We, humans, have a tendency to bite off more than we can chew. And why not? If you shoot for the moon and miss, you’ll land among the stars, right? That sounds great, but when it comes to setting health goals, that “miss” may seriously sap motivation. Here’s why. 

Our brains are constantly watching and judging us, gathering information to reinforce a narrative about who we are and how we behave in the world.

When we decide to show up and behave differently (as the new future version of ourselves – the one that we are trying to create), our brains are creating a new narrative. This is how change begins. This process challenges our old beliefs, stories, and perceptions about ourselves. We are essentially rewriting our stories. 

So how do we reinforce the identity we want to build? How do we keep showing up as the new future version of ourselves? The one that prioritizes healthy behaviors that bring us closer to our goals? We master the habit of showing up by downscaling our goals.

Downscaling our goals.

This may seem like counterintuitive advice – downscale. Why would we downscale our goals? At the beginning of this post I mentioned how eager and excited we are to create big life-changing goals. And there is nothing wrong with that! In fact, we get excited by this enthusiasm and motivation. Unfortunately, many of us don’t know how to get there from where we are now. So we shoot for the moon with amazing life-changing goals, but we don’t know how to achieve them. We “miss” and our brains reinforce our old stories about who we are and how we behave. And likely, negative self-talk follows: “I’m a failure” or “I just don’t have enough willpower”. Perhaps you’re familiar with this? This is simply not true. You are NOT a failure, and willpower is not the answer. Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity and a clear implementation strategy.

Master the habit of showing up every day.

Let’s consider a goal like weight loss. If you research how to lose weight, you’ll find advice around nutrition, sleep, hormones, exercise, fasting, etc etc. There’s no shortage of information. But how do we implement all of that change into our hectic lives? Here is one process that we use with our clients.

Clarity and a clear implementation strategy.

Let’s say you just read an article about the importance of walking for weight loss because it lowers stress hormones. You decide to walk more. Great idea! The only issue with that is the lack of clarity around “walk more”. When, where, and for how long will you walk? The two most important cues for behavior change are time and location. Get really clear on the “when” and “where” piece. We call this an implementation statement:  “I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].”

Expose yourself to change in little chunks. Come up with three habit-shaping goals to create a ritual for your desired behavior.

If you wanted to change, what would be the tiniest possible step toward that? Habit shaping is a process we use to expose our clients to change in little chunks. It works like this. Create a routine for your new desired behavior by breaking it up into three smaller steps. Focus on three small, concrete, daily actions that matter. Then, order those steps from easiest to hardest. Do the easy thing first, and do it on a consistent basis. Master the habit of showing up every single day. Your first goal for a week might be putting on your running shoes, and that’s it. Next week your goal may be to walk outside. The week after, you may be ready to go for a short walk.

The key is consistency.

Create clarity around your goals by establishing a clear implementation strategy. Then, get your reps in! Break up your goal into small, concrete daily actions that matter. Expose yourself to change in little chunks. This is how change starts in the brain. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist yet. Start small enough that you don’t miss at all.

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash