“I’m never eating carbs again…”
“Tomorrow, I start running 3 miles a day…”
“2016 is the year I start eating green vegetables every day!…”
The promises we make to ourselves in the wee hours of the New Year are not typically realistic. In fact, more often they are based on lofty images of perfection that most of us cannot retain. After a few weeks, when the going gets tough and we can’t live up to these promises made to ourselves, we end up with loads of guilt. Instead of modifying our goals and trying again, we give up completely, and allow ourselves to sink back into old habits.
This year, let’s change our attitude and make a new kind of goal — one you can actually reach!
When you can make 1-2 realistic goals for yourself, it’s much easier to guarantee success and encourage the motivation to keep going. In fact, some of the smallest changes can lead to the BIGGEST changes. When I discuss behavior change, I think of a client I had in the past. For the purpose of storytelling, I will call him Jerry.
Jerry’s diet was off-the-hook horrible– he never ate breakfast, consumed loads of refined foods and he barely slept. When I started talking to him, I couldn’t help but think, “This guy is a disaster! How am I possibly going to motivate him to change?! There is SO much work to be done here”. Instead of sending him away from my office with a long list of to-do’s and not-to-do’s (like I wanted to), I asked him to set one to two simple goals for himself. Goals he felt he could genuinely live up to.
Without much guidance from me, he set a goal for himself to drink 6 less sodas per day and start eating breakfast 3-4 times per week consisting of eggs and toast. The goals seemed modest, especially considering the long list I had going in my head, but they were realistic and measurable which was all that mattered to me.
Fast forward 2 weeks later and WOW was I amazed. Not only had Jerry lived up to his goals but as a result he had lowered his blood pressure (thanks minimizing caffeine) and lost over 5 pounds! When questioned about other factors in his diet, nothing else had changed. He was still eating ramen noodles for lunch and dinner and rarely did he eat anything green.
Regardless of what some might think as a small step, this was a major one for Jerry. He learned that he could accomplish something he put his mind to, especially seeing that it was reasonable and attainable. He gleaned the confidence to set two more modest goals at our second appointment, and guess what, he accomplished those with ease by our next appointment!
The baby steps Jerry took amounted to giant steps after a few sessions. When he was able to come off his blood pressure medications and fit into his “skinny” jeans again two months later, he was brimming with self-efficacy and confidence.
So, I guess the take home is this — Make New Year’s resolutions if you must, but make them achievable if you do. Be honest with yourself and take a stab at something small to start. If it goes well, add another layer and before you know it, your life will have changed.
Wishing you a 2016 filled with love and bliss!