The only thing between you and achieving your goals is… you. You have complete control over how much time and energy you put forth into achieving something. How many times have you looked at someone who you think has it all? Do you think they got where they are without hard work and some sacrifice? Most likely not. That’s the problem with working towards something; it’s work. Even more frustrating, while some goals have end dates, such as getting a post-graduate degree, they come with other goals, like actually putting that degree to use (and paying off those student loans). The goal to be healthy requires constant, life-long effort. The trick is to not look at it as work. Paul C. Brunson wrote an article titled “20 Habits for Success I Learned Working for Two Billionaires.” It’s a good read, and this trick comes from the very first habit- invest in yourself. When you stop looking at something as work, you’re more likely to stick with it. Looking at it as an investment reminds you that both the time spent, as well as the end result will have a greater return in the long term. This is big picture stuff.
The most important question to ask yourself when you are setting a goal is, “am I ready to make a change?” Seems simple, and you may think the answer is yes, but then ask yourself, “what am I willing to give up to make this change?” If you are trying to lose weight, there is something right now that is preventing you from doing this. Some of the top excuses for not being healthy include time, money, lack of care or desire, and just plain old having an excuse- bad day, good day, holiday, I’ll start tomorrow… You need to figure out what your excuse is, and then ask yourself, “how can I change this?” This can take a bit of serious self-reflection. Let’s look at the number one excuse- time.
Money is something we can earn as well as spend. Time is something we can only spend. We do not earn time. We don’t even know how much time we have. All we can do is know how to spend our time wisely. Really look at how you’re spending your time. Can you honestly not fit in a 15 minute walk into your day? If not, what can you give up to do so? Most of us could use a little less time in front of the computer or television. Americans spend up to 20 hours a week watching television. Experts say we should exercise at least 30 minutes a day (recommended for basic health maintenance). That’s only 3.5 hours weekly. Even if you exercise an hour a day (recommended for weight loss and improvement of health), that’s only 7 hours a week. So, if you are among the Americans watching 20 hours of television a week, you have time to put towards improving your health. If it’s not television, it may be any of the other time-wasters that we all seem to get sucked into- social media, online games, cat videos, and/or constantly checking email, to name a few. You don’t even have to do all that exercise at once. 10-15 minutes at a time is enough to build towards your health.
I could dissect every excuse, but I don’t want to tear down, I want to build up. Let’s focus now on how to not only set a goal, but to achieve it.
1- Make the goal obtainable and realistic. While a goal to lose weight meets that criteria, it may be difficult to determine the amount of weight that you should lose, and in what timeframe. I like the goal of becoming healthier, as you can break it down into realistic objectives. Plus, working towards a healthier lifestyle will often have the bonus benefit of weight loss.
2- Find out what it will take to achieve that goal. Just take 3-5 objectives that you can work towards. If you want to become healthier, think of what that means to you. It could be exercise more, eat healthier foods, drink less alcohol, or stop smoking. Break those down a little further. If you want to exercise more, what would you consider reasonable. A fifteen minute walk during your lunch break and after dinner could be a good start. Eat healthier foods- add more whole grains, eat less red meat.
3- Write it down. Put it where you can see it. Place your individual objectives where they make the most sense. Sticky notes are great for this. Exercise more can go on the TV or computer, or with your walking shoes. Eat healthier foods can go in the fridge or pantry. The important thing is that you see these reminders. Want a weird trick to help you out? Draw or cut a pair of eyes out of a magazine and put with the notes. We’re more likely to do something we’re supposed to if someone is watching, even if that someone is a paper pair of eyes.
4- Remember that this will take time. The reason so many people give up so quickly is because we want instant results. The best way to achieve a goal is to just take it one day at a time. If part of your goal is developing new habits, it can take up to 6 weeks for those habits to fully form and become a part of your life.
5- Don’t give up if you derail. Just get yourself back on track. Like I said, it’s one day at a time. If you have a bad day, don’t let guilt or anger at yourself tear you down. Stay positive. Acknowledge you made a mistake, then find a mirror, smile at yourself and tell yourself you’ll do better tomorrow.
6- Figure out the best way to have accountability. It’s hard to be your own boss, and there may be some family and friends who won’t give you full support. Hiring a health coach may cost some money, but they can be your best resource for health information, as well as provide that needed accountability to keep you going.
7- Reward yourself for hitting milestones. This doesn’t have to be big or extravagant, or even involve food. A nice pair of jeans, a massage, or even a little dance party for one to say “hey, I did it!”
The best advice I can give is to not wait until the New Year, or next week or next month, every time you want to make a positive change. Continually re-evaluate yourself, and make a decision at that point in time to change what you know needs to be changed. Spend your time wisely, invest in yourself and stay positive.