What holds us back from achieving our resolutions and reaching our goals? Excuses, excuses, excuses, or what else…?
We know the scenario all too well: We want to exercise more, slim down, eat better, sleep more, work less, be healthier, improve our wellbeing and other things in life – the list goes on and on. And yet it often takes a kick in the rear end before we change our habits. Do something. Now. Yes, but…
Why is it that only 8% of people who make a resolution are truly successful in reaching their goals? Probably because it’s human nature to want to do what’s easiest instead of working hard towards achieving a dream. Other reasons include lack of accountability, lack of motivation to lack of reward, etc.
A couple years ago I had the dream of backpacking for 6 days on a remote trail on the north-west rim of the Grand Canyon on a big loop down to the Colorado river and back. The description of the route sounded very strenuous (hiking 8-9h per day with 40lb on my back and up to 3000ft elevation gain or loss per day). It required me to get in top shape. Since I was working full time as well as going to school part time, I had to figure out a plan on how to achieve my fitness goal and training for the trip while getting work and study done at the same time. I’m not a morning person, but the only way I could make time to train was by getting up at 5AM 5x/wk to go running outdoors (even when it rained or snowed), doing crossfit and going hiking every weekend with weights on my back. I also had to reserve time for daily stretching, meditation, and cooking healthy food. It was not easy. But by the time I stood on top of the Grand Canyon taking in the magnificent view of the very deep and oh-so-grand canyon I was ready. The achievement and raw happiness I felt was incredible and something I can’t describe. It was so worth all the sweat and soreness in my body during the 3 months of training. The trip itself was as magnificent as I imagined and it will remain a memory of a lifetime. Now I have a new goal of doing another big hiking trip this summer and I already started training for it…
How can we improve our success rate in achieving our goals?
Here’s a mix of my own experience and what I learned from other people. Let’s take the example of a resolution to “become fit”:
- Be Specific – instead of saying “I will become fit” say “I will workout 3x/wk”
- Be Realistic – setting unreasonable goals is what we tend to do because we like to dream big and we are inpatient. But it’s better to lower the bar and approach a big goal with baby steps instead of putting the bar too high up. You want to run the NYC Marathon? Awesome! Let’s start running 3 miles at first, then increase distance overtime until you reach the 26+miles
- Find a Motivation – Why do you want to become fit? Because you want to brave the NYC Triathlon or be able to climb Mount Rainier? Develop an image of your goal and find a mantra. Visualize and repeat daily and when things get hard. A simple “I can do this” might be a good start. The more you visualize and repeat it the more you’ll believe in it and the more you’ll get motivated
- Visualize your goals – See yourself running through the finish line at the Triathlon or standing on the glacier summit. Yes it works!
- Keep your goals in focus and make a plan – It’s easy to loose track of goals when dealing with our everyday stress of work and childcare and social interactions and all these other tasks we have in life. Keep your goals in check and make a training plan, keep a schedule, set reminders on your phone or computer, put your plan on the bathroom mirror or kitchen cabinet to always keep it in your view. Hang a photo that represents your goal next to the plan!
- Make it a habit – Create your own discipline, rituals, routine or structure. i.E. always work out between 5-7AM. The more repetition of routine is implemented the more you’ll get used to it and the easier it gets to repeatedly do it again
- Be Accountable – find a buddy or friend who has a similar goal and train together or stay in close contact to keep each other in check. Studies show that social support has been constantly linked with psychological and physical health and improvement of motivation
- Track your progress – Keep a log of your achievements. i.E. “1 month ago I couldn’t run more than 3 miles without getting nauseous. Today I ran 4 miles with ease.” How awesome is that!
- Forget about the past – previous failure damages our self-esteem. Because your resolutions didn’t come true the last time doesn’t mean it won’t work the next time. Besides, this time you’ll be more realistic and specific with your goals and you’ll have a concrete plan which makes you much more likely to succeed! J
- Don’t turn mistakes into failure – You wanted to eat healthy and cut sugar and after eating salad all day your cravings took over and you munched on a doughnut just now? Three steps forward, one step back? That’s ok. You still are moving forward. It’s progress not perfection that counts!
- Overcome your fears – as of psychologists fear is one of the biggest reasons why people give up on their goals and dreams. Overcome the fear! When feelings thoughts of fear come to your mind just acknowledge them and then leave them be, then repeat your mantra. Meditation will help with this!
- Reward yourself! – Yes, that’s absolutely allowed and helps you stay motivated. Give yourself small rewards every week and every time a milestone is reached. Picture that reward when your energy gets low and when you want to turn off the alarm at 5am and sleep another hour instead of getting up to workout. Reward yourself later that day. Rewards are helpful and fun. Treating yourself at the end means to be kind to yourself! And kind is good!
January 16th 2015 by Eliane Baggenstos, RN, LMT, bodono