Here we are, halfway through January already! The new year is underway, and so many of us (myself included) entered 2018 with new goals and a new sense of commitment to creating real change in our lives this year. For a lot of us, many of those goals revolve around health and fitness. Maybe you vowed that this is the year you’ll finally get into shape, maybe you want to cut sugar out of your diet once and for all, or perhaps you’re committed to finally sticking to a strength training routine long term – no matter how badly you want to skip out on the gym in favor of take-out and a Netflix binge. But just two weeks into January, some of that motivation has probably started to fade away, and the pull of our sweatpants and cozy couches feels stronger and stronger every day. This is a very familiar pattern to many of us: setting goals, vowing to be really committed this time, and then, ultimately losing motivation, getting frustrated, and giving up.
But why? Why is this something so many people go through, year after year, resolution after resolution, horrible bathing suit shopping experience after another? Why does nothing seem to motivate us enough to actually stick to working toward a goal longer than a few weeks at a time?
Why Do We Struggle To Stick to Our Goals?
We can all think of plenty of answers to that question: we’re too busy, our kids got sick, work got crazy, it’s too cold…the list goes on and on. But the real answer to this question is that many of us are setting unrealistic goals for ourselves and setting ourselves up for failure. We’re expecting too much from ourselves, too quickly, and we become trapped in an all-or-nothing mindset. We think, if I can’t get to the gym five days a week and run four miles every single time, it’s not even worth it. I’ll just go tomorrow when I have time for a real workout. But this is where we are wrong — so very, very wrong. Because when we overreach in our goal setting, we’re setting ourselves up to be disappointed in our commitment and progress, or (perceived) lack thereof. So when we inevitably start to feel overwhelmed by the pressure we’re putting on ourselves to meet our own unrealistic goals, we decide we ” just can’t” do it, and we quit.
It’s a road we’ve all been down, whether it’s a work goal, a fitness goal, a health goal, a financial goal, you name it, we all want to shoot for the stars. But that’s not the way to achieve real results. So, let’s get real with our goals this year and start making some actual progress. How? By setting small, incremental goals, and by celebrating our achievements. When you think of things in small steps, it becomes much easier and less overwhelming to face your goals, and when you don’t get overwhelmed by your goals, you’re much more likely to stay on track!
Getting Real With Our Goals
Start by thinking of your end goal. Maybe it’s to lose a set amount of weight. Maybe it’s to cut out gluten, added sugar, and dairy from your diet. Start there, and then work backward. If your goal is to completely eliminate dairy from your diet, start by thinking about what you currently eat in a typical day, and swap out one thing for a non-dairy alternative. Yes, just one. This may be tough for a couple of days, maybe even a week, but will be relatively painless compared to eliminating an entire food group cold turkey. Once you’ve gotten used to that small change, swap out another thing. All these tiny changes will add up to a lifestyle change over time.
For example, a few months ago I consumed dairy probably five times per day, starting with milk in my morning coffee and yogurt for breakfast. I have been wanting to eliminate dairy to see if it helped with my horrible sinus issues, but it was a huge part of my diet, and I knew it would be very difficult. Instead of waking up one morning and deciding “NO MORE DAIRY”, I began by replacing the milk in my coffee with a non-dairy alternative (I tried several options before settling on homemade almond milk lattes, YUM) and switching up my go-to breakfast from yogurt to a hearty smoothie or some eggs with fruit. Honestly, it was painless. I don’t even miss the milk in my coffee! My next step has been to cut out the cheese from lunch staples like salads, and I’ll keep cutting, one meal at a time, until I’m completely dairy free.
Celebrate Your Achievements
One of the reasons we often overreach when setting goals for ourselves is that we want to feel a huge sense of achievement – this is what motivates us. We want to be able to say “I lost 20 pounds” or “I meditate twice a day, for twenty minutes”, and we think anything less than our ultimate goal is not worth recognition. It’s time to let that mindset go! Instead, recognize and celebrate every tiny step you make toward your goal. Write it down. Tell a friend. You can email me and I’ll cheer you on! When we celebrate incremental successes, it gives us some perspective on our overall goal. To go back to my dairy elimination goal, I put off starting on that path for so long because I actually told myself it was impossible for me to never eat dairy, mostly because I was so attached to my morning coffee. Now that I’ve replaced the milk in my coffee, I’ve realized that the larger goal – eliminating diary entirely – isn’t so crazy. Celebrating small goals helps you focus on what you’ve already accomplished, instead of only focusing on what you still want to do.
So make this the year you finally tackle that resolution. Identify your goal, write down the baby steps you’ll take to get there, get started, and celebrate every step of the way! Remember, the journey is just as important as the destination. Here’s to crushing our goals in 2018!