We all know that in order to reach our goals we must COMMIT to them. Some of us go so far as to write actual contracts with ourselves. Others make public declarations of commitments and goals, or join challenges and support groups, asking friends to hold us accountable to our stated plans. There are even apps that use the carrot and stick approach to holding us accountable to our commitments. Yet even with all of that available, so many of us fall short and break our commitments. Why? Is it laziness? Lack of willpower? Fear? What is it?
Any of those reasons can lead to a failure to stay committed to our goals, but I think it has more to do with what Mark calls Pre-Commitment. I call it Setting the Stage for Success.
Think about your process for setting a goal: You identify your area of improvement; decide what your desired outcome is; set measurable goals; plan the time frame allowed to achieve your intermediate goals; set a start date; and GO! You start off strong, and make some headway toward your ultimate goal. But then LIFE crops up and things start going awry. You have to make some unplanned alterations to your time frame, or your actual goals. The next thing you know, you’re completely off track and can’t figure out where you went wrong, let alone why or how to get back on track.
Do you want to know what happened? You forgot one key aspect: Setting the Stage for Success. No matter how much you want something, if you don’t set yourself up to be successful there’s a big chance you won’t be.
Let’s use eating healthier as our sample goal. You want to eat better, and make healthier choices. That’s a great goal. Now let’s define what that means for you: you want to include more fruits and veggies, switch to healthy fats, cut back on or eliminate added sugars and refined carbohydrates, and increase your protein intake. GREAT! How do you plan to accomplish that? Are you going to follow a plan you found online? Have you tried this before? Were you successful? Do you have support? How will this new way of eating fit into your existing schedule? How are you holding yourself accountable? These are all important questions to answer before you start your journey. By asking yourself these questions and answering honestly your are taking the first steps of Setting the Stage for Success.
These questions go beyond the basic My Goal Is…. I will achieve this Goal by xxxxx date…. by achieving a,b,c, milestones in 1, 2, 3, time-frame. These questions and your answers to them start to really flesh out the detailed PLAN you’ll need to create to reach your goals. That’s what I mean by Setting the Stage. When you are trying to achieve lasting change and create new healthy habits, you simply MUST do everything possible to set yourself up to succeed. And that includes planning for as many problems as possible. If you have a plan already, you can often get through a problematic situation with minimal consequences.
When I’m working with a client on addressing their eating goals, one of the things I always have them do is map out their week. We sit down with a calendar template and start filling in the blocks: work commitments, family commitments, appointments, etc. Why do we do that? Because the number one reason people cite for eating poorly is TIME. They don’t believe they have the time to devote to eating well. But by looking at their existing commitments, we can then pre-commit time to achieving their eating goals. Once we have a handle on how much time they have available for the tasks associated with enjoying healthy foods, we plan their week’s menu with that time allotment in mind. We can make a coherent shopping list and plan of attack. That’s Setting the Stage for Success.
Often, in order to have a successful week my clients will decide to shop for and prep their meals on a Sunday. This can crucial for a busy person! With a week of pre-made mason jar salads and pre-prepped dinners in the fridge life gets a lot less complicated and stressful. Knowing they don’t need to think about what to throw together for lunch takes a lot stress out of the morning routine. Breakfasts don’t need to be complicated and most of us have the time to boil a dozen eggs, or bake a frittata to get us through 5 or 6 hectic mornings. How good would it feel knowing dinners are already planned and prepped for the week? No more hurried trips to the grocery on the way home after a long day.
These simple steps, while taking a bit of time and fore-thought vastly improve your chances of success. And this concept applies to any changes you're making. You wouldn’t decide to drive from Juneau, Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego without doing some prep work and advance planning, and so you shouldn’t expect to successfully change your life without planning and prep. It’s vital to your success.
Set your Goals, then Set the Stage for your Success!
This post was inspired by a piece over on Mark Sisson’s Mark’s Daily Apple. Credit where credit is due right? Mark is a great resource for the Primal lifestyle and I learn a lot from him. Hopefully I’ll get to meet him one day.