Last night, a friend and I spent time working on a “New Year’s” exercise which involved taking stock of the previous year and using that awareness to look ahead to the upcoming year. One of the questions was: “What were your 5 most important “lessons learned” this past year?” To which my first response was: “I’m going to skip that one.”
However, upon reflection, I realized that there were some biggies, one of which hit me like a ton of bricks: That if I REALLY determine that I want to reach a goal and put my mind to that goal, I will achieve it. When I am clear and committed and focused, I know that I can do it and I WILL do it, despite the obstacles. It is the mushy ambivalence and lack of clear decisiveness that always, always, ALWAYS gets in my way.
And, unfortunately, I had to face the fact:
Although I had achieved a number of my goals this year, there was also quite a bit of that mushy ambivalence (again), in various areas of my life. You know what I mean: you say you want something (“I really want to lose weight” or “I really want to start exercising” or “I really want more balance in my life” for example), but there is somehow something missing. There is not always the belief, the commitment, the focus – the “I will take nothing but this outcome” umph behind that desire.
Of course, this “umph” may be missing for a number of different reasons: fear (one of my personal favorites); uncertainty that it’s what you really want; worry about what others will think; perfectionism (which is really just fear in disguise); lack of confidence; lack of support; lack of trust in self or others; control “issues;” lack of belief in the desired outcome; pesky, unhelpful beliefs about yourself that sabotage you; etc. etc. etc.
So how can we create more “umph” behind our goals, our wishes, our resolutions…? It is my personal New Year’s “resolution” to do away with the mushy ambivalence and to set goals that I will achieve. I believe the following guidelines include important steps guaranteed to give any resolution a gentle “push” in the right direction.
1) Make a decision. If you want something (i.e. “I want to get healthy and fit this year”), make a decision to work towards achieving it – no matter what. A decision is not a wish, it is not a hope, it is not a fantasy. Although your decision may have arisen as a result of one of these things, it is different: it is the clear awareness that you are the only one that can make this happen, and you can only make it happen if you are clear.
Notice if you are waffling. Notice if there is a little voice in your head filled with a sabotaging message. Yes, you might be scared. Yes, you might not know how you’re going to do it or fit it in. Yes, it might involve some challenges and some obstacles and some setbacks. But once you decide, allow yourself to know that you will not let anything get in your way.
2) Become aware of your internal beliefs. Too often, you may make a decision to do something (such as get fit and healthy), but your beliefs – both conscious (the ones we are aware of) and unconscious (the ones we are mostly not aware of, but keep showing themselves in our actions or our feelings about ourselves) hold you back. Perhaps, on some level, you don’t believe you can have what you want and you may be filled with fear, anxiety, and self-sabotage.
Begin to become aware of your beliefs and begin to question their “truth” (almost 100% of the time, these unhelpful negative beliefs are not based in current reality). When you are ready, challenge those beliefs and begin to shift them to be more in-line with who you want to be and what you want to do.
3) Visualize yourself having reached your goal. Much has been written about the power of visualization, especially recently with the popularity of the movie, The Secret. I am a huge believer in the power of visualization for psychological reasons as well. Our brain does not distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. Once you are able to see yourself doing something or feeling something, you are able to begin to move more easily and freely in that direction.
As an added bonus: Begin to act AS IF you’ve already achieved that goal. Don’t WAIT until you get fit to start walking; don’t wait until you are healthy to start doing yoga. Let yourself imagine, as often as you can, that you are that person already and then behave as if you are.
4) Commit to take action. You don’t need to wait until you have worked out all of your negative beliefs or until you have no fear or until you have all of your ducks in a row to begin to work toward your goal. All of the steps above are only helpful if they lead to action. Make a commitment to yourself to do SOMETHING, no matter how small, every day that brings you closer to your goal. In the words of Cornelius Robinson (yes, I am quoting a character from the kids movie, Meet The Robinsons), “keep moving forward.”
5) Celebrate failure. (Another Cornelius Robinson value, I admitJ) None of us like to fail, and in fact, it is often our fear of failure that keeps us from moving forward. Learn to welcome failure as a sign that you are learning what works and what doesn’t. There is no way to succeed without failure.
I’d love to hear from you about your goals for 2008. If your goals include getting healthy, finding the right foods for your body, feeding your family well, or finally getting rid of a relationship to food that feels bad . . . I look forward to supporting you on your journey and “seeing” more of you throughout the year!
Copyright (c) 2008 Healthy Bodies, Happy Minds