Persistence is the key to making focused progress towards your end results says Marie Herman
It happens every year. You make resolutions for yourself on New Year’s Day and you diligently write out a list of the goals that you will achieve this year. Then two weeks into the year, the resolutions are toast and you gave the list to your kids to use as doodling paper. Why is it so hard to achieve our goals?
It’s Not You, It’s Your WHY!
Are you actually choosing a goal that you want to accomplish? No, not just in the “I should lose weight” or “I should go back to school” vague sense of feeling a duty to society or our spouse or our executive, or even ourselves.
I’m talking about goals that you are burningly passionate about. Goals that really get you excited to accomplish them. Goals that you can clearly establish your WHY for and that WHY is something strong enough to drive you through the inevitable weak moments.
If you are setting goals that you feel you “should” set, but you don’t really feel them in your heart, you’ll find excuses and allow obstacles to stop you from making progress on them.
If there is a goal that you “should” accomplish, think long and hard about WHY you should reach it. How is your life going to change when you reach that goal? What will be better? How will it make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you? Be as specific as possible.
If you don’t have a heartfelt truly feel it in your bones type of WHY, change is unlikely to result.
OK, You Figured Out the WHY, What’s the WHAT?
All right, you have figured out your WHY. You know exactly why you need to make a change. The next step is to set up the right goals. I’m sure you’ve heard of the SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time bound). But truthfully those don’t always go far enough. I can make a very SMART goal – I want to lose 50 pounds by December 31, 2019. Is it specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound? Yup, technically it checks all the boxes. So, if that’s all it takes, how come I probably won’t be 50 pounds lighter in twelve months? Because writing down a goal isn’t enough, although studies show it greatly improves your odds of success.
Put Your Plan Together for HOW
How are you going to achieve this goal? In the case of weight loss, you could: diet, exercise, track your food intake, eat salad every day, drink protein shakes, etc. Will all of those work? Potentially.
But those are all vague and generic. How about: I will walk for 30 minutes, 3 times a week (on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays) on my lunch hour at work.
Now I have a plan, right? Now I truly can measure it. In fact, I can create a great tracking worksheet for myself and put little gold star stickers into a checkbox for each day that I go walking. I can tell immediately each week if I have achieved my target. I can adjust as time goes by, making the walks longer or more often as my stamina increases.
When we make lofty goals, we need to breakdown our intentions into specific actionable steps. Those steps should be an action that you can check off on a task list. Lose 50 pounds? Not happening in one action. Walk for 30 minutes today at noon? One action that can be checked off. Drink more water. Too vague. Drink 32 ounces of water by noon? Specific enough to be checked off each day.
If your goal is to lose 50 pounds by December 31 and by December 1, you have only lost 10 pounds, you are not going to achieve that goal. But at that point, it’s too late to do anything about it. You can’t realistically change your strategy at the 11th month to achieve this goal.
On the other hand, if you have a tracking sheet for the walking and each week you are putting down the gold stars and you have a second tracking sheet for the weight, you’ll know earlier in the year how you are doing with progress and you can adjust your game plan.
If, come the first of March, you are down 10 pounds of your 50 pound goal, you’ll know that you are making reasonable progress and have a good shot at making that goal. Come June 30, if you are not down 25 pounds, then you’ll know you need to make more changes – increase the frequency or duration or intensity of your walking for instance.
Now You Need the WHO
Do you have a support system that will keep you focused and on track?
Surround yourself with people that have similar goals and similar levels of self-discipline (or better than yours!). Can you pair yourself up with a walking buddy? Can you join an online community focused on weight loss (or your specific goal)? Can you post updates on your Facebook page and ask your friends to follow up with you to make sure you did it?
Change can be a painful process. Don’t rely on your memory to get you started! Change, especially at the beginning stages, requires focused effort. Use technology to your advantage. Schedule those walks on your calendar, including having a reminder pop up 1-2 hours beforehand so you can plan your workload to be able to break for lunch and aren’t “surprised” by the task when you had forgotten about it.
Create checklists for yourself and put them up in very visible locations.
Put things out to remind you visually– like your sneakers on top of your purse in your desk drawer.
Perhaps you could start a group at work that is focused on weight loss. This would build in some peer pressure in a good way to help everyone do better.
Don’t rule out strangers. Do you belong to a Facebook group for your neighborhood? Put out a post there asking for walking partners and make some new friends in the area.
No matter what, make sure that you remove yourself from any toxic relationships that prevent you from achieving your goals. If you have that one friend that you hang out with who loves to commiserate about the need to lose weight but gets jealous when you achieve it, you need to not hang out with that friend until you are strong enough to withstand the negativity.
Follow-up is Critical – WHEN Will You Get It Done?
It’s easy to write lists. Heck, I can write lists all day long – dozens and dozens of them. You’ve got to have the rest of the components in place to have success.
How are you going to hold yourself accountable for completing the tasks?
How are you going to ensure that you follow through on what you are planning to do?
What are the safeguards you are putting in place to help keep you on track?
Did you accept a lunch date with a co-worker because you “forgot” that you had planned to walk that day? What’s your backup plan? Are you going to cancel the walk? Ask the co-worker to join you for a walk? Cancel the lunch? Change the time of your walk?
Making decisions ahead of time as to what you will do if something comes up to derail your efforts can go a long way in preventing a train wreck.
It’s all too easy to have a feast or famine mentality. Oh, well, I forgot about my walk. Guess if I’m going to be bad, I might as well go all out and get pie for dessert while I am out. The day is blown anyway. Sounds silly when we put it that way, doesn’t it? And yet, we humans tend to do that all the time.
Success in Your Future Is WHERE You Are Headed
You can achieve your goals, if you are smart about setting the goals in the first place and you are persistent in your follow through. So long as you continue making focused progress towards your end results, you WILL move closer to the goal. Anticipate the speed bumps you will encounter along the way. Make a plan for getting around those obstacles and keep your eyes focused on the final prize. You WILL get there.