It doesn’t have to be this way. Believe it or not, there is a way to create healthy goals that will last the whole year.
Start With End GoalsFirst, figure out what is it that you wish to achieve in the end. Perhaps you want more energy, tighter abs, a daily meditation practice, or to lose 10 pounds. Decide which is the most important achievement you’d like to see at the end and start there.
If you say, “I’d like to lose some weight and eat healthier,” your goals are too vague. A more specific goal would be, “I’d like to lose 15 pounds this year and learn how to keep it off by making healthier food choices on a daily basis and by exercising 3 to 4 days per week.” If you consider your healthy goal to be a permanent change you’re more likely to follow through.
Break Your Goals Into Smaller BitsOne sure way to fail is to use an all-or-nothing approach. When you set out to make a long-term lifestyle change, you need to integrate it one step at a time. For example, if your end goal is to lose 10 pounds, you’ll have to adjust your diet. You can start by writing down everything you eat in one week without making any initial changes. The second week, you can decide which foods to eliminate or replace. The third week, you might add 8 to 10 glasses of water daily.
The same thing can work for exercise goals or getting rid of a bad habit. Write down mini goals for each week that will help get you closer to your major goals.
Celebrate Each Accomplishment Along the WayIt is tempting to only look at the accomplishment of the end result as your marker of success. But when you move toward lifestyle change on any level, it’s important to recognize your successes along the journey. Celebrate the times you decline a cigarette, refrain from that extra piece of cake, or go to the gym even when you don’t want to. Give yourself a star or a smiley face sticker to put on your calendar or desk, or find a reward that’s satisfying to you. These little anchors will remind you how close you’re getting to your end goals.
You can also write down your successes in a journal or notepad so when the going gets tough you can look back on your mini-accomplishments and see how far you’ve come.
Remember That Real Change Takes TimeWhile most advertisements claim you can see immediate results for just about anything, that’s not the way the human mind works. When you perform an action that’s new to your brain, it creates a new neural pathway. Those new neural pathways are only reinforced by repetition.
Think about your current habits, either healthy or unhealthy. How many times have you performed the actions of your habits in the past day, week, or month? Now, think about your new habit or goal. In many cases you need to override the strong neural pathways of a bad habit and replace it with stronger neural pathways of a good one. That takes time and repetition.
When I teach Primordial Sound Meditation at my studio, I always teach new meditators that it takes 200 sessions to create a habitual practice. Assuming that my students are meditating twice per day, it takes roughly 100 days until they’ll feel meditation is a part of their lives.