By Nicholle Chandler
It’s that time of year when we reflect on what we did or didn’t accomplish in 2021, start focusing on what’s to come in 2022 and possibly set some resolutions. We all love a reset button and Jan. 1 feels a little like that — hopeful, ready for a change, an opportunity to put our best foot forward in our health, relationships, profession, etc.
However, I have noticed a similar pattern amongst clients, friends and sometimes myself: we set a resolution on Jan. 1, fall off the wagon by February, and forget it by March. This same pattern goes for any time of the year, too. On Monday, you tell yourself, “I’m going to save more money.” By Thursday, your Amazon cart has food-themed utensils, a floating hippo bookmark and an alarm clock that rolls away from you.
No judgment. I get it. Making change isn’t an easy flip of the switch.
But why is sticking to goals easy for some and more challenging for others?
Stronger willpower? Maybe. More motivated? Sure. But here’s the thing: achievers and those who give up too soon have the same goals. The difference is that the goal crushers practice three things:
• Setting up a system they love
• Connecting to their “why” daily
• Ditching “I’ll be happy when” syndrome
Set Up a System you LOVE!
I recently read an article by James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits,” called “Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.” This being the systems you set up. He wrote:
“Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress. The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game.”
For example, you might have a goal of losing some weight. Your system might be attending your favorite group fitness classes (coaching plug here: join me at the Skagway Rec-Center), reducing your sugar intake and connecting with a friend for accountability. You tweak your systems as you go, learning what isn’t working, what challenges come up and finding what brings you joy along the ride.
When clients slip up or do not follow through, I often witness them beat themselves up, ready to throw in the towel. WHOA! Slow down. Systems are not all or nothing. How is getting angry at yourself helpful? Hint: it’s not. Learning from challenges will help you move forward the next time they come up. Think of it as wins and lessons, not wins and losses. Understanding that change isn’t always linear and having compassion for yourself is essential.
When you start to create systems that you love, they become a part of who you are, and the ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes a part of your identity. The more you do it, the more it feels like second nature, like brushing your teeth.
I learned a helpful tip from Clear. Every action you take is a vote toward your new identity. Each day you write a page, that’s one vote for being a writer. Each day you go without a cigarette, is one vote for being a non-smoker. Each day you reach your exercise goal, that’s a vote for self-care. Once you have more votes toward your new identity than votes toward your old one, watch your motivation soar. Think of it as an election — majority rules.
Another problem of focusing only on the outcome is sometimes they only change your life for a moment. Clear wrote:
“We think we need to change our results, but the results are not the problem. What we really need to change are the systems that cause those results. When you solve problems at the results level, you only solve them temporarily. In order to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level. Fix the inputs, and the outputs will fix themselves.”
Take dieters as an example; 80-95% of people who go on diets gain their weight back, plus some. That’s because diets aren’t generally sustainable. If dieters focus on the goal (usually the # on the scale) and not the systems (lifestyle changes), old habits creep back in after they’ve gotten to their goal weight.
Be process-oriented rather than results-oriented, and soon your actions become like a spider web — a weaving of magical, priceless tapestry. The reward will naturally follow.
Connect to Your Why
Taking action and progressing toward your goals isn’t always easy. Sometimes it gets boring and mundane, but connecting to your “Why?” gives a powerful reason to keep moving forward despite the challenges. Maybe you’ve always wanted to write a book, but why? Is it for fame? Sharing your story to help others? What is significant about it for you? Having a solid reason for reaching your goals will help you find ways to keep going when things aren’t straightforward. It keeps you motivated and driven. The more you want it, the better.
Once you establish your “why,” I recommend making something you can see every day as a reminder, such as a sticky note on your bathroom mirror, an image or word on your phone’s lock screen or a vision board. (Another plug: join us at the Skagway Library to create a vision board Dec. 18 from 3 – 5 p.m.)
“I’ll be Happy When…” Syndrome
Have you ever heard yourself say, “I’ll be happy when….”? I’m sure you have thought about it at least once in your lifetime. Whether the end of that statement includes getting a better job, or a bigger house, or finding true love or getting fit, we’re all guilty of delaying our joy and gratification based on a future outcome. Here’s the deal, though, it is impossible to be happy today if you wait on a goal to make you happy later. And life is too short not to enjoy the present moment.
Instead of saying I’ll be happy when, change your wording to, “I’ll be happy while…” If you mentally rehearse and practice gratitude and fulfillment today, you’ll reach the external rewards much faster. And bonus, you’ll enjoy life while you move toward what you want.
So as you enter into the New Year, ask yourself the following questions:
• Who do I want to become in 2022?
• What systems or enjoyable actions will get me there?
• Why is this new goal important to me?
• How can I practice daily gratitude to remind myself that life is good now?
My hope for you in 2022 is that your senses overflow with gratitude. That your heart feels excited about new challenges, your cheeks hurt from smiling as you laugh at life’s lessons and you enjoy the feeling of knowing you are worth every step along the way.
Your Self-Care Coach,
Nicholle Chandler, A-CFHC, is a certified functional health coach, meditation teacher, fitness instructor and local business owner. Go to colebeecoaching.com for more information.