Goals are important. They give us something to work towards. They are the light at the end of the tunnel – the end of all the grueling work, struggle and sacrifice. “Just hold on, it’ll all be worth it in the end” we tell ourselves.
As an aside, it doesn’t take grueling work, struggle, and sacrifice to reach your health goals. There are sustainable and sane ways to juggle healthy choices with the other things we value in life, like holiday treats and going out with friends to dinner.
Trouble is, it’s easy to lose sight of that light. Our end goals are motivating – in the moment – but that light quickly dims. Then, we’re left in the black tunnel, again, wondering why we don’t have the willpower to see our way through to the other side.
All completely normal. Hint: It’s not about willpower. Your willpower is fine. It’s “skill power” that we need to develop.
When we’re strongly attached to an outcome (the end goal to lose 20 pounds, for example), it’s easy to find ourselves distracted, overwhelmed, and confused because the focus is misplaced. Many of us don’t have a structure or a plan to help us reach our goals.
Tip: Refocus on the skills needed to achieve your end goals.
In other words, what small, achievable, and sustainable daily actions will help you reach your goals?
Let’s say you want to become a computer software developer, but you’ve never used a computer outside of googling recipes and writing the occasional email.
Where would you begin? What skills are required? What daily practices support and build those skills?
This thought experiment is how we go from goal to action. And that’s why you’re here! To take action. Because a common trap that we all get caught in is the information trap. We get caught up in the details, such as the nuances of the latest dietary trend. This approach is important for building knowledge. It’s a great start! But we often don’t move past it because it’s overwhelming and we don’t know what to do with it.
Don’t get me wrong. We need information.
But, information changes, and not all information is relevant to you.
The next important piece is understanding how to apply that information in the context of your life. We call this The 4Ps:
- Your unique physiology,
- Personal preferences,
- Psychology, and
- Practical circumstances.
For example, exercise plans will (hopefully) vary depending on an individual’s mobility (practical circumstance). Even if the holy grail of weight loss was three weight lifting sessions, two 1-mile runs, and one 10-minute HIIT session per week, no one would expect a person rehabilitating from knee surgery to do this. Similarly, the latest dietary trend may involve extended periods of fasting, which is not suitable for an individual who suffers from low mood due to blood sugar dysregulation.
There are many times when the information we read is not filtered through the lens of our personal 4Ps.
And that’s where we need to begin.
Consider your end goal, then based on your 4Ps, break down your bigger goals into smaller pieces.
What do you need to do this month, this week, today, to reach the results you’re seeking while honoring your 4Ps? Work backward from your goal, and identify small related actions that you’re ready, willing, and able to do.
Start with these questions:
- What skills are required to support your goals? Do not confuse skills with information. Think about what you need in order to take action. Do you need to be more organized so that you’re bringing lunch to work instead of ordering take out every day?
- What daily or weekly practices support and build those skills?
- Break practices down into small daily actions that are sustainable. You’re in this for the long haul, after all!
And it’s okay if you don’t know exactly what actions are “right” or “perfect”. Mistakes and “failing” are part of the process. What doesn’t work is valuable information too. Use that experience to modify and tweak what you’re doing, and keep moving forward.
And start small! What would be the tiniest, easiest thing you could try today? Don’t worry, no one is judging you. Start there, and see how that works out for you.
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”Martin Luther King Jr