Summer is almost over. The world has completed New Year celebrations too. Throughout many would have made optimistic promises and resolutions. You may have started the year with the energy and drive to pursue your most idealistic aspirations. As the warmth of summer and the festive spirit fades, it may seem your brave ambitions have been lost along the way.
A New Year brings new opportunities to create change, set goals and define our priorities. Yet, not all goals are helpful in sustaining change. To help you get back on track and make changes that will stick, I thought I would help you understand the biggest mistakes people make when they set about creating change.
Thinking that setting the goal with create the change
One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking that things will change once they’ve set the goal. If that were true, then why are things not different already?
It is really important to reflect on the reasons why you’ve not achieved the goal up to now. Be courageous enough to explore what has got in the way in the past.
Some of the biggest changes people want to make in their life relate to their health, wellbeing and relationships. When my counseling clients take the time to understand the barrier to achieving their goals, the reasons often go beyond lacking motivation, being lazy or because of their partner.
We need to maintain curiosity so we can understand how to create change in a way that enables you to navigate the barriers along the way.
Overestimating personal resources
While reflecting on factors that may influence the ability to sustain change or achieve a particular goal it is especially important to consider whether you have enough personal resource to succeed.
Current health status, injuries, levels of stress, family, relationships, work, and other commitments can get in the way. It can leave you feeling you (or your partner) have failed when environmental factors are at play.
Other responsibilities and aspects of your life that are a priority may mean you’ve not been able to work towards your goal.
It is important to consider the routines, rituals and context of your life. This influences the when, how and why we might do something a particular way. You may also identify other shifts that need to occur in your life that will open the gateway to change.
Taking time to understand success in another domain of our life or knowing what has helped you be successful in creating change in the past can also be valuable. When we understand the principals that have contributed to previous success we can then explore how to apply them to a current goal. Rather than thinking we can smash it over night, we start to recognize how to progress towards our goal. The self-compassion that emerges in the process is also helpful to our motivation and wellbeing too.
Being to vague
Another common mistake when setting goals is not being specific when choosing your benchmark. For example ‘getting fit’ is too vague. How do you know when greater fitness has been achieved?
To avoid being vague in setting your goal, quantify it. Include a specific measurable benchmark that you can work towards. Instead of ‘get fit’ your benchmark may be to complete a 5km fun run by Mother’s Day or half marathon by Christmas using a specific training plan.
Numbers shouldn’t be the only focus though. Focusing only on the numbers can be detrimental to your motivation. Our progress can fluctuate and slow throughout the change process. So it is important to understand what the goal means to you too. Is ‘getting fit’ a contest, personal best, fitting into a favourite outfit, improving your health or wellbeing?
Selecting a goal that doesn’t open up a meaningful change process
A different way of focusing on your goal is to consider the immediate, day-to-day impact smaller daily changes make in your life, not just achieving the final outcome.
"Life's a journey, not a destination." – Steven Tyler
Mindful awareness, of the daily benefits to your health and wellbeing can be a real motivator through your change journey. Instead of focusing on the number of calories you burn during an exercise session, reflect on how calm you feel afterwards, how much fun you had with the friends that joined you or the greater clarity and focus you have at work or in life.
These secondary benefits are the daily rewards that help keep us motivated and bring happiness as we progress towards our numerical goal. If we dread the process involved in change, we’re not going to stick to it. This happiness principal is fundamental to sustaining change and introduces a little joy in the process.
Still looking for inspiration to create change in your life?
If you are still looking for ideas on creating change in your life, then read on. I've consulted some brilliant minds in the health and wellbeing space. You may just find the gem you've been looking for to help you on your way.