Achieving sustainable goals
It’s that time of the year again, where the motivation to achieve your New Year’s resolutions is already dwindling. Like many others, I choose not to set resolutions, focusing rather on intentions or goals that I’d like to achieve for the year.
Some are vague and immeasurable like spending more time outside, others are more specific, like reading one book per month. Whatever your intentions are, there are a myriad of tips and tricks to get you there as smoothly as possible. I’ve read a ridiculous number of books related to goal setting and habit change and collated my favourite strategies, my friends now often refer to me as their life coach.
I think the majority of us would like to eat better and move more, but you have to decide what success in these areas looks like for you. I can honestly say that I will not be eating any more salads than 2018. They do not bring me joy, and in turn they do not bring me any closer to the life I want to lead. My peak salad consumption was 2017 – living off $5 curries outside the University Library and the student deals at Revive. So, I know there are delicious salads, I’ve eaten them, been delighted by them even.
Once you’ve identified what you want to improve on, you need to figure out why. Some argue that anchoring it to the people you love helps to keep you motivated for longer. For example, if you want to be fitter, centering it around wanting to be able to keep up with the children in your life may make it a bit easier to lace up your sneakers long after their new shoe smell has passed. I don’t have any kids of my own, but this really hit home for me when I saw my nephew cheering me on at the finish line of a fun run. My motivation to stick with my time-goal for the half marathon for a third year in a row is to show all the little people in my life what perseverance looks like.
Some people are all about the silent hustle (keeping your goals to yourself), while others are all about shouting them from the rooftops. Personally, I enjoy finding a healthy inbetween, I tell some people who are close to me, so that they can encourage me but also keep me accountable. In 2018, I went completely alcohol-free. This was a goal that I found particularly helpful to share with the people I spend my time with, as it created an environment where I could succeed. There were no offers of drinks and they got more creative with their non-alcoholic offerings. This year I’ve shared my overall goals with my sister, and my running-specific goals with my coach and running friends, because - let’s be honest – if you’re not a runner, but you have a runner in your life you are sick of hearing about their "split times" and "blisters".
So how do we actually stick to our goals? Experts say that we should treat large lifestyle changes like learning a language. We need to practice everyday and start with the easy things. Only once we’ve mastered those should we move onto more difficult challenges. When I was learning Spanish, I created an environment where it was easy to learn – I put post-it notes with nouns all over the house, and got my family involved too. Get creative with smashing your goals, make it fun. Secondly, we need to ditch the "all or nothing" mentality and change it to “always something”. As long as you’re doing something positive that brings your closer to your goals each day, then you’re on the right track.
One other technique that works particularly well for me is pairing a new habit with an old habit, just adding one more small task to a routine. For example, I have added in taking my vitamins right before I brush my teeth, it makes it much easier to remember than some arbitrary time throughout the day. Sticking to my running goals is a little harder, but I work on always having my running gear accessible, so if I snooze my alarm in the morning, there’s no excuse for not squeezing in a run along the waterfront on the way home from work. What works for your friends may not work for you, everyone has different goals, commitments and schedules – it’s important that you create an environment and routine that will set you up for success. It’s all about making the better choice the easiest choice.