I read an article by someone who received some “life changing” advice from a friend. Following the advice, they got up at 5am every day for a year and wrote. Just like that.
I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t usually work out that way for me. Especially if it involves doing anything at 5am.
A couple of months ago I came across my personal goals for 2016. They’re the exact same goals I have now. Clearly I haven’t been achieving my goals very successfully.
Where Am I Going Wrong?
Part of my problem is in my approach. There are so many ways I want to be better, and I want it all to happen now. So I’ll write down my goals and it will look something like this:
+Lose 30 pounds
+Meditate and do yoga and read and write and exercise every day
+Make lots of money
+Be insta famous
(Also I’ve legit written down “get a tattoo” for years now and still haven’t done it. This year is the year.)
Our brains are capable of some pretty incredible things. So it really frustrates me sometimes that I can’t just instantly become a fitness queen who’s written a series of books and is fluent in French.
Recently I’ve been changing my approach, and I’ve seen a lot better results. There are four things that have helped me achieve my goals:
1. Be Specific
Take the goals you have, and break them down into small, achievable, and specific tasks. For example, one of the things I want to do is read more books. But when I just say I’ll “read more books,” I usually get to the end of the week without having picked one up. Instead, I can set specific goals like “read for 15 minutes every day.” It’s not a long time; it’s not that hard to find 15 minutes out of the day to read a book. Once I’ve got that down, I can try to read for longer. Or I might decide 15 minutes a day is enough!
When we have general, vague ideas of what we want to accomplish, it’s really hard to get there. Whatever your goal is, you want to make a specific plan of action in order to see it through.
2. Take Baby Steps
You can’t change everything overnight. Maybe changing diet and exercise habits at the same time is too much. And that’s okay. You have to start with what you can handle and add on slowly, or else you’ll get overwhelmed and quit trying. It might take longer tackling one habit at a time, but you’ll have a better chance of the changes lasting.
It isn’t all or nothing.
This year I started cutting meat and milk out of my diet, but I find it more difficult to give up cheese and I’m not ready to stop eating eggs. It’s easy to think, “Well, I’m not truly ‘vegan’ so why even bother.” But every small step I can take is good, even if someone else thinks I should take another step.
When it comes to making ethical and sustainable lifestyle decisions, it can feel like the small steps aren’t enough. But you have to start somewhere. Over time, you’ll likely adjust and be ready to make more changes anyway.
3. Celebrate Your Wins
It’s also important to celebrate the progress you’ve already made, because it’s easy to get frustrated along the way. I often struggle with my weight and health goals, because I haven’t accomplished what I would have liked by now. A year ago I wrote a post where I mentioned that I had lost 15 pounds thanks to changes in my diet. Truthfully, I put a lot of that weight back on, then lost it again. Then put it back on and lost it again.
I get really upset about it sometimes, but I’m trying to remember how much healthier I am now than I used to be.
Let’s revisit 2015’s version of Kayla.
This Kayla is the girl who eats fast food multiple times a week. She doesn’t cook anything besides eggs or mac and cheese, and has never peeled a vegetable. She lives a 20 minute walk away from school but drives every day. She sleeps about 5 hours a night. She drinks iced white mochas from Starbucks because she does not know they contain 49 grams of sugar aka TWICE THE DAILY RECOMMENDED LIMIT. Don’t get me started on the Dr Pepper consumption.
2018’s version of Kayla does not regularly go through the drive thru (partly because they don’t have many of them in England but still). She regularly eats carrots, spinach, kale, swede, parsnips, sweet potatoes, peppers, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, and other fruits and veggies. She peels vegetables. She keeps a regular sleep schedule. She regularly walks 40 minutes to Costa, where she drinks a cold brew with soya milk (1.3g sugar), and walks 40 minutes back. (And takes her own cup to save money and save the planet 😉 )
I haven’t “made it” yet. But my daily habits and my self-control have improved dramatically.
Look back at the progress you’ve made recently, or the progress you’ve made over several years. All of it matters. Write down the good things you’re doing, and be proud of yourself for what you’ve accomplished.
4. Be Patient and Give Yourself Grace
It’s hard to change habits that you’ve developed for years.
It’s hard when there are external factors working against you. We’ve been living with Joe’s family in between travels and it set me back significantly in terms of my diet. They have better metabolisms than I do and don’t struggle with emotional eating, so they can keep things like crisps and chocolate and cake around and it’s not a problem. But for me it is, and sometimes I end up eating things I don’t need.
It’s also hard when you feel like people have a certain perception of you. I’m known as the girl who loves Taco Bell! It’s my brand! It’s easier to do what people expect you to do.
So inevitably some days we cave and do that thing we’re trying not to do. Some days we can’t bring ourselves to go to the gym or get up early and meditate. And it’s okay. Because we’re human, and we can’t be perfect. It’s not possible! Realizing that you can never reach perfection can have a really freeing effect. You just try your best, because that’s all you can do.
Every day we’re bombarded with the idea that we need to be better. Social media makes us want to be prettier and richer. Blog posts tell us how to be more productive. (Am I calling myself out here?) Magazines tell us how to be thinner.
It’s not bad to want your life to be better, but it’s important not to get too caught up in it. We shouldn’t hate ourselves for what we lack, or take the good things in our lives for granted.
How have your goals been going recently?
Send me a message or let me know in the comments. I’d love to help in any way I can.