We Americans (humans?) tend to be impatient; when we want something, we want it NOW. This is clearly seen around the New Year, when declare with full resolve that we want to get in better shape or eat better. We go all-in with gym memberships or running schedules, and extreme elimination diets.
The problem with going all-in, is that it usually isn’t sustainable. We haven’t built the foundation, the habits, or the mindset to carry on past any obstacles. The minute we come up against any resistance, such as sore muscles, or a change of schedule that keeps us from our workout, we let ourselves off the hook. Or maybe the cake that is served at an office party turns into a reward for “being good,” that turns into a daily habit again.
Big goals; small steps
There are different strategies for setting goals and attaining them. In the world of life coaching, many coaches push for big, audacious goals for their clients — that’s so they don’t get stuck playing small, and miss out on discovering their greatness. That strategy can also work in the world of health, as long as it is backed up by a reasonable plan.
Let’s say, for example, you want to lose 20 pounds. If you tie that goal to a sustainable timeline, say 1 pound per week, you can reach that goal in 5 months. In order to lose one pound per week, you’ve got to figure out what small changes will lead to that. Could be:
- Walking/moving a bit more throughout your day
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator (or escalator)
- Working out 5-10-15 minutes longer
- Switching out high-carb meals for low-carb ones
- Avoiding second helpings of food
- Eating smaller portions
- Having a fruit dessert instead of ice cream
- Avoiding foods with added sugar
- Getting regular, good sleep
All of these on their own are small, achievable steps, that make the goal attainable. In fact, it is possible that significant weight loss would occur with using just a couple of these strategies. And faster gains when you combine several.
But at some point, if you change too many things at once, your natural regulatory systems will rebel: Your sense of homeostasis, or natural equilibrium will be disrupted. You could likely sustain it for a little while, say until after a wedding or other special event, but then all the will power you used to sustain all that change at once will be spent.
Pick the low-hanging fruit
Instead of changing multiple behaviors at once, what are one or two easy things you can agree to changing now, that won’t take too much effort, but will help you feel like you’re making progress? Pick those! And let me know how it goes.