changes. The whole key with any health or diet change is that it is CONSISTENT and SUSTAINABLE. This is what breeds success. When we find something that we can stick to and doesn’t seem like a chore, we are more apt to want to continue with it. If we do a complete 180 with our diet just to fit into the ‘vegan’ category, are we really creating an environment that can be sustained by cutting out 90% of our familiar foods? Is diving head first into a new field that we may not even be familiar with yet the best first step? Probably not. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all these labeled lifestyle fads are bad or not a healthful path to follow. Many have great success with paleo and whole30, however I’m implying that you don’t need to pick a labeled diet in order to improve your health or nutrition.
Instead of picking a new label to put on your diet, try some positive, less restricting things you desire FROM food or diet changes: “I want nourish my body with what it needs, by practicing mindfulness at meals.” “I want to eat to fuel my body.” “I want to incorporate more nutrient dense, whole foods into my diet.” “I want to create harmony between myself and what I eat.” “I want to enjoy all foods in their natural, whole form, instead of processed and refined.” “I want to incorporate one meat free meal a day so that I may connect with more plant-based options for my body.” “I want to incorporate more healthy fats to provide me with the energy I would like to have.”
How are all these statements different from the other labels we discussed? They’re not taking away anything from you. You’re not creating a restriction, you’re creating a space where you are allowing yourself to add more value to your diet. You’re giving yourself something more. This also creates more of a personal connection to whatever goal you have by explaining why you want the change. When we become personally connected to a goal, it’s perceived value increases. We are owning it, embracing it and making it ours. Something that no one else can dictate the worth of, because that is only for us to decide.
BREAK FREE FROM SCALE ONLY GOALS.
We love to obsess over that 10 extra pounds of fluff we have (or THINK we have). We all have that one specific number that if we could just reach, we would be fulfilled and satisfied. That number we dream of, that number we were before we had children, that number we saw in high school, that number we think society approves of more than the number we are. THAT NUMBER DOESN’T MATTER. Say it again: THAT NUMBER DOESN’T MATTER. Will this exact weight guarantee you are happy? Will it guarantee you are healthy? Will it guarantee your life will be more fulfilling and enjoyable? Nope, nope and noooope. Get that junk out of your head. You can chase and chase a number and never obtain any of this. What even is weight? A measure of gravitational pull. That’s it. Not a measure of success, gratification, love, or how good of a person you are. It does not determine your worth.
This is hard for many of us to get out of our heads. Women especially, have been bombarded from the beginning of our youth to fit a certain shape and size. It has been encouraging, however, to see changes in many clothing companies who have begun using real shaped women, athletic women, short women, tall women and women of many different races. We need more of this. We need realistic examples of bodies in the media.
I don’t believe a weight goal is inherently bad. Rather, I feel that obsessing over a specific number can create a negative and toxic mental attitude. It is okay to have a goal number you want to reach. It is okay to have a weight in the gym you want to lift. It’s okay to want to move up or down a weight class for a competitive sport. The mental attitude makes all the difference. If you are using that weight number as a leg to stand on to bring you happiness, you may have blinders on to everything else around you. How can we turn a number on the scale into a positive, affirmative goal? Turn it into a goal of accomplishments, not numbers.
Instead of picking a number, pick something you can gain. Maybe there’s a workout you can’t quite do yet that you want to work towards. Maybe there’s a race you want to be able to run in the summer. A weight you want to deadlift, a certain number of pushups you want to do. A pair of pants you want to buy in a smaller size. Maybe it’s as simple as incorporating one walk a day every single day. Find something that gives back to you. Something that gives you a sense of accomplishment, something that allows you to track your own progress. There are so many more positive things you can do than obsess over one meaningless number!
WRITE IT DOWN. OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
This is still new to me and forces me to think and re think of everything I have chosen for myself. I have convinced myself that all I really need is my amazing brain because it can keep track of and monitor everything need to remember. Yeah, that would be nice, but it’s definitely not true anymore. Age is a mean bearer of this truth. You forget things. A lot. Nowadays, If I don’t write it down, there’s a 75% chance it won’t happen. From a goal perspective, it can feel a little awkward and soul bearing to take what’s in your head and put it on paper. It makes it tangible. Maybe it even makes you feel vulnerable. These wild, crazy dreams you have in your head that you never think will come to fruition. But who says that’s a bad thing? Goals without action are just dreams. Little forbidden fruits that you’ve dangled right in front of you but just out of reach because, well, REALLY taking the action to reach these goals would be pretty scary. And it’s easier to create a little reality in your own head.
So, write it down. Make it real and tell it to yourself over and over again. Remind yourself of your WHY. Think of all the little mental obstructions you tell yourself and write statements that contradict them. If you’re really wanting change, you must create it and nurture it. By reading and saying it out loud, you begin to verbally manifest them. Creating goals and doing them are far more mental than they are physical. Your body can undergo and withhold some pretty great physical defeats. But our minds? We are always quicker to say, “I can’t” rather than, “It’s going to be difficult, but I CAN.” Why? Maybe it’s a form of self-preservation. Maybe it’s a deep, deep fight or flight reaction. Our minds trying to protect us from something it deems as stressful or knock us out of our normal status quo. But often, that is exactly what we need: a change of status quo.
Share your goals with your friends and family. This gives you another level of accountability and support. Start a goal journal. Document every day what you did or need to do to reach your goals. Write down and celebrate your successes and acknowledge what you may need to support more. Write affirmations on your mirror! Remind yourself that you are capable, worthy and deserving. “I am worthy of all successes I desire.” “I am strong enough to…..” “I am capable enough to…..” “My goals are worth my time and effort.” “I am accountable for my own joy.”
This physical and verbal manifesting of goals were pivotal for me going back to school to become a Nutritional Therapy Consultant. I was worried saving up the money would be hard and that I wouldn’t be able to do school and a 50 hour a week job and continue working out like I enjoyed. I told myself all the reasons I couldn’t because I knew school would force me to add extra effort and be a little bit out of my warm and cozy comfort zone. But I REALLY wanted to go. I knew this program was exactly what I needed and wanted, but fear was holding me back. So, I just started talking about it. Nonstop. I chose the semester I would begin and told anyone who asked how I was doing or what I was up to. I knew that by talking about it more and more, I would start to hold myself accountable and not back out of it. One thing I hate is telling people one thing and having to follow up by saying that I actually didn’t do it. I like to be a person of my word. Needless to stay, signing up and completing the NTC course was indeed, life changing.
LEARN TO SAY NO.
Why are we such a culture of obligations? Do you often feel you do things only because you think you should? Do you rack up your schedule and fill it with endless activities and social events just to stay busy? It’s so easy to take ourselves out of the present by just diving headfirst into anything and everything that is asked of us. We don’t want to be seen as greedy or selfish or unsocial by making space for our own time. We often feel people will judge us if we don’t instantly agree to an invitation or favor. What all does this end up creating? Burn out. Exhaustion. Stress. We’re throwing a million balls into the air while sitting on a unicycle trying to balance. And it’s not working. We forget things, skim through everything and keep our minds running at 100 miles an hour. It’s a distraction from the present.
And now we have a new goal that we really want to work on and stick with. Where can that fit in amongst all the craziness? Take some time to reflect on how you fill your time. Do you feel satisfied and fulfilled by every activity you are saying yes to? Does it take away stress or add more? Is it helping you grow as a person? If the answer is no, ITS OK! Maybe it used to serve you more and maybe you got more out of it in the past. It’s okay to have changing priorities. It’s okay to have changing desires and needs. It doesn’t make you a bad person and it doesn’t make you a failure. IT MEANS YOU ARE GROWING AND CHANGING. That’s something to celebrate!
Somehow, you’ve booked the next 4 weekends with some social event. It’s stressing you out just looking at the calendar. You really wanted to try a Friday night meditation at a local yoga place, but it interferes with the social event. Write it out! What are the pros and cons? Which will serve you best? Maybe your social get together can be rescheduled and right now, you need a quiet Friday night for personal meditation. No one’s going to judge you for that!
Don’t stress yourself out by saying no to something. Odds are you’re going to make a bigger deal out of declining than the person you say no to. Everybody needs to take a step back and take a deep breath sometimes.
CELEBRATE YOUR VICTORIES ALONG THE WAY!
Your path of success is guaranteed to not be linear. Nor should you anticipate it to be. Nothing in life happens perfectly, effortlessly or completely how you expect it to. That’s not only the beauty of life, but the beauty of goal setting. Maybe you’ll try a method and find out it didn’t work for you like you imagined. It may take you a few tries to nail down a habit. You may go through 3 different planners until you find one that helps you organize your actions best. But you did figure it out, and you’re still carrying on!
It’s so easy to see things as either a failure or success. Black or white. But what about all the stuff in between? Embracing the process of your obtaining your goals is where you often take away the most value from. It’s the little things that have the most impact. And if we celebrate and acknowledge our smaller victories, we often stick with them and build upon them. This is SO important because consistency breeds success. Small consistent changes build long term habits. So, celebrate those small consistent changes! You meal prepped 2 weeks in a row. Great! Acknowledge it! You’ve added 5# on to your squat in the past 2 weeks. Brag about it! You’re allowed to feel good about the changes or accomplishments you made. I recently came across a quote that just spoke to me and put this into words better than I could have, “Imperfect action trumps perfect inaction.” This is SO true! Don’t give up just because you haven’t gotten exactly where you want to be. Don’t quit because you’ve had a couple hiccups. Take a minute to regroup, re plan and re attack those goals.
Whether you’re on a new journey starting this month or many down the road, I hope you give yourself the grace, acceptance and love to grow in this new space you’ve encountered. Your goals are never unreachable, they’re just a matter of planning, action and accountability.