This year has been full of ups and downs.
As far as taking care of myself went, I had my highs, I had ‘OK’ days and I also had lows.
Diet-wise, I no longer go off the rails the way I used to—I cannot fathom how I used to let myself eat until I felt sick physically and emotionally—but I did have my fair share of nights where I reached for extra helpings of Pepperidge Farm Dessert Shop Caramel Apple Pie Cookies (#sorrynotsorry, this stuff is worth the calories).
I’ve also had months where I felt completely unmotivated to exercise, when the thought of putting myself through a hard workout just felt too…hard. So I didn’t, and just walked, stretched or took the stairs more instead.
But I didn’t beat myself up over these ‘misses’ (I have a history of being overly critical of myself, and the outcome of this prolonged self-inflicted abuse was well…not great).
And I made sure that I appreciated and celebrated my wins, no matter how small they were.
Rather than obsess over not being perfect (who is?), I kept my focus on enjoying my breaks from routine when I took them, and then when I was ready, how and when I’d get back in the saddle.
To me, that’s what successful goal-setting (especially ones that involve your body, mind and spirit) is: Deciding to do something that feels right for me, and coming up with a plan that helps me stick with it, but being flexible enough to adapt when I or my circumstances change.
This is why I no longer set long-term goals, only short-term ones (I try to look no further than a month ahead). While I do have a big-picture vision of what I want my life to look like, I make sure that the goals I reach for can be achieved in a month or less. Life is just too unpredictable for me to decide on an outcome that I want to happen six to twelve months from now.
If, like me, you’re starting to review the past 11 or so months that have flown by, and want to make sure that you not only set but make your weight-loss goals happen, here’s what’s worked for me, and what I recommend that you try:
Make as few goals as possible
Make no more than five goals at a time—ones that you can simply recall from memory.
Trying to make too many things happen at the same time will scatter your focus and lead you to accomplish less, or worse, nothing at all, especially when life starts getting in the way.
Make them really specific
Declare with as much detail as you can, what you’d like to accomplish.
For example: “I want to lose weight” is too vague. A better one would be “I want to lose 55 pounds“.
But a great goal looks like this: “I want to lose 55 pounds so that I can stop obsessing over my weight and be 100% present for my family and friends.”
Think big, then break your big goal down into tiny, easy steps
You’ll want to set a goal that will challenge and inspire you to step out of your comfort zone, but you also want to be cognizant of the fact that you won’t be able to go from 0 to 100 miles per hour and keep it up for very long.
In fact, the quickest way to set yourself up for failure is to set a goal that’s so huge that you’ll feel intimidated and overwhelmed, and eventually, give up.
So rather than just set a huge goal to say, lose 100 pounds, follow up by then breaking it down into tiny monthly and daily steps that will help you get there.
Give yourself a deadline
“A goal without a deadline is just a dream” goes the saying, and as cliched as it sounds, it’s true, as I’ve learned the hard way (and I’m sure you have too).
While it’s fine to give yourself a deadline for your big picture vision (ie “I want to lose 100 pounds in the next 12 months”), make sure that you set smaller goals weekly or monthly that you also attach deadlines to so that you have confidence-boosting milestones that you can check off as you put your plan into action.
It’s a lot easier to keep going when you know that what you’re doing is working, and that you’re heading in the right direction.
Bend with the wind
No matter how detailed or solid your plan seems, things don’t always go the way you want them to.
You might change careers. You might find yourself in the middle of a painful breakup. You might suddenly find yourself pregnant. You may have to move to a new country. Your body may not respond to your new exercise program or way of eating the way you’d hoped. Or you might even have to deal with an unexpected medical emergency.
So while you commit to moving forward with the steps you’ll need to reach your goal, make some space in your plan for impromptu detours or u-turns that you may have to make along the way so that in the event that they do happen and you don’t achieve your original goal, you won’t feel like a dismal failure.
You can do this by being mentally prepared to face these possible changes (although this one is easier said than done, I know), or giving yourself a little more leeway deadline-wise with every goal you set. Even better still, do both.
Being prepared to bend with the wind will help make your weight-loss journey a less stressful one, and you, more adaptable and flexible in mind and spirit.
You may not reach your goal the way you expect to, or you may even find yourself re-thinking your goal mid-way through, but it doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get what you need once you start following your instincts.
Have you made a New Year’s promise to yourself to eat in a way that aligns with your goals and beliefs, but aren’t quite sure how to get started? Join my FREE ‘Lose 4 Pounds in 4 Weeks Without Going On A Diet’ email course to make mindful eating a part of your life and finally, start losing those extra pounds without gaining them back.
Photo credit: Kristian Olsen