According to the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology, while nearly 50% of Americans set New Years Resolutions, only 8% of them actually achieve their goal. Why is this you ask? Because to set a goal is to set yourself up for failure.
Let me explain…
And I’ll do it with a focus on diet, nutrition, and body image since almost half of those resolutions are centered on weight loss and I just so happen to be a certified fitness nutrition specialist and health coach. Oh, and I also just so happen to have a ton of experience with failed goals and new years resolutions. What a coincidence!
When we set a goal for ourselves, the basic message we send ourselves is: This is what I want, and if I don’t accomplish it, I have failed. And if you’re like me, you can be really hard on yourself for not accomplishing a goal you’ve set. This is exactly the opposite of what bringing positive change to your life should be about. The journey that leads you to your desired result is where the real magic happens and it’s a meaningful and transformative process.
Have you ever actually sat and asked yourself, “What are my intentions for my health?” Usually, when I do this with my clients, most respond with a weight loss goal or something to do with their physical size. I was the same way. My dream weight was 150lb for almost 10 years. TEN YEARS. And I was far from it. The ironic thing about setting my weight goal was that as soon as I set it, I steadily gained weight every single year until I weighed nearly 300lb. But let me tell you, your weight and/or size is probably the poorest indicator of your overall health. If you are healthy, you can see it and feel it. You sleep well, you’re energized, your mood is good, your attitude is positive, and your body shows you it’s well with healthy skin, eyes, teeth, hair, digestion, etc. When you’re not healthy, you feel and see that too. Sometimes, it can be related to your weight. But most often it’s more about your lifestyle. Do you exercise regularly? Do you practice self-care? Do you cook for yourself? Are you living the life you want to live? Are you happy? Do you love yourself? There was a time in my life when I could answer “No” to all of those questions. And setting a weight loss goal was not going to change that.
But WAIT…I thought we were talking about diet? Yup, that’s just one part of it. When you do well in one area of your life, it tends to trickle down to other areas. All aspects of our health are interconnected. And that’s why goals tend to be hollow and difficult to achieve. People often focus in on one small, linear segment, and can’t see that it’s actually part of a big, beautiful web.
If you want to be successful in building a healthy lifestyle you need clear intentions, not goals. What’s the difference? A goal is a destination. An intention is a map. Without the map, you can’t go anywhere. You need direction and a clear idea of why you want to get to where you’re going. That’s what intentions are all about.
For me, my epiphany came when I realized that I didn’t want to lose weight for me. I wanted to lose weight because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. My family wanted it for me and society wanted it for me. But what about what I wanted? What I wanted had nothing to do with my weight. I wanted to feel empowered to live my life the way I wanted to, not the way other people thought I should. I never wanted to go to college. I did not really want to study architecture. Truth is, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do in my life (who does at the age of 18?), but I did know that it was up to me to determine that, not anyone else. When I decided to take back the power, that’s when my real life began.
At 21, I left the country, and moved to Australia without knowing a single soul there. I had no money, no job, no place to live, nothing. But Australia was a place that had been calling my name for as long as I can remember. Koalas are my favorite animals and every year, I would put one at the top of my Christmas wish list. I decided that everything I ever wanted in my life was possible and I was going to have it. I felt confident that boarding that plane was exactly what I was supposed to do. Two days after arriving in Australia, I held a koala for the first time in my life and my whole world changed. I had proven to myself that I was right. Anything was possible.
After that year living abroad, I came home a new woman. Not only had I lost nearly 75lb, but I also had a new perspective. I discovered that being healthy is not just about what you eat and what you do. It’s about how you live your life. I wanted to share my journey and my discovery with as many people as possible so I became a certified personal trainer and began helping others transform their lives while I continued to transform mine. My clients play a huge role in that transformation. Working with them, relating to them, supporting them, and watching them change keeps me motivated and happy. With all of this newfound freedom, confidence, and power, I was able to overcome my battle with disordered eating and food addiction, lose 140 lb, start my own business, rebuild my relationships with loved ones who I pushed away in anger in frustration, and find my future wife. And I did all of that, within 6 years, without any of it ever being a “goal.” My intention was to be happy, healthy, thriving, and loved and my plan to get there was to start with myself.
So, what do you need to do differently? It’s a new year and we all have ways in which we want to improve our lives and ourselves. And that’s great by the way. There’s nothing more wasteful and sad than a stagnant life. Even if you improve by a millimeter or a millisecond, that’s still an improvement.
1. Think big, start small.
When you have your goal in mind, don’t go crazy trying to get there as fast as you can. You will burn yourself out, lose motivation, and give up before you know it. If you want to be able to run a mile, start by walking. If you want to enjoy a healthier diet, start by focusing on breakfast. When you take baby steps, you may not cover as much ground as you’d like as fast as you’d like to but you’ll get there in a way you can feel good about and you’ll be able to look back and appreciate all of your hard work.
2. Be patient.
American society is obsessed with quick results. We want it and we want it now. Well, your body doesn’t work that way. And neither does your mind. Both need time to adapt to change. That’s how you make change last. The process is what really matters. That’s when you learn, grow, evolve, make breakthroughs, develop stronger self-awareness, and gain confidence. Without all of that, you will easily and quite quickly revert back to your old ways of thinking and doing. You won’t have changed a single thing. It takes the same amount of time to form a new habit as it took to build the original one.
3. Say it loud and proud!
One of the biggest reasons I believe we find it so difficult to reach our goals is because we keep them to ourselves. Whatever you put out into the universe, you get back. So, if you’re embarrassed about wanting to live a better life and you don’t want anyone to know what your intentions are, you will embark on your journey all alone and that’s the perfect way to disappoint yourself and never bring your vision to life. Tell EVERYONE who cares about you what you want, why, and how you intend to make it happen. It’s easy to think, “I want to improve my relationship with food because I’m tired of… ” But it’s much harder to say it aloud, especially when someone else can hear you. Own your intentions and don’t be afraid of sharing them.
4. Build a team.
We all need support. And when you’re going about a lifestyle change, you need it even more. Accountability is one of the most influential tools available to us, which explains why people hire personal trainers and health coaches like myself. Some people need professional help
and that works best for them. But others can do just fine with a buddy system. Get a group of motivated, dedicated, like-minded folks at your workplace together. Get your family on board. Create a role for your partner to take on if he/she/they are up for it. When you’ve got people behind you who love you and want the same things for you that you want for yourself, you’ll feel and BE unstoppable!
5. Believe in yourself.
Enough with the negative self talk and doubt. If you don’t believe you are worthy of a better life or capable of achieving one, then forget about setting goals and having clear intentions. Your thoughts are your reality.
This year, set yourself up for success by putting some thought into your intentions. Then, embark on your journey and enjoy the ride.