Thinking Through Your Goals
By Alison Rentschler
It’s a new year—2020! Time to start working on new goals, thinking of new resolutions and planning new visions. But why do we think of new resolutions each year? And how can we reach our goals?
Amy Kuth, employee well-being specialist at the Mayo Clinic’s Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center, notes that common resolutions include losing weight, exercising more, making nutrition goals, improving finances and quitting smoking.
According to Matt Arnold, owner of Detour Athletics, “Weight loss is number one probably 99% of the time. People also want to be more active, get physically fit and make better food choices.”
Sylvia DeMott, a mindset coach for business owners and professionals, has heard similar goals including people wanting to lose weight, make more money, get out of debt, stop smoking, spend less time on the phone, start or grow a business, travel more and wake up earlier.
Eva Cruz Peña, an emotional mastery coach, says, “The most common resolutions revolve around changing behavior that’s kept us stuck in a lifestyle that’s incongruent with what we desire. They usually involve the replacement of unhealthy behaviors with ones that are in support of our goals.” For example, she explains if it’s your goal to have a healthy body, you might set resolutions to stop drinking, start exercising and stop eating unhealthy foods.
WHAT’S BEHIND THE DESIRE TO MAKE RESOLUTIONS?
“It’s a fresh new start, a whole new year,” explains Kuth. “It’s a good time to start a new habit. We can start with a clean slate.”
DeMott agrees, “I think we humans love having a fresh start. We love having new things to look forward to, and we have high hopes for ourselves and how we can change. We like having goals that we can move toward. We want to keep growing and feel excited about where we’re going.”
“The beginning of every year presents itself as a blank canvas, a new notebook and lots of space that allows us the opportunity to create anew,” Cruz Peña notes. “By making a resolution, we are intending to free ourselves from anything or anyone that prevents us from living the life we desire. We set resolutions when we find ourselves in the gap between who I currently am, what I do and what I have and what I desire to be, do and have.”
WHY IT’S HARD TO CHANGE HABITS
“People look at the end goal and don’t see the underlying issues to change habits,” says Arnold. “They see the big massive end goal and skip the baby steps to get there and build the mental base needed to see permanent change.” He explains that people have to be realistic about their goals and honest about themselves and their ability to follow through.
As DeMott explains, “We try to make big changes happen too quickly. We focus on changing big things rather than focusing on creating small consistent habits that lead to change. We set goals that are too high, and we get easily discouraged because we don’t focus on giving ourselves credit for what we’re doing right. Habits and change take time. We have to work on things consistently, and this means starting small and adding as we go.”
“People don’t set realistic goals, or they fall into all-or-nothing thinking,” says Kuth. “People think they can do it on their own, but it’s helpful to get support and accountability. For example, you can tell a friend what you’re doing or do it with someone.”
Kuth asks clients why the goal is important and what their motivation is. She says this helps identify what’s important in order for them to be successful. She notes, “People are more likely to meet a goal if they have a specific goal, a clear vision about it and what they’re going to achieve.”
“Changing our habits is hard because, in order to create something new, we must release something that we’ve known or become comfortable with,” describes Cruz Peña. “Leaving the known to step into the unknown can be really scary for people. The idea of losing control of our environment, even if we know it’s not favorable, can be overwhelming enough to keep us stuck. Also, most people only change at the level of doing—our behavior. Unless we change at the level of being, our patterns of behaviors will pull us back to the path of least resistance—our comfort and safety zone (status quo).”
MAKING STEPS TOWARD LASTING CHANGE
Kuth explains, “People need to make realistic goals, take small steps and leverage their strengths. They need to elicit support and accountability. They need to identify barriers and come up with possible solutions.”
“Get support and accountability,” adds DeMott. “I’m an entrepreneur, and I have two accountability buddies that I check in with each week. If you know you do best with outside accountability, look for ways to build this into your week.”
Arnold says, “Everyone has excuses, but people use that as a crutch. Balance life with your health. Situations might happen but think about how you’re going to handle it. Don’t let those situations overtake you.”
“The biggest way to create lasting change is to change the way you see yourself—to create a new identity for yourself around the changes you want to make,” notes DeMott. “For instance, instead of saying that I’m going to lose 10 pounds, see yourself as a healthy person and ask yourself what other healthy people do.” This might mean telling yourself you’re the type of person who exercises three to four times a week, who tracks food and plans meals for the week, who gets seven to nine hours of sleep or who journals when stressed instead of opening up the fridge.
“Lasting change happens when we are able to bring the mind, heart and body into alignment and sustain it,” says Cruz Peña. “Unless these three components are in alignment and sustained, the change will be temporary.” She explains the process she follows for implementing change with clients is holistic and integrative: “We need to take into account the emotional, physical and mental aspects.”
According to Cruz Peña, she guides clients through a discovery exercise to take inventory of their life and rate their levels of satisfaction in different areas. She asks them to pick one area, and they focus on finding what they want to transform in that area.
THOUGHTS AS YOU MAKE YOUR RESOLUTIONS AND GOALS
“The goal has to be important to you,” says Kuth. “You need to feel confident that you’re able to achieve it.”
DeMott says, “You don’t have to wait until the New Year to start making changes! Create small habits first based on the goals you want to achieve. When you shift your identity, you can really create long-lasting habits based on that identity. Also, focus on giving yourself credit and not beating yourself up for what you did wrong. Be very kind to yourself. Try your best not to compare yourself with others! You’re on your own journey.”
“What we do in one day may not get us very far,” notes DeMott. “But if we keep up the action most days for a period of time, our results will compound, and we’ll reap the rewards.”
“It doesn’t matter what you do; it’s following through and being consistent,” says Arnold.
Check out this EXTRA helpful Resource: Six Easy Steps to Create Habits that Stick