Are you the type of person that sets New Year’s resolutions that never make it past January? Or tell yourself that next Monday you will start fresh with your good habits, week after week?
Well, know that this is common. Implementing new habits and changing behaviors is challenging and it takes time. More often than not, people set goals that are poorly-motivated and lacks the necessary steps to achieve it. These goals are deemed to failure, from the get-go...
In this blog post, my aim is to I lead through a deep thought exercise to help you find a meaningful goal, discover a strong motivation, and recognize the currently missing skills. I hope that it will trigger some profound reflections and this introspection will continue in the next few days to clarify these goals and strengthen your motivation.
One common way to set goals is to use the S.M.A.R.T. series of steps:
Specific: Your goal should be clear and specific
Measurable: Your goal should be trackable so that you can assess progress
Attainable: Your goal needs to be realistic and attainable to be successful
Realistic: Your goal should matter to you and be aligned with other relevant goals
Timely: Your goal should have a deadline to focus on and something to work toward
Using these steps, you can decide on a big goal with a completion date:
GOAL COMPLETION DATE:
Often, goals are well-defined and valid, but are poorly motivated. It does not mean that there is no motivation behind it or the motivation is bad, it just means that the deepest motivation for a goal has not been undercovered and without this, the desire to change might not withstand the pitfalls, frustrations, and resistance - as will be discussed below.
For example, the desire to lose 20 pounds might be, at a superficial level, to look better naked. So that would be motivated by vanity. The desire to look good naked usually vanish when we are sitting in front of a 3-layer chocolate cake! I will look good naked… starting tomorrow!?
Often, however, there is something beneath this reason. Why is that that you [want to look better naked]? Ask yourself the question why? at least 3 times, each time using the previous answer in the question and see what comes out of it. I bet you will find some deep meaningful motivation!
So there you have your real motivation:
WHY DO I WANT TO ACHIEVE THIS GOAL?
Skills and practice
Now, to achieve a specific goal we first need to develop the necessary skills first. This is often the missing link!
For example, if you want to lose weight, it starts with a good nutrition. However, if you don’t know how to differentiate between good sources of protein, fat, and carbohydrate, or if you don’t know how to cook, it will be difficult to eat better and hence to lose the weight.
Therefore, to achieve your goals, perform these two steps:
Step 1: break down your goal into specific skills.
Step 2: build those skills through strategic daily practices.
So, we now have to develop skills: A skill is an ability to do something that will allow you to achieve the bigger goal.
Mastering a skill will come through practice: A practice is a daily behavior or action that helps with skill development.
A good practice should follow the ‘Five S formula’. Each practice should be:
Simple: Non-intimidating and easily done in the context of your real life.
Segmental: Part of a larger process that works together with other manageable steps.
Sequential: Introduced at the right time, in the right order.
Strategic: Addresses the biggest thing that’s preventing your progress right now.
Supported: Accompanied by support, mentorship, and accountability.
By using these steps, you should now have a set of skills to acquire and different practices that would be combined into supporting goals:
Pitfalls, frustrations, and resistance
There is always a handful of frustrations that can arise when we try to achieve a goal, develop new skills, and practice new habits or behaviours. Your body or mind might not respond as fast as you would expect, you might have a last minute meeting that changes your plan to go to the gym, you might be invited to go to the restaurant, or you might realize that you struggle more than you thought to learn or change a habit.
Then, maybe you will start to feel isolated because you are now declining all the invitations to go out for food or drinks. Maybe you will feel that you are spending less time with your friends or family and more time with your trainer and gym buddies. Maybe you will start to feel bored of the lack of diversity of your foods because you only make the few meals you know how to cook.
And a lot of frustration will arise from your own brain chemistry. When we decide to take on a challenge, our brain is suddenly filled with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that increases our motivation and drive! That increase in dopamine is short-lasting, and suddenly it is overwhelmed by a shortcoming in the neurotransmitter serotonin, which makes us feel good and rewarded. The withdrawal of some of the foods or routines that make us feel good or increase our sense of reward depletes serotonin. So, the motivation is fading and your brain is craving something comforting! And now you are facing resistance!
Resistance is a sign that changes are happening in your brain due to new neurons pathways forming because you are dissociating your old habits and creating new ones. The only way to overcome resistance is to keep in mind WHY you are doing this in the first place. Keeping your WHY in focus will help you next time you want to reach for your precious food (doughnut/pizza?) or perform your sacred ritual (a glass of wine/beer after a long day?)!
Moreover, by determining in advance the possible obstacles, pitfalls, and frustrations that might arise and having a set of predefined counter-actions will help you overcome these challenges and fight through your own internal resistance. So think about it, what do you think might have you diverged from practicing your skills and advancing towards your big goal?
WHAT ARE POSSIBLE OBSTACLES I WILL FACE?
Putting it all together!
So here you have it, a recipe to elaborate a well-motivated, defined, and attainable goal, as well as the sets of skills and practices to acquire to help you achieve this goal. Here is an example of this exercise:
I want to lose 20 pounds.
I want to lose the weight because being lighter will increase my confidence.
Not only will it increase my confidence but being lighter will help me perform better in the gym and give me extra energy to play with my kids.
That increased energy playing with my kids will help me live a longer, healthier, and happier life so I can set a great example for them.
WHAT ARE POSSIBLE OBSTACLES I WILL FACE?
No time to go to the gym.
The seven wedding invitations on my fridge.
My sweet tooth.
SUPPORTING GOALS (HIGH PERFORMANCE HABITS):
Work out for AT LEAST 10 minutes a day.
Drink 90 oz of water a day.
Always have healthy snacks by my desk.
Have a big, healthy meal before going to each wedding.
GOAL COMPLETION DATE:
August 1, 2019
No one said it would be easy!
Most importantly, be patient and kind to yourself 😌
If you need my help on a more individual level, do not hesitate to reach out to me! I also encourage you to follow me on social media on Instagram or on Facebook to get tips, recipes, and motivation bits!