When we have an area in our life that we want to improve on, there are two common missteps we take that squash our efforts. The first is envisioning the difficulty. We start thinking of how hard and seemingly impossible it would be to achieve that goal. The second misstep is biting off more than we can chew, and completely rearranging our life to achieve the goal. Both of these result in an unachieved or unsustained goal. This is discouraging and results in some pretty negative self-talk whenever we are reminded of it. Let’s unpack these for a moment before I share the small fix that makes a big impact to combat them.
When we have a goal, before we even start working towards it, we imagine what we might have to do to achieve it. And in just a few short seconds, we have imagined the virtual impossibility of making that goal a reality. It may be the effort we think we’d have to put in, or the length of time we think we would have to work at it. But often, it’s just the thought that keeps us from taking action. For example, if you wanted to lose 20lbs, you think how nice it would be, but then you picture having to get up early (when you already don’t get enough sleep) to workout. You’d also have to skip sugars and carbs like all.the.time. Your BFF’s are getting together for a dinner in a few weeks, so you’d have to drink water and eat a salad? No thanks! If I want to be miserable, I’d rather be miserable being 20lbs heavier and eating what I want, thank you very much! This is what happens when we envision the difficulty.
If you are able to dodge this goal-crusher, worry not, its cousin is just around the corner. In this scenario, you are beyond excited and motivated to achieve your goal. You have an aggressive plan of attack. You are going to annihilate that goal. In the example of the 20lbs, you are going to workout every day for at least one hour. You will sign up for multiple classes: cycling, yoga, core work, and kettle bells. No sugar, no carbs, no gluten, no dairy. Protein, protein, protein. You will exhibit the most impressive will power anyone has ever seen. Sounds great, and may even work for a little while, but eventually, you are going to hit a wall. Hard. You will be so exhausted from working so hard, sacrificing so much, that you will have nothing left. And so, the wall will win, you will feel defeated and sooth yourself with a gallon of ice cream, a bottle of wine, and/or some cheesy garlic bread. This is the result of biting off more than you can chew (pun intended).
There is a much better way to achieve our goals and maintain them. Ready? It’s by implementing small habits. I know, you’re thinking it will take too long to achieve your goal this way. However, our small habits are so much more powerful than we think. This goes for both good and bad ones. If you get into the habit of watching TV every night after dinner, this can lead to snacking on unhealthy treats, and falling asleep too early, which disrupts your sleep during the night, leaving you tired the next day. This lack of sleep can lead to sugar and carb cravings and over-consumption of coffee. The cycle will gradually worsen unless a healthier habit is developed. All from one, seemingly harmless, habit of watching TV after dinner.
Switch that with a good habit and the story changes dramatically. Instead of TV, start walking for 30 minutes every night after dinner. This gives you some energy to make a healthy lunch for work the next day. You sleep better through the night, and eat better the next day. Before you know it, you are walking up to an hour most days (because you want to), losing weight and toning muscles. Your pre-made lunches are healthy and save you money each week. All from one small habit change.
The key to the change is making the habit so small and achievable that it isn’t difficult to see yourself doing it for, well, maybe forever. Healthier habits will follow down the road, and you will welcome them instead of seeing them as a chore. Pretty cool, right? For you finance buffs out there, this is compounding in action. This process works in business, health, parenting, and relationships. It works for anything. It’s all about the small habits; the small changes.
If you read last week’s post, you know ACTION is the name of the game! What is ONE small habit you could start doing that could put you on the path to goal achievement? If you’re a whiz at this, share the small steps that have proven successful for you already. Post them in the comments section.