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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Goal Attainment

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.” - Frank A. Clark

Working at my resolutions over the past month has got me to thinking about goals, and ways to reach them... ways to keep from working against yourself and stay on target. If there's anything I like to do, it's to give advice. That doesn't make me good at it, but it does lead me do it a lot. I love to help people, so anytime someone has a problem, I try to figure out a way around or through it. That being said, these are some things that have been on my mind regarding goal attainment. They're not ground breaking - I know that. Regardless, I do hear myself saying them a lot.

First and foremost, I think that you need to figure out your motivation. What is it that you really want? If you want to lose weight to get into a bathing suit, we've all seen the commercial that shows the girl walking past it every day eating her diet food. But this is a real motivator. Think about what you want, then figure out ways to keep that in the forefront of your mind. It could be as simple as post-it notes on your bathroom mirror. But keep your eye on the ultimate goal. There is no sense in starting a project or resolution that you have no motivation to finish. Commitment is so important.

I can't stress enough that people should make their short-term goals DOABLE. I get so weary of hearing about fad diets. Quit eating sugar and junk food altogether! Eat food on a special plan! You're going to be skinny and sexy and look AWESOME! This is BS that marketers feed you. Don't fall for it. I am a huge proponent of small changes. I don't make all the absolute best decisions, but I am happy with them, and I make adjustments if I feel like I need to. Start foregoing your donut in the morning and eat some oatmeal with fruit instead. Then start packing your lunch. Investigate healthy recipes and try new things to find out what will fit your budget, schedule, and tastes.

Don't try to do it all at once - all your goals, or all the aspects of one goal. 9 times out of 10, you will fail, because you don't have the good habits yet. Once you get one set of habits in place, work on the next. For example, I think P90X sounds like a wonderful system, but I can't see how it's a realistic plan for the vast majority of the population the way that it's been marketed to be. I, for one, am too much of a pansy to have any desire to try it, but who knows? Maybe someday I will feel like I am on a plateau with the current workout and want to challenge myself a little more. Just because a goal is good doesn't mean its a good idea to go straight for it with no regard for adjustments along the way in your habits and attitude. On that note, however, don't let it get boring!

Make good decisions easier. Take away distractions. Schedule your workouts if you have to. Start preparations for your activities or meals on the weekend. Make a plan - how can you follow it if you don't know what it is? Track your progress. Find an accountability partner. Start sharing your progress on twitter or facebook (or a blog!)

Even though accountability partners are good, comparison can be bad. Don't let someone else's wild success take away from yours. Only one person in the world can be the best at any one thing. Do your best, allow yourself to fail, then get back up and start again the next day. Plan to falter. Expect it! No one is perfect. Lots of people on diets give themselves cheat days, and everybody needs a break sometimes. But if you develop habits instead of making a drastic change, you won't feel the need for a break as badly. The point is for you to feel good about the progress you're making every step of the way, not to make a miraculous overnight change.

Know that no one ever got a lot of satisfaction from something that comes easily to them. I may sound like I'm telling you not to challenge yourself, but that's not it at all. Pick something great, difficult, and worth it. Don't listen to anyone else who wants to detract from your goals (in fact, keep them to yourself if you have to!). Break your long-term goal up into something you know you can manage, then work up from there.

I am so envious of people who grew up with great habits and are already in the position to only need small changes. I feel like I have had to start from square one, because the way I grew up and the way I have lived are not at all the way I truly want to behave. That's my own fault, but it's where I am. I'm working on it!

What are your goals? Do you have any other tips to achieve them?

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