How taking a different approach to goal setting can change your life
I've realised something lately - a life lesson if you will. However, I'm struggling to articulate myself in such a way in which the words flow off the page and into your mind as I mean them to. All too often I sit down to write and what I read back isn't quite the message I wished to convey. I have a feeling this particular post will take a good few days of mulling over, plenty of tapping at the delete button and much pondering over which words are appropriate.
Setting challenges, creating goals and resolutions of which we tell ourselves we must accomplish rarely leads us to actually realize our dreams.
After spending a lifetime of thinking up a variety of objectives, which when multiplied together over time, equal the big goal I want to achieve, I've discovered that most of the time, I'm setting myself up for failure.
When we tell ourselves me must do something, at first we feel empowered. However after the novelty of it wears off, we're left with something we have to do. It takes the fun out of the activity. For example, last year I told myself I had to workout a minimum of five times a week. I loved working out beforehand and regularly achieved a workout five times a week or more. After the first few weeks of working at my goal, guess what happened? I didn't find it fun anymore, it had gone from being an exercise I did for fun, that brought me enjoyment, to an obligation. I began dreading workouts and stressed when I couldn't fit them in. Due to it being an obligation, I'd procrastinate more, it would take me longer to decide what kind of workout I wanted to do and I began cutting the time I did the practice for down little by little, just wanting it to be over.
With obligation, comes excuses. Our lives are jam packed with responsibilities, so many things we have no choice but to do, and when we add one more to the list it creates added pressure. We can find an excuse for pretty much anything.
- I can't write in my journal today because I have no time - said whilst scrolling through instagram.
- I can't go for a run because it's raining - even though wet weather running gear was purchased for this purpose.
- I can't eat a salad for dinner because oh my god I am ravenous and pizza is just easier - even though yummy goodness is sat waiting in the fridge to be chopped up and thrown together quicker than any pizza can cook.
Skipping a day or taking a day off - fantastic in theory, you'll hop right back on the bandwaggon the following day, right? In practice it actually makes it more difficult to hop right back on that theoretical bandwaggon. When we miss a day of doing a particular thing, we break the habit. Habits take around 30-60 days to create so we kinda don't wanna go messing with that. It's so easy to think "well I missed yesterday so I've already failed anyway, I'll get back on it in a few days". "I'll just take this weekend off", or "I'll start again on Monday", or "I'll start again at the beginning of next month".
I got really into using the headspace app last year and had a stint of four months of daily meditation on the trot logged on the app. I missed one day, just one little day and guess what? The next day I thought "ahh it'll be okay, I'll get back to it on Monday". I didn't go back into the app for months afterwards, not because it had slipped my mind, it was constantly playing on my mind, but because I'd already failed at a year of daily meditation so why start now?!
Little & Often.
As with most things in life, little and often is the best way forward as is flexibility. We self pressure so much that there comes a time, when there's so much weight on our shoulders, something has got to give. Instead of telling myself I must do something now I'm more flexible in my approach. I look at why I would want to set myself that particular challenge in the first place and try to keep that in mind.
I've stopped calling things like workouts, meditation, healthy eating "goals" as they are things I would like to incorporate into my life forever. If I ever manage to meditate daily for a year, do I want to stop when the year is up? Most likely not! It's not something you achieve, it's something you actively practice every day.
Activities I am incorporating into my life.
- Workout five days a week. Why? Because I want to be fit and healthy and it lifts my mood making me a much happier and positive person. So, would it have the same effect if sometimes I worked out three times a week instead of five? YUP!
- Daily Meditation - Why? Because it calms me and gives me peace of mind. What happens if I miss a day? It's not a problem, I can just pick it up again the following day. It's an ever evolving practice not a challenge that I can fail at.
- Daily Yoga - Why? Because it stretches me out and makes me feel alive and less achey.
Instead of creating goals, and forever moving those goal posts - so we never actually feel like we achieve anything. I've started to think of the particular things I would set as goals as lifestyle choices. I'm not as hard on myself if I miss a workout or can't find the time to meditate. Life is hectic and sometimes we just can't. Instead, I'm trying to be as kind as I possibly can to myself. I'm mindful of how I speak to myself in my mind and the thoughts and judgements I make. I'm trying to treat myself as I would my best friend, it's making all the difference.
Create Life Goals.
I'm not for one moment saying don't set goals in life. I have many big goals I hope to achieve - I'd like to work on my projects more, become a mother, travel to many different countries etc. But when it comes to smaller "goals" that in particular surround my body image and mental attitude. Lifestyle goals or personal growth goals, I'm looking at them from a different angle.
I'm not sure if that made as much sense as I was hoping it to but I do hope that if you made it to the end of my ramble, at the very least it got the cogs in your brain turning over and sparked a little thought about how you look at goals.