Anyone make a New Year’s resolution? If you didn’t, chances are you’ve made one in the past and know from experience just how hard they are to maintain. If you did, you’re likely experiencing firsthand the struggle of forming new habits. For being such a widespread tradition, it seems very few people are able to make any lasting change with it. But why is that?
James Clear addresses this in his book Atomic Habits, and it often comes back to our approach. Goals are seen as milestones to achieve, like dieting to reach a certain weight, instead of making changes that set us up for long term success. We may reach that goal eventually, but if nothing else changes, we gradually revert back to where we started. It’s like paddling upstream in a river, only to find ourselves quickly burnt out as we float back downstream, past our starting point.
If you are struggling to achieve a goal, whether it’s related to your health or diet or something else altogether, maybe it’s time to take another look at your goal. Instead of working out for 30 minutes, you can start with 5 minutes. Have a list of books you want to read but no time? Try listening to audiobooks during your commute. The beauty of making goals is that you get to make goals that fit you.
I experienced this myself when it came to exercise. Not too long ago, I thought I would only make progress if I went all out every time I worked out. This led to becoming incredibly sore after, and I only worked out a few times a year. When I stopped focusing on weight/sets/reps and began focusing on how I felt afterwards mentally (less stressed and feeling accomplished), I realized I could get that same feeling with less intense workouts, which led to improved consistency. I’m still a work -in-progress, but by making the goal of working out to de-stress instead of lifting a certain amount of weight, I began to look forward to working out again.
If you’re wanting to make a life change, consider some of the following suggestions: Begin with small steps. Remember that you can and should go at your own pace and not try to keep up with others. And give grace to yourself in those moments you aren’t perfect. Goals are met through consistency, not perfection.
Written by: Jordan Wachter, PT, DPT (West Des Moines Clinic)