Have you ever noticed that we Westerners are obsessed with setting goals? If you’re not making six-figures, you should be. If your scale is tipping over 115 lbs, you better hit that gym more. You need to skip lunch today to save for that incredible handbag you saw in Bloomingdales. We as a society are constantly comparing and judging ourselves based on the people around us and this unspoken expectation of perfection. It also doesn’t help that we are constantly connected to email, text, internet — a black hole of mental distractions and ammo for the comparison cannon. If you’re not working 10 hour days, you’re racked with guilt, if you sat on the couch one afternoon without hitting your spin class, you’re racked with guilt. Then, on-top of the culturally imposed rat race we’re born into, add the relationship we have with unattainable celebrity culture and you have a recipe for self-esteem destruction. No single day of the year better represents our insane obsession with goal-setting better than New Years.
I am, in no way arguing that setting goals or, resolutions for yourself is a bad thing. It is one of the most important elements of self-improvement and growth, and should be taken very seriously. The problem is, according to Business Insider, 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by February. Year after year people vow to exercise more, become more organized, take charge of their own lives, travel, spend less money, the list goes on and on, and 80% of those people fail. They fail because the most effective way to transform your life, in most cases, is not to aim for the stars, but make small, actionable changes everyday to work towards a greater goal. Below we have outlined some effective strategies for “tricking” yourself into reaching your goals, whether to save money, or reach optimal health, if you follow these methods you will be much less likely to have stayed exactly where you are by next year’s New Year.
1. Take Simple Changes 30 days at a time:
Research suggests that 21 days is the minimum amount of time needed to create a new, simple habit. When you boil things down, that’s all that our “vices” really are — habits, and habits can be changed with the right attitude and some dedication. It’s so common to be overwhelmed with the magnitude of any big life change, especially when whatever you’re looking to correct is haunting you on an emotional level. It’s hard to feel unhappy with your body, your job, your addictions, and it’s too easy to slip into what’s comfortable and keep doing the same things. That’s where the 30 days come in. Instead of deciding one day that you are never going to eat sugar again, which is likely untrue unless you have the resolve of a Queen’s Guard, try taking things in steps. Instead of setting yourself up for inevitable failure, set a more reasonable, yet significant goal. If you do it this way, you have an end in sight, and you can even go so far as to allow yourself to indulge in that vice again after you have reached the end of your 30 days. What most people have reported after trying the 30 day approach is that at the time of reaching the end of the allotted time frame, they had no interest in going back to their old ways at all. Give yourself the opportunity to feel successful, and you will go so much farther then if you were to beat yourself up constantly about a lack of perfection. Simplicity is key. If you are starting off with a more complex new habit, it can take more that 88 days to form!
2. Easy does it:
Another mistake that people tend to make when setting goals for themselves or trying to “get healthy” is trying to eliminate all their vices at one. If you have been living off of fast food, coffee and sugar for an extended period of time, and you attempt to give everything up at once — you are in for a very bumpy ride. The best way to successfully eliminate bad habits is to tackle them one at a time: Don’t try to do it all or you will just end up disappointed and dejected when you fail and end up binge eating 10 slices of pizza.
3. Planning is key:
We are all busy, even the celebrities that look like they were born with the perfect body and constantly glow with health while we are forced into the store in our pajamas. When you work a 9-to-5+ job [which in reality, most of us do] it’s hard to be motivated to pull together dinner or hit the gym when all you really want to do is drink wine and watch TV with your loved ones and pets. This is where planning comes in – it takes a little more work up front but will save you so much hassle and stress throughout the week. Start with setting aside one day a week where you will prep your meals and plan your workouts. Make a grocery list and try to plan recipes for the week instead of on a nightly basis [mindbodygreen.com is a great resource for this and provide weekly shopping lists and recipes]. When it comes to your workouts, take a look at what your work schedule is looking like for the week and try to plan for the time where you will be least exhausted, and try to remember that as great as those full hour workouts are, don’t beat yourself if you can only fit in a 20 min walk at lunch. As long as you are getting your heart rate up and your body moving, anything is better than nothing.
4. Get Creative:
As tempting as those buddha bowls may look on Pinterest, eating healthy may not always be the most fun choice. It’s hard to stay motivated when all the best things in the world seem to be bad for you in one way or another. The same goes for an ultra consistent and regimented workout schedule, sometimes the gym just sounds boring. The best way to stick with your goals is to bring a little creativity into the mix. Instead of just hopping on the treadmill for the 100th time, get outside, be near things that are living and breathing and stimulating. There are also apps like Lymber and ClassPass that allow you to create your own membership plan and attend classes in your area. It’s a great way to have fun and try new things while breaking a sweat. When you are planning dinners, instead of just grilled chicken or tofu and greens every night, try and challenge yourself to recreate healthy versions of your favorite comfort foods. Not only will you discover how to create new tastes, you will be nourishing your body and mind along the way.
5. Be Forgiving:
The most important thing about the whole goal-setting experience is to approach it from a place of self-love. We already have to deal with some much criticism and judgement in our daily lives, it’s important that we create a safe space for ourselves to love. When you look in the mirror, instead of criticizing every inch for your body, take a breath and express some gratitude for all it does for you every day. Our bodies and minds are precious, and we only have one shot at this magical thing called life, so take it easy on yourself. Challenge yourself physically and let your body play, feed it whole foods that are nourishing and promote longevity, laugh with family and friends, eat the pizza, just remember to take things one day at a time.