One thing I have learned thus far on my journey to better health is that personal growth and change happen slowly. I feel as though many people set out to improve themselves in a certain way and when it doesn’t happen fast enough, they give up or look to the next trend or gimmick to get them to their goal. New habits and routines take time. You can become and do anything you set your mind to as long as you stick to it and endure the difficult times.
A number of years ago, I was relatively sedentary and didn’t put much thought into what I ate. I didn’t feel great though. I discovered that wheat, dairy and eggs were major contributors to making me feel bloated, uncomfortable and yucky, for lack of a better term, after a meal. Having little experience with nutrition or cooking, I felt pretty defeated when I was told I should stop eating those foods. What else was there to eat!? Over the next few years, I began to adapt to this new way of eating. I felt way better and really started to realize how important and influential what you put into your body is. I became interested in cooking and I chuckle to myself when I think of the dinners I would make compared to now. But I had to start somewhere. After a few years of feeling much better, I really could never imagine myself going back to the way I used to eat. This is a good thing! If you are putting effort into changing yourself for the better, each year you will be a better version of who you were last year.
The most important part about that learning experience was I showed myself I was capable of doing what I had set out to do and that was to feel better by changing what I ate. Once you believe you have that power and are armed with proof or examples, the sky's the limit on what you can achieve. It has a snowball effect as well. After a few small achievements it becomes easier because deep down you’ve begun to believe it's possible.
I remember when I was learning to drive; my driving instructor said the car will drift to wherever your eyes are. This is similar to having a positive mental attitude; your life will move in the direction of where your mental attitude is. Thinking something is impossible for you to achieve will always end in it being impossible for you to achieve. And it really takes some effort sometimes to push through the negative self talk and tell the nagging voice in your head to be quiet. I find this to be the most effective for me when I am experiencing a bout of anxiety or negative self talk. I acknowledge and listen to the negative voice, however, I then replace what I’ve just heard with something much more positive. A positive mental attitude is the only way to long lasting success.
My first tip for goal setting for the New Year, or anytime really, is to first have an ultimate long-term goal, then create a list of smaller goals you must achieve first. If your goal is to lose 60 lbs, you must first think of how you are going to lose the first 5 lbs. And how will you do that? Maybe you will start walking 3 days a week or start bringing a homemade lunch to work or start meal prepping or quit snacking at night - anything small and that you think is achievable. Maybe you have to go even smaller than that, which is perfect, if that’s what will be achievable for you. The most important thing is you’ve taken a step in the right direction. Focus on that one small goal until it feels comfortable and has become a habit for you. Then, celebrate those small victories. Acknowledge that you took the first step and were successful! Now think of the next small goal. If you think tackling more than one small goal at a time is achievable for you, then go for it!
I think one reason why some people aren’t successful in their goals is that they’ve overwhelmed themselves. The thought of losing 60 lbs, for example, when you haven’t lost weight in years, or ever, can be extremely overwhelming. This is why focusing on at least one small goal at a time is most important. Also, be cognizant of what else you have going on in your life. Make your goals achievable in relation to other goals you are working on. Many successful leaders will tell you, it’s difficult to be successful working towards more than three goals at a time. Say you’d like to improve your relationship with an old friend, coworker, family member or spouse, you also would like to start exercising and eating better as well as take on a bit more at work in order to get a promotion or you’re starting a new career. You can see how making a bunch of small goals is going to become overwhelming.
However, we live in 2017 and life is very demanding, so if you do start to feel overwhelmed remember to be kind to yourself. Take a step back, reevaluate, and ask yourself what alternative goals will be more achievable at this time. You cannot have the good without the bad, so it’s important to remember during a rough patch to keep your head up, try to see the good, and better days are ahead.
I strongly suggest making a health or lifestyle related goal this year. A poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle are major contributors to early mortality and a decreased health span (the time period of healthy living before eventual decline) Making goals in other parts of your life is fantastic but your health will always be the most important because it's all you have at the end of the day.
Tips for Success with your New Year’s Goals
Make 1 ultimate goal in relation to nutrition or fitness. Break it down into smaller goals and give yourself at least 4 weeks to adjust to a new habit.
Enjoy the process. If losing weight, getting in shape or eating healthier is an ultimate goal of yours, maintaining the new habits you build for a lifetime will be essential, so might as well enjoy it. Besides, once you reach those goals, you will already have bigger and better ideas in mind, so the process will become the only constant.
Remember that new habits typically form slowly. It's said that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. However, sometimes it take some trial and error in order to figure out the best way to go about achieving a goal. Maybe you made your first small goal too ambitious and you needed to step back and scale it down a little. Maybe life got in the way, and you need to reevaluate how you are going to make your health a priority. It definitely happens, but don’t use these as excuses to not follow through with your goals. It just takes some adjusting, reevaluating, and a positive mental attitude. Which brings me to my next point.
Be kind to yourself. Building new habits takes time and rarely does it happen where one decides to start a new habit and right from the start they are 100% successful. There will be setbacks, but the most important thing is that you start with a fresh slate every morning, not every Monday.