New Year is often the time for a fresh beginning where we make goals to grow and improve ourselves. Popular new year resolutions usually center around health, whether it’s to lose weight or to start exercise. Everyone starts the new year as hopeful as ever, motivated to make this year the best one yet. Gyms are full and buzzing with new members. You have to fight for a treadmill machine like your kid fights for a swing at Benjasiri Park. Two or three months into the new year, treadmills are once again in abundance as membership thins out. So, what happened, why are we so bad at following through on our goals?
Problem 1: We often set outcome-based goals.
Imagine you want to get back into shape and you set a goal to lose that last 5 kilos. You have summoned the energy to follow a restrictive diet plan, you’ve been really good eating only what the diet prescribes you, and finally you’ve reached your goal weight….for now. However, as soon as you go back to your normal eating, you find yourself slowly regaining the weight you’ve lost, plus more. Achieving your goal only changes your life for the moment when you finally achieve the desired outcome. However, if you maintain the same eating habits that led to your original weight gain, you will be stuck chasing the same outcome forever, because you never fix your routine (Dieting > Weight Loss > Normal Eating > Weight Gain > Dieting > Repeat). This outcome-based goal can create a “yo-yo” effect. To make lasting change you need to change your routine or habits. In this example, rather than following a short-term diet that you cannot stick to forever, you can develop a habit to eat mindfully. Mindful Eating encourages you to slow down, eat with awareness so you can savor your food more intensely. Mindful Eating is not a diet, it focuses on how we eat, not what we eat, so we can incorporate it into our everyday life without feeling deprived. When you set a habit-based goal rather than an outcome-based goal, you achieve a lasting change that becomes a part of your long-term lifestyle.
Problem 2: We often start with goals that focus on drastic changes.
After my first pregnancy, I found out that I have Diastasis Recti (outer stomach muscle separation). I vowed that I would get my core back and embarked on a daily core retraining routine that consisted of doing 10 minutes of exercise, 3 times a day. I was so motivated, even on the days I had to leave home where I couldn’t exercise in the morning or lunch time, I would do all the 30 mins of exercise at nighttime. I kept that routine up for the entire month, then I began to slip a little, then a little more, eventually I gave it up entirely. The time commitment was just too much. After my second pregnancy, I was left with even worse separation. This time I decided to do things differently. I decided to break it down into small chunks of exercises I can do each day, so it doesn’t feel like a massive time commitment. Each night, my routine consists of 3×2 min core exercises. So, 6 mins in total instead of 30 mins. It has been a slow postpartum recovery for me, but after 6 months, I’m starting to feel strength in my core. Many of us focus on a drastic goal like going to the gym 4 times a week from having never exercised before, or losing the kilos you’ve gained over the last 3 years in 1 year, but when the change is so extreme, we are more likely to backslide than progress forward. I want to invite you to make the shift from the all-or-nothing approach to an approach that focuses on making an incremental positive change each day. No matter how small, all positive changes add up in the long run to incredible progress. You just need to be consistent and patient, not perfect!
Problem 3: We often set goals that based on what we think we ‘should’ do.
“I don’t have time to exercise” is probably one of the most common things I hear people say. For many new parents it often feels like you’re getting by with barely enough sleep, let alone exercise. Meanwhile, you know there are other parents who are equally busy with their babies, equally tired, are also faced with the demands of a full-time job, yet they seem to be able to fit exercise neatly into their schedules. Are these people endowed with an unlimited supply of motivation that enables them to stick to regular exercise? The answer is much simpler. Those who want to exercise will find time in their busiest schedules. We often set goals based on the ideas that we should do something. ‘Should’ goals rely on motivation that is fleeting and unreliable. If you need to be motivated to get up every morning to go exercise, you’re likely going to fall short. What you need is commitment, but that only comes if you truly ‘want’ to do something. Knowing you should exercise and actually having the commitment and internal yearning to get up and go are two very different things. To create lasting change you need to want to do something rather than thinking you should do something.
Recipes for kicking goals
We set goals with the best intention of achieving them. When you set goals so that they are habit-based rather than outcome-based, focus on small changes rather than drastic changes, begin with “I want” rather than “I should”, you can create long-term change, and avoid setting the same goals year after year.