Goals – useful and sustainable

Happy New Year!  

This is common time of year to think of goals, making changes in life.  Many of us have had mixed results with the old “new years resolutions”, but what if you WANT to make some life changes?  How can you approach this in a productive, useful and sustainable way?  I have a few points for you to consider.  

  1. Approach this entire topic with kindness and self compassion.  Self criticism does not help us achieve more.  (See Kristin Neff’s book Self Compassion for more details on this.)  
  2. Plan/look long term.  We would all like to have overnight change and accomplishment.  Reality is that this is not how change usually happens.  Most of our behavior is driven by habit, which was formed over time and is difficult (but not impossible) to change.  It will likely take time and effort to make some changes in your life.  This is normal.  
  3. Stepping stone goals.  This is the useful idea that large goals/end goals can be broken down into smaller, more achievable goals – stepping stone goals as one person labeled them.  I find it to be much more productive to set small goals initially, be able to readily meet them and become motivated to keep going.  You can always increase the size or difficulty of your goals as you continue along.  
  4. Add in, don’t remove or prohibit.  When humans feel restricted or “punished” somehow, we usually rebel.  In this sense, being too harsh to self in trying to make changes can backfire.  Rather than attacking the “bad” behavior, think instead of how you can ADD IN some better behavior.  Don’t tell yourself you “cannot” watch TV, but instead add in some stretches every 10 minutes, or do some movement WHILE watching TV/shows.  The same thing applies if trying to make some food changes.  Don’t tell yourself you will “not eat X”, instead just begin adding in some more nutrient dense foods/snacks/meals.  
  5. Write goals down and track them.  This needs to be done with self compassion, but if we do not clearly identify our goals and direction, we will probably not make much progress.  
  6. Don’t beat self up for “slow” progress, instead celebrate and reinforce any and ALL progress that is happening.  This will help create more progress. 
  7. Accountability.  This is a useful concept, IF done kindly and with self compassion.  Most humans will step up a BIT more if they know they will have to show up for a friend/training buddy or “report” to someone on their individual behavior.  It helps us follow thru with the plans/action steps we have written down and personally committed to.    

So, I hope these are useful. Best wishes as you make some positive changes for you!  


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