By Seth Spicer
“Time is the friend of those with good habits”. This oversimplification really does summarize the point of this post, aside from the details of how to achieve good habits. We all want to be a better person, more disciplined, more resilient, to reach the goals that we set for ourselves. In between these goals and our outcomes is frustration because it’s not as simple as vague “discipline”.
Remember, progress is a result of small changes over time. Nothing worth having happens overnight. This expectation is very healthy and is more likely to keep you motivated when the going gets tough knowing that you’re in it for the long haul!
To get to the point, how do you create the systems and habits that allow you to reach your goals? First, to head down the correct path, you need to know exactly where you are going and when you want to get there. Clearly writing out your goal is step one. At Connected Community Health Support we write often about the importance of SMART goals. This includes creating goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound. In other words, mark your path. Take time right now to figure out, name, and write down exactly what it is that you want to achieve, and by when. Done? Great.
This probably feels good and excites you. Unfortunately this is where a lot of people stop because now they have a feel good plan. We don’t want to feel good just now though, we want to feel good when we achieve our goals later.
Next up, after you have named your goal and when you want to achieve it, we want to create steps to get there that we can use to track progress along the way. Rocky didn’t levitate to the top of the stairs after one big jump, he did it one stride at a time, day after day may I add. I recommend weekly checkups with small goals along the way. If your goal is to lose 10 pound in 10 weeks, check in each week with an accurate body fat scale to make sure you’re on pace 1 pound at a time! Note: 1-2 pounds a week is a healthy rate, more than that is unsafe and unsustainable. Take time right now to write down what your short term check in goals will be based on your long term goals and timeline.
We are getting closer to being done. Next, you have to address the systems that will help you reach your goal. Hating yourself and willing it into existence is not enough, nor is it the best way to go. HOW will you go about reaching your short and long term goals each day? While we are centered around our 7 pillars of health and fitness, this question and framework applies to just about any goal. Changing your daily habits and systems is what actually leads to progress. Perhaps you have blocked time to exercise each day, blocked out time to create a healthy grocery list and meal prep after grocery shopping each week, and set a reminder in your phone to be mindful of, and to reiterate, your daily plan each morning so that you can bring it to fruition. This is a great step, all you have to do now is follow through with this plan! I would like to point out that making this execution easy and in line with what you can realistically do is the key to progress. Again, little changes over time, like a mindfulness phone alarm 3x a day, are what create big differences. Once you do the math and figure out what you have to do to reach your goals, you just have to trust the process. Take five minutes right now to plan out what your systems each day are going to be so that you can reach your goals.
Lastly, how do we sustain motivation? Day 7 doesn't feel as good as day 0, ever. The trick to long term motivation is not externally driven, but internal. While money and social recognition help, you really should cultivate your own internal sense of drive. How do we do this? Primarily through changing and reinforcing your identity. You must identify as the person you are trying to become. For example, you aren’t taking action to become healthy, you are taking action because you are a healthy person trying to become more fit. You aren’t saving money to become rich, you are saving money because you are a frugal person. The things we tell ourselves to be true, are likely to become so. In each action you take, remind yourself to associate that action with your new identity. You exercised today because you are a healthy person.
Further, it helps to have a central reason as to why you are making this change. The more imagery and emotion that you can attach to your reasoning and drive, the more powerful and lasting this “WHY” is likely to become. For example, you want to be able to go skiing again, you want to be able to feel competent in your activities of daily living, or the easy answer of wanting to be able to partake in those special moments with your family loved ones in the future. Take time to write out which identity you would like to assume and reinforce as well as your central “WHY”. Again, reinforce this each day and be mindful of it! I personally set reminders in my phone to go off three times a day to remind me to be mindful of my goals and systems to achieve them. The sticky notes around the house are good to start off as well.
In summary, you have a goal, you have steps to achieve them, you have the systems in place to achieve these goals, you have time blocked out to achieve these systems, you have reminders to be mindful, you have your “why” and your identity written down and posted in visible places, and you have reminder in your phone set to check in with your short term goal markers.
If you have read this far and done as requested for yourself, you likely have set yourself up to achieve whatever it is you want. Have fun on your journey! If you ever want to walk through this process for yourself with someone, start with a family member or loved one. This communication will help solidify and support your goals and progress. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, shoot us an email and get feedback from a professional at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lastly, we have a community at Connectedchs.com/groups that you can sign up for and become a part of to provide and receive support or blog about your progress as a form of self accountability and inspiration for others! Thank you for reading this, we hope it helps, and good luck as you Defy The Odds.