Author: Shoshana Belisle, MSW, MA, RYT, Namaste Wellness Advisor
“If you want something you've never had
You must be willing to do something you've never done.”
― Thomas Jefferson
A new year is approaching and it’s natural to start thinking about goals you have for the coming year. You may have a particular outcome in mind, and you may think that focusing on it will get you where you want to go. Maybe you have dreams of losing weight or overcoming a particular health challenge. Maybe you have a career ambition or an athletic objective. It’s easy to get caught up in visions of the future and wishing that they would come true - and there is definitely value in using your imagination to bring energy to things that you value. But success experts argue that this wishing is not enough. We need a plan.
Scott Adams, author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, challenges us with the concept that “goals are for losers.” How could that possibly be? Don’t we want to set goals? Well, yes and no. As he explains, “Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous presuccess failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at every turn. The systems people are feeling good every time they apply their systems.”
So, the key is to determine which system is going to help you achieve that goal that is most meaningful to you.
When starting to imagine goals for the coming year, consider this strategy:
First, decide what you want. Make sure that your someday goal is truly inspirational to you. Is it a goal that you hold dear in your heart of hearts? Or is it something you think you “should” want or that someone else wants for you? For it to stick in the long run, you goal must make you come alive! Self-determination theory asserts that we must feel that we are the master of our life and that we are guiding our own way. If someone else is telling you what to dream or want, it ultimately won’t work. Dig deep and find that dream that truly resonates for you, that aligns with your vision of your life purpose. When we are living in alignment with that purpose, we create the conditions for eudaimonia, which is a dimension of happiness that involves satisfaction with the bigger picture of our life, our unique expression of human flourishing, and alignment with purpose.
Then, Scott Adams asserts that once you decide what you want, you must acknowledge the price you need to pay to obtain it. If, for example, your goal is to lose 20 lbs and increase your life energy, the price may be to drop sugar and to move daily. You must then be willing to pay it. The system becomes your daily habit of following through on the payment needed to accomplish the goal that you set out to achieve.
The trick is that we are living, breathing creatures with great imaginations but with potentially limited willpower. The truth about willpower has been debated, but many believe that we should not rely on willpower alone to achieve goals. An alternative is to create habits, systems, and processes that keep us accountable even when we are feeling tired, stressed, or distracted. For example, exercise can be something you schedule yourself to do at a particular time, in a prespecified way, that doesn’t require too much thought or decision-making. Set yourself up for success with habits so that you don’t need to negotiate with yourself every time you are facing the steps needed to accomplish your goal. Use your willpower wisely to set yourself up with autopilot habits.
It’s easier to stay on track with new systems and habits if you keep it simple and keep your mind focused on establishing one new habit (system/process) at a time. Gary Keller, author of The One Thing, considers it essential that we focus on going small. It means getting clear on your answer to this focusing question: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
He uses a process called “Goal setting to the now” to help you figure out the one best thing that you can choose to do right now to meet your long-term goals.
Think for a moment about your big “someday” goal. Now think, “what is the one thing I could do in the next five years that could best help me achieve my someday goal?”
-Next, what is the one thing I could do this year that would help me achieve my five year goal?
-What is the one thing I could do this month that would help me achieve my one year goal?
-What is the one thing I could do this week that would help me achieve my one month goal?
-What is the one thing I could do today that would help me achieve my one week goal?
-What is the one thing I could do right now that would help me achieve my goal today?
After you consider that exercise, what is the ONE BEHAVIOR you could engage in on a daily basis that would help you achieve your goals? Now, how can you turn that a habit?
Research has shown that we work best with intrinsic motivation. We are most inspired when the behaviors we seek to integrate are intrinsically motivating; when the action of doing it is joyful. If the reward is purely extrinsic (i.e. praise from others, compensation, even a pat on your own back), it becomes harder to sustain over time.
Given that, find a behavior to do daily that is intrinsically motivating. If you know you want to exercise daily, don’t choose an exercise that you can barely tolerate. Instead, choose an exercise that is actually fun for you. Maybe you need to search around a while to find it. But the point is that you need to find an activity that gives you joy, that you find inherently inspiring. It cannot be something that someone else has told you to do or made you feel that you need to do or that you are telling yourself you “should” do.
Once you choose that intrinsically motivating activity, get creative about turning it into a daily habit. Reach out for support if you need help making it happen. (Namaste’s wellness advisors are happy to help with this!) Sticking to the habit becomes the system. Focus on the systems, and the win will occur naturally. Every time you follow through on your system, you will feel a sense of accomplishment. This gives you an immediate win every day. Over time, these wins will add up to help you accomplish your larger goal. But you will feel aligned with yourself the whole way. Best of all, you will be able to enjoy the journey as much as the outcome.
What truly inspiring goal do you want to accomplish?
What habit or system will it take to get you there?
What is the one thing you can do right now that will help you achieve your goal for 2020?
Don’t get in your own way. Go do it now!
If you would like a partner to help you set fresh habits and stay accountable to your goals, Namaste is here to help. We can help set intrinsically motivated wellness goals, we can help you get creative when facing obstacles along the way, and we will gladly celebrate your successes!