How to stop punishing yourself with unrealistic goals + focus on habits
“First forget inspiration.
Habit is more dependable.
Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not.
Habit is persistence in practice.”
— Octavia Butler
It's that time of year! The time for resolutions, goal-setting, and reflecting upon everything we've done or wish to do.
For me, this is a very reflective time. I'm a dreamer and I have a long list of things I wish to accomplish. This time of year brings everything to the surface for me and I find myself wading in waters of uncertainty as a ponder about my past and future self. This time of year brings out all the feels.
It's the time for me to look back at the previous year and dissect everything I did (or didn't do). It usually involves me beating myself up 100 times over for all the mistakes I made and risks I didn't take. I end up setting gigantic, unrealistic goals for the year to come. I obsessively write them out and make looooong lists of all the things I'll need to do in order to accomplish said goals. You know what the sadistic part of it all is? It feels like a punishment for not accomplishing what I had planned to do a year ago. A punishment I can already feel myself wanting to rebel against.
My newer mindset on life thinks it's bullshit to punish yourself, so this year is going to be different.
No unrealistic goals will be set. No laundry list of overwhelming shit to do. Nope. Not going to happen.
You know what IS going to happen? An extreme focus on habits. This past year, I began to coach my clients around implementing new habits and dropping habits that no longer serve them. I didn't want to feel like a fraud if I still had habits that no longer served me, so I ended up zeroing in on my own issues as well.
I'm always preaching to work WITH your body and not against it, so the same can go for your brain.
Habits are your brain's best friend. Forming healthy habits takes the guess-work out of making healthy choices and eliminates decision fatigue. While goals usually rely on EXTRINSIC motivation...something that can come and go.... habits are automatic. They legit rewire our brains. That's fucking dope.
Does that mean we're going to totally forget about our goals? No way! Also, I understand that some people like lists. If you are one of those people, you might enjoy this exercise.
Let's use goals as a TOOL to figure out what habits to focus on. Get out a pen + paper and let's do this the old fashioned way.
1. Write down a goal
It can be ANYTHING - big or small. Try to remain detached from this goal on a superficial level and keep digging deep into WHY you have this goal. Want 6-pack abs? That's cool. Ask yourself WHY.
2. Plan your attack
Let's use the 6-pack abs as an example, just for shits and giggles. Break it down and write down all the things you would PERSONALLY have to do in order to achieve that goal. GET SPECIFIC...like.... Go to the gym 4 days per week, go grocery shopping and meal prep every Sunday, eliminate sugar, and do 100 sit-ups per day *note - not actual ways to get a 6-pack...I wouldn't actually know because I don't have one hehe*
3. Assess your attack
Now, look at that list of things you'll have to do in order to achieve said 6-pack abs and ask yourself if all of those things align with your true values. Ask yourself if the things on that list are SUSTAINABLE. If the answer is no, let's work on setting a new goal that DOES align with your value system. Let's say you change your goal to working out 4 days per week. Go through the process again and write down each step you'll have to take in order to accomplish this. Sit with it and see if it feels good. It's really important for your goals to FEEL good. Which brings me to the next step....
4. Write down what you value most in life
Make a separate column and write down your values. You see....at the root of it all, aligning with your highest values is what's ACTUALLY going to make excited about your life.
I'll use mine as an example. I value feeling my best and sustaining energy, helping others, quality time with my loved ones, learning, and playing music. If getting a 6-pack doesn't align with these values, chances are ...it won't really make me happy. Just because you have a 6-pack, doesn't mean you're healthy and TRUTH BE TOLD...the lengths I'd personally have to go to in order to achieve this would actually signicantly reduce my quality of life.
So right now you might be thinking....Yoooo, T. This kind of feels like a mindfulness exercise? What the H?
Yeah, basically I just tricked you into doing a mindfulness exercise. Shhhh...just go with it.
5. Decide where + how you can create HABITS within that goal
Once you've aligned your goals with your values and it FEELS good, you can really create a plan of attack using habits. You could even call them mini-goals. If your goal is to workout 4 days per week and right now you don't work out AT ALL...meet yourself where you're at. You can start small. Amazing things come from small, diligent actions. Have your first HABIT be to get in some form of movement everyday. This will create momentum and eventually, you'll want to level up and work with a coach or join a gym. Once you join a gym, be realistic with your schedule and start off with 1-2 days per week. You'll eventually work yourself up to 4 days when the time is right.
If all else fails on any given day, ask yourself:
"What am I able and willing to do today to get myself moving toward my goal?"
What are some of your goals for 2018? Do they align with your values? I'd love to know! Comment below!