Yesterday, we looked at my love/hate relationship with New Year's Resolutions. When I evaluated why my personal goals had failed in past years, and why I had accomplished so much toward them in 2012, I found that I had done some things differently this time. There were some specific areas that had changed, and those changes resulted in accomplished goals.
We are all different people with different issues and circumstances. What worked for me may not work for anyone else on the planet. But in case you are curious, here are 10 differences between what worked and what didn't in my own life:
1. My goals were not superficial. -- In previous years I had set goals for all the wrong reasons. Usually it had to do with how I looked (I still want to look good, but that isn't my main motivator anymore), or what other people thought about me, or what other people thought I should be doing. Really, all those are external reasons. They aren't enough to sustain most people over the long haul. It's just easier to grab a bag of cookies and think about it later.
This time, my reasons came from deep within me.
-I had overworked my body until I had sent it into a downward decline. I wanted to reverse that trend because I want to be strong, alive and vital well into my latter years. Although I am only 42, I felt like an aging woman. I wanted to feel good again. I knew it was my lifestyle that had destroyed my health, and I felt lifestyle changes would reverse the damage.
-I am a Bible thumping Christian. I believe the Lord deals with us and helps us. At this point last year, I felt He had been dealing with me for a long time about my poor diet. It was doing me harm. Specifically, I was a sugar addict, and the Lord was dealing with me that I would end up with diabetes if I kept living on sugar. I did some research and was shocked by what I found out. It was time to learn how to eat well.
-I wanted to be physically fit again. I knew that as hard as it would be right now, it would only get more difficult as I got older. I was thinking ahead and seeing myself in my 80's. I didn't like what I saw.
2. My goals were perceivable. Before, my goals had been something like this: "I wanna be able to run." "I wanna have 6-pack abs." "I wanna look like the model in the picture." "I wanna eat healthier." "I wanna, I wanna..."
This time my goals were set a little differently. I mean, how will I know when I am a real runner? Will it be just getting in the habit of lacing up my shoes? Or will it be a distance, or a run time? How many miles do I want to be able to run? How long should I give myself to achieve that distance? Will I let myself make adjustments to that time frame once a get out there and learn my own limitations and struggles?
My initial goal was to run a mile each time I went out, and eventually be able to run 5K each time. Now that I am so close to 5K, I would like to hold there for a little bit (until it is a little easier). Then I want to start inching up to 5 mile runs (making my weekly run total 15 miles). So for me, it was a distance that would tell me when I had achieved my first goal (which brings up another point. When you get close to reaching a goal, start working on setting a new one. Otherwise, you will be tempted to sit on your haunches and celebrate. The next thing you know, weeks or months will have passed by. You will have lost what you worked so hard to gain. Keep reaching!)
In order for a goal to be a real goal, you are going to have to know when you have achieved it. Otherwise it is just a vague wish. Vague wishes don't accomplish much beyond end-of-the-year-guilt.
3. There was something I wanted more than I wanted another brownie. I don't think this needs much explanation. When my goals became sufficiently important to me, reaching them became a stronger desire than my cravings for sugar or my desire to stay in my warm bed for a few more minutes. I really don't know how to tell you to do this. I can only tell you that I got tired of being so tired. I got fed up enough with where I was to do something drastic to change it. And somewhere along the way, I got a vision on the inside of me. I could see things the way I wanted them to be, instead of the way they were.
4. I focused on Habit Changes. Rather than spending all my energy and thought life on the end results, I focused on changing habits. In other years, I had blasted it at the gym, trying to undo years of inactivity with short-term effort. I wanted to believe the ads that promised 6-pack abs in 6 days. After getting sore, crash dieting and totally over-doing it, I would be frustrated that I didn't immediately look like the photo-shopped model in the picture. (Who does she think she is, anyway? No one has the right to look that cute while they are working out.) Then the excuses would start. And then I would give up.
This time, I focused on developing or changing a habit. If my habit was to bake a pan of brownies and then eat half the pan, then I would need to replace that bad habit with a good one. Like fueling my body with good, nourishing food. If my habit was physical inactivity, then I would need to develop a new habit of reasonable, doable physical activity. Rather than trying to go from Couch Potato to Elite Athlete in One Week, I began to learn the habit of daily exercise. I just do it everyday, no matter what. I keep my workouts reasonable for my current fitness level and fairly short. I started out with 20 minute workouts. Now that I am stronger and enjoy it more, my workouts are 35 minutes to 1 hour. My workouts leave me energized instead of exhausted. That keeps me coming back for more.
5. I only focused on one habit change at a time. Often when I wanted to make changes in the past, I was really making them out of a place of frustration. I was frustrated that I wasn't more organized, and frustrated that I hadn't lost all the baby weight, and I was frustrated that I was eating junk food. So my response was to make an overnight change of everything. That sounds great and very noble, but it is exhausting. I would try to focus on multiple weak areas at once. The end result was that I was just overwhelmed.
This time, I focused only on the most critical goal (For me, it was kicking the sugar habit). I knew that it would take all my focus and energy to conquer this deeply imbedded, lifelong habit. The interesting thing was that my success with the sugar habit gave me the confidence to start taking on my other goals.
6. I gave myself an attitude adjustment. In other years, somehow my focus was on what I was giving up (no more sugar, or no more sleeping in, etc.). This time, my focus was on what I was gaining. I felt incredible when I gave up sugar. My endurance and my stamina are fantastic now that I work out instead of sleeping in. I regained my health and feel better than I have in decades. I started thinking like an athlete instead of a reluctant dieter. This time, it was about what I was getting instead of what I was giving up.
7. I was patient with myself. Instead of throwing in the towel when I failed, I just let it go and kept moving toward my goals. Instead of trying to be an elite athlete overnight, I set small (sometimes almost embarrassingly small) goals along the way to my bigger goals. For instance, instead of going out and trying to run a mile the first time I ran, I just tried to run for a whole minute without stopping (believe it or not, I couldn't do it). Then I walked for a minute and a half. I repeated (or tried to repeat) this sequence 6 times. But I just kept at it. Every other day, I went out and tried again. Now I run 2 miles each time I go out for a total of 6 miles each week. Each time I run, I try to add a tiny bit more.
If I stay at my current pace, in 2 weeks I will be running 5K each time I run, for a total of 9.3 miles each week. It's proof that you can start laughably small, but if you keep with it, eventually you can reach something that seems a little more worthwhile. :) Think of the Tortoise and the Hare....
Which brings me to another point:
8. I am careful who I tell. I don't tell just anyone what I am doing (except now. On my blog. My very public blog. Sigh...) I also don't let anyone see me working out (I work out at home, not at a gym, so that helps. It's a little hard to be invisible in a room full of people...) People can really take the wind out of your sails. They can say or do things that make you want to give up. Usually they are trying to be helpful without realizing that their critique is the last thing you need. Often, it doesn't encourage -- it only makes you feel foolish and inept. Somehow it just isn't helpful to hear, "I'm so glad to see you are finally working out" or "That isn't going to work -- you should try doing this or that..." Sometimes they even try to help you find good excuses for not working out or for going ahead and eating that cookie....Thanks...
9. I had a plan. This is may be one of the biggest differences of all. In other years, I had a goal, but I did not have a real, reasonable and workable plan to get me there. And I certainly didn't have a plan for what I would do if I had an off day.
This time, I spent several weeks just thinking it though. When I gave up sugar, what would I eat instead? Because I would still want to indulge. How would I keep from feeling deprived? Why was I craving so much sugar in the first place, and what did I need to do to support my body through those cravings? What would I do at special events? (As Pastors, those come up a lot. So much, in fact, that they can become your normal way of eating if you aren't careful.) Would I ever eat sugar? If I did, how would I stop myself from sliding back into my old habits?
I did the same thing when it was time to develop an exercise habit. I thought a lot, prayed a lot and asked myself a lot of questions. Like, why had my other attempts failed, and how would I make sure it didn't happen again? Sports injuries had been a problem in the past. How would I prevent them this time (hint: Go. Slow.)
10. I gave it to the Lord. That's right folks. I called in the Big Guns. I knew the goals I had were important. I also knew I wasn't going to be able to accomplish them by my sheer willpower alone. If I could have done that, don't you think I would have been achieving my New Year's Resolutions every year? So I asked for help. I found scriptures that I could hold on to when I wanted to give up. I refused to let myself talk or even think that I would not succeed.
Here are a couple of the scriptures that have helped me:
Psalm 27:1 TheLORDismy light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? TheLORDisthestrength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (I say this one over and over to myself when I want to quit...)
Phillipians 4:13 Icandoallthings through Christ which strengtheneth me.
(I can do this, I can do this, I can do this... It's not my strength, its His strength...) Romans 8:11Butif the Spirit of him that raised upJesusfrom the deaddwellinyou, he that raised upChrist from the deadshallalsoquickenyourmortalbodiesbyhisSpirit that dwellethinyou. (I don't know about you, but when it is 20F outside and all normal people are still in bed -- I need some quickening...)
I hope the things that helped me will help you, too, and that this will be your best year ever. At the end of 2013, you can look back with satisfaction and with a life that is changed! Next time, we will look at some of the goals I set and met last year and how I did it. Have a great day! Angela P.S. A couple months ago, I did a post called Meeting Your Fitness Goals (part 1). You can find it here. The next installment in this series can be found at Meeting Your Fitness Goals (part 3).