January 1st…remember it? Recovering from your last hurrah before those New Year’s resolutions started staring you in the face. Remember your enthusiasm, your conviction that THIS was the year you were going to make changes? I tried to help get you off to a good start with two blog posts, “Achieving Your Fitness Goals in the New Year” and “Making Your Resolutions a Reality, Part 2.” How are you doing? My gym is settling down, back to normal now after the New Year’s Resolution throngs. I can once again get a decent parking space. Are you still there? What about other, non-fitness goals you set for yourself (every New Year’s resolution does not have to be to lose weight)? This is the problem, we all get super-motivated after our season of excess that stretches from Thanksgiving until the new year. And then…we fizzle. We start to fall off the bandwagon, and we slowly give up and revert back to our old ways.
So did you think I was going to leave you alone until next January 1st? Not a chance. And I didn’t even have to do much thoughtful reflection on what to say to you, because Adam Bornstein already did all the work. He wrote a great piece for livestrong.com called “The Decision That Could Change Your Life.” Adam begins by telling you to do two things. First, write down your goals (you know, those “New Year’s resolutions things)…they can be health & fitness related, career related, family related, whatever…they’re your goals. Then Adam asks you to write a list of all the things that are preventing you from achieving those goals…what are the things that are standing in your way? This is what Adam found when he did it himself:
When I created my list I was shocked by two things:1) My second list was long. Too long, in fact. The more roadblocks we perceive that stand in our way the more excuses we give ourselves to not succeed. Maybe your list is different, but most people have found the same thing. We limit our own success by creating reasons we can’t succeed rather than making sure that nothing will prevent us from reach our goals. That second list, which focuses on what we believe stands in our way, should be nothing. It’s said that you shouldn’t imagine dreams that you don’t believe can come true. That means the road to success begins by not blocking your own path.2) Many of my goals were “repeated” wishes that I had stated many times before. These weren’t new hopes and dreams but rather continual aspirations that I clearly had yet to satisfy.
How many of you can relate? I know I can. I have wanted to make some career changes for some time. I took some initiative about a year ago, took a stab at making a change and wasn’t successful. I had identified several potential avenues for achieving the career change I wanted, I tried out one avenue, it didn’t fly and I gave up. When I began to revisit other ways to bring about this change that I wanted they all seemed filled with roadblocks. In other words, my list of things preventing me was…long.
Why do we keep doing this to ourselves…why do we year after year keep setting goals for ourselves, very often the same goals, only to crash and burn a few months later? Adam says that psychologist have an answer.
Some psychologists have coined this term the “false hope syndrome.” That is, you continue to try the same goal—time after time—in spite of numerous failures. The phenomenon is based on the idea that feelings of control and the hope of self-improvement is so overwhelming that you can’t help but ignore the past and look forward to the future. The dream of a better life is something you can’t resist.
I can’t decide if this is inspiring or depressing, that the “hope of self-improvement” is so strong that it will make us try over and over again, despite numerous failures
Why do we only set goals for ourselves at the beginning of the year? Why can’t we reassess where we are at and get back on the bandwagon? Adam suggests sitting down and writing down your long-term goals and then from those bigger goals develop what he calls “process goals.” These are shorter-term, achievable goals that will help you get to that long-term goal. So, for example, if your goal is to lose weight, maybe a process goal is to start a food journal. I talked about this in my blog post “Achieving Your Fitness Goals in the New Year.” And while baby steps, or small, incremental goals, work with fitness, they can also work with any goal you have set for yourself.
Give Adams post a read, and spend some time looking back at your goals. Evaluate your progress, decide what’s working and what’s not (also see “How’s That Workin’ for Ya?“), and set small, achievable interim goals. Look at those roadblocks ~ are they real or just excuses? If they’re real, what can you do to get around them? Remember, you are in control of your own life (remember “What Makes You Happy?). Making change is hard, but it can change your life.