Now that you’ve taken the time to reflect and pick a meaningful goal, it is time to design your NY Resolution strategy!
First – let’s reevaluate your original goal. Will the process of working towards achieving this goal be inherently pleasurable? Is striving towards this goal going to take your life in the direction you want to go? If not, let’s go back to square 1 and redesign our goal. You can refer back to the preceding article on Meaningful Resolutions here! If you’re satisfied with your goal, now it’s time to design your strategy!
Strategy design is arguably the most crucial element of goal setting. To make meaningful, lasting change it is CRITICAL that you create a culture of success.
Creating a Culture of Success
Have you ever been chasing a goal, and it felt increasingly defeating? It seemed so far away and SO impossible that after a few weeks of effort, you just bagged it?
When chasing a big goal or making a radical change, long-term compliance requires the protection of your confidence. Success breeds success, just as much as failure breeds failure. You need to set a series of small, manageable process goals that you will CRUSH! Gradually, you will progress by building on those small process goals until you achieve whatever meaningful outcome goal you chose. Set yourself up to succeed from the very get-go with easy process goals, and more success will follow.
Creating Your Process Goals
SET THE BAR LOW.
Even if you’re chasing a big goal, you have to set the bar for success nice and low. The bigger the goal, the lower the bar for process-goal success should be. For example, let’s say before the end of 2020, you want to run the Turkey Trot 10K on Thanksgiving with your family. You believe running will allow you to spend more time with your active family, and you hope it’ll improve your cholesterol too! You’re not a runner, you’ve never been a runner, and although you’ve always wanted to do this – it scares the beeejeeebies out of you. You have so far to go! If you ever want to get up to a 10k, you need to tie up your sneakers now and run every day of your life.
RESIST THE URGE to design a strategy that is going to scare you as much as the goal itself. DON’T tell yourself you’re going to go from sitting on the couch to 7 days of running. That type of goal is overwhelming, radical, and unsustainable. Start small; remember we want to create a culture of success.
A better strategy is to say something like this: I will walk/jog for a cumulative total of 40 minutes per week for a month; 40 minutes over the course of 7 days. That seems super easy, right? You can walk/jog 10 minutes at a time four times. OR, 20 minutes twice a week. OR if you get to the end of a hectic week and you are panicking, you can easily do the full 40 minutes on Saturday and STILL count this week as a success. Then, anything you do over your 40 minutes per week is icing on the cake and you can claim your ALL-STAR STATUS.
When I recommend adopting such an easy process goal, it often sends people into an anxious frenzy that it won’t be enough. It is a misconception that making progress is all or nothing in nature. The unsexy truth is that extremes aren’t conducive for long term consistency. Something is more than nothing, and every step, no matter how big or small, is a step forward. This pursuit is much greater than just completing a 10k; it’s about building an active lifestyle. So protect your confidence. Make a process goal that you feel you can achieve right now with ease.
SET A DATE WITH YOUR GOAL
Now that you have your initial process goal, it’s time to get specific about your plan and create space for it in your hectic life. Take out your google calendar/planner/ or whatever you use to keep track of your life and look at your schedule. When do you have the time to do this? Choose a time that you can make protected time when the rest of your life (your kids, work, any other obligations) can’t get in your way. Write it into your schedule; you are officially busy during those times.
Pause. Take time to reevaluate – do you feel a sense of dread looking at this week’s schedule? Do you feel overwhelmed? Maybe you need to redesign your process goal and set the bar even lower. Or perhaps you regret choosing Tuesday because it is an incredibly hectic day, and Friday would be a better day. Address any reservation you have that might hold you back from being successful. Remember, something is more than nothing, and it’s okay to take small steps.
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
Is your strategy working? It is imperative that you find a way to keep track of your progress. If you care about something, you monitor it. For example, every die-hard Chiefs fan knows their team’s record and how they did last weekend. If they didn’t care, they wouldn’t keep track of it. The same holds for your progress towards your goal.
It doesn’t matter HOW you monitor your behavior regarding your process-goal, as long as you do it. It can be a training journal, a planner, an app, a calendar – really anything. Find a way to record the days you complete your goal and anything else pertinent (how much you ran vs. walked, the distance, how you felt, etc.). That way, after the month is over, you have all of this data reflect on! Is the plan working? Why or why not? What can we do better in month 2? This information will help you make your next process goal.
Prioritizing self-praise and cutting the shame is vital to sustainable change and reaching your goals. After you complete a scheduled activity, take the time to soak it all in. Praise yourself for all of your hard work and keeping your commitment to you. Put a big sticker on your calendar, cross it off your planner, tell yourself you’re a total badass, and strut your stuff for the rest of the day. It seems silly, but this positive feedback is going to keep you coming back day after day, week after week. We are more likely to sustain behaviors that are pleasurable than those we only do to avoid feeling shame. Not only is shaming yourself counterproductive to compliance, but it defeats the purpose of making resolutions in the first place! We make resolutions to improve our lives – not make them worse! So feel GOOD about what you’re doing, and if you slip up – be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself, create a new plan or date this week, and come back stronger tomorrow.
Article by Coach Stephanie Clookey
Stephanie Clookey, MS, ACSM-EPC, USAW-L1